Great to see it still evolving and spreading, based simply on its loosey-goosey merits.
You can look at the original writeup – http://magnet-uri.sourceforge.net/magnet-draft-overview.txt – and find a goofy ad-hoc mechanism where local software interested in 'magnet' links listened for localhost web hits, in a certain port range, rather than fighting over the 'magnet' URI scheme handler. That could be seen as either a blathering kludge or a very early attempt at 'web intents'.
I don't know if any code other than my demo ever implemented that localhost-handler trick. But the main idea – of a generically-named URI that was descriptive rather than location-centric – had its own legs. It spread from software to software, even without any formal spec stewardship/revisions. A key step for its longevity, when 'magnet' was adopted to wrap the 'btih' identifiers for DHT-based torrent tracking, happened long after my attention moved elsewhere.
I'd like to think the continuing adoption was because the original draft, even though crude and incomplete, had the right mix of a familiar/defensible URI syntax, wide-open descriptor semantics, and a catchy name/icon.
But when I click on the magnets things seem to download immediately. So looks like you built something pretty amazing. Congrats!
This is kind of cool, because a file can change locations (how many times have you seen a dead link/File Not Found?), and with a magnet link, if you have a file that matches the description, you can be reasonably certain that you've found the right file (unlike the URIs you're familiar with, which can change the content stored at each location). On the flip side, actually finding the file from the description is a bit more complicated, but as you can see, it's still pretty easy for the user when implemented correctly.
It's better for TPB, because they're no longer telling you 'where' the file is, just what it 'looks' like. Legally, I'm sure that makes some difference.
If the files are different (e.g. 256 and 320 bitrate mp3 files), then that is a completely different problem.
I've been saying this for years: governments playing an arms race with hackers is like playing Whack-a-mole or cutting of heads of hydras. Every time you block one means of communication (starting in this case with Napster), a new, more decentralized, harder-to-combat protocol is going to emerge. Even if you're the MPAA and don't like copyright violations, you have to face that fact. That doesn't mean you (necessarily) have to throw in the towel and abandon the idea of copyright infringement altogether, but it does mean you need to start being creative instead of engaging in a direct legal-technological battle - an arms race.
I wonder how long it will take before the big players realize this and try to figure out a way to use this new playing field (the Internet) to their advantage, instead of trying to squelch any technological development so that they can cling to old models of payment and distribution. It was nice while it happened, but let's face it - we're past the point of no return. Even if they everyone hosted their own copies of TPB on their thumb drives and then they found some way to shut that down, I'm certain there'd be some hacker smart enough (like gojomo above) to come up with something that just makes things even less centralized, more difficult to track, and more difficult to shut down.
It's away from exploitation of artists and the control of artistic message.
As it stands, the old-fashioned fogies are simply in denial and doing their best to prevent the marketplace from changing because they don't know how to use the new technology and they don't know how to succeed in the new marketplace. That doesn't mean that there's no future for the industry as a whole, it's simply the way entrenched players eventually die.
Who does, in your opinion?
Take for example Radiohead or Louis CK. Their previous successes allowed them to produce, release and distribute independently of big entertainment — but I don't think we're at the point where a small independent artist can effectively take their own music to market in a manner comparable to using a label. I don't have data to back this opinion, but high profile successes in independent distribution have been biased toward artists who were well-known and previously successful.
Bands have been self releasing (outside of "big entertainment") since well before digital distribution, because signing to a label isn't always feasible (financially or creatively). Digital distribution makes just makes this even easier.
You only know about Louis CK & Radiohead because that is that the media covering. Digital distribution & artists self releasing material is happening and has been for a while, but no one knows because unless they are already into these lesser known bands & record labels. You have to think of it like this: "Lesser known artists can be more successful by releasing their own material digitally than they would by signing with a label." Or "This independent record label can lower their overhead and make things easier for their bands by embracing digital distribution."
Oh, it can be controlled alright. SOPA, PIPA today, tomorrow FIPA, DIPA and FuckInternetPA. One of them will pass, then more and more.
And then you're sitting on cable tv. Clicked that link? Invoice has been mailed to you. Clicked that link? House search. Clicked that link? Prison cell prepared. Thank you and good bye.
Oh, you will watch what you do online, you will not click on links without knowing before hand what is behind it. Good luck with that. You will not read just about anything, you will not write whatever you want, certainly not where ever. You will censor yourself before they come to censor you. They will produce and you will consume.
So if you only want to download some of them, you first have to wait for the magnet to download the torrent, then go back to it and pick the files you want.
A magnet link also makes it hard to check if the link you are looking at is a duplicate of what you have already.
With a torrent you can check the file size and compare to others.
1. Use a cached list from a previous run. This is ideal in terms of load balancing, and also helps with bootstrap time if your IP hasn't changed, so all major torrent clients have such a cache.
2. Ask peers you're connected to via a traditional tracker and .torrent file. This is the next best thing, but can only be used if the first torrent you download is via a traditional tracker.
3. Use some bootstrap peers hardcoded into the torrent client. Has a single point of failure, but it works.
Each torrent client can use a different set of bootstrap peers, note - they're nothing special, just a DHT peer that has the bandwidth and CPU power to deal with bootstrap requests (which isn't a very high hurdle - you only get hit once, on the initial install, or if the client's been shut down for so long it no longer has any valid peers). Or the user might even supply their own, if need be.
To clarify, if someone has never downloaded a torrent before and starts with a rarely downloaded file, would the use of only magnet links mean they will probably not be able to find another peer? It sounds like unless you already have torrents downloaded, your list of possible peers to check for the file is very short.
Although this is quite the extreme case, and not really the purpose for Bittorrent to begin with, I guess. The main interest is load balancing of popular downloads, not finding the one person with the one file for you.
Of course, TPB switching to magnets doesn't really affect this. Torrent files are still used to provide information on the download, they're just distributed from within the P2P network instead of TPB itself. If you have a torrent file to share with an individual or small group instead of the whole world, there's no reason to stop using torrent files directly.
For those who visit/use TPB, I think it would be akin to a rally call.
I wonder if I could write a small application just to download the torrent file from the magnet link/DHT to copy it to the remote server afterwards.
I tested it, and it works as advertised.
For firefox integration, in about:config create a new boolean as:
network.protocol-handler.expose.magnet := false
From a technical perspective, and as someone who doesn't understand how magnet works under the hood, I'm slightly concerned that DHTs might be easier to attack in an underhanded manner than an HTTP server would have been.
Indeed, but a link can be posted anywhere a user can post text. Here, have Pioneer One:
I can see this leading to a block on many sites on all links starting with the "magnet"-protocol, if it's not in place already. It also highlights the issue with SOPA further. Had that series not been allowed to be shared, Hacker News would be in big trouble for hosting the link.
Linux Distro excuse comes to mind.
A cynical person might say that the intent would also further kill free content creators, restricting the supply of content; consumers then see only paid content.
If you actually type "lord of the rings torrent" and hit return, Google will still do that search and return relevant results.
They are doing this because for many pieces of popular media, the torrent search was fairly high in the list of most popular searches, and they don't want to be seen as suggesting that you download the torrent. Likewise, they won't autocomplete obscene or porn related terms, but will still do searches for them.
There is a difference between banning a term entirely from their search engine, and deciding that it's not something that you want to suggest to people who haven't requested it, to avoid suggesting illegal acts, avoid legal trouble, avoid offending people, or the like.
"This is something we looked at and thought we could make some narrow and relatively easy changes to our Autocomplete algorithm that could make a positive difference, Cano added."
They believe in filtering broad innocent terms in them as a solution to copyright infringement rather than saying "No no, we can't filter broad terms, especially innocent uses of it. Not only does the language evolve, but the infringers can adopt innocent names like congress:<link to song>. We need to intelligently handle copyright infringement without hurting access to legitimate websites."
It looks like part of doing SEO now is to be aware of avoiding broad innocent terms. I hope the unaware people don't get caught in Google's broad autocomplete filter.
The key is in the D. Since it is distributed, there's not a single server that can be attacked.
Here are a couple examples of attacks that DHT is vulnerable to:
So the effect seems to be that the RIAA, MPAA, etc. will likely not be able to take down trackers; they'll have to revert back to suing their "customers" (or lobbying to pass absurd legislation for that matter).
You could already put up a copy of the database as a torrent and distribute the magnet link, but you’d need some method for efficiently keeping it up to date.
There are, however, other systems that are designed to combat this, like freenet. They tend to be overwhelmingly slow, because you need to pass lots of data around to make it consistent.
Then again, magnet links, titles, and a little html are probably not a lot of information, so it probably could be done. I just haven't heard of any attempts yet. It's tempting to go and write one. Could you make a decentralized, P2P version of reddit with distributed trust? I think it's possible but hasn't been tried.
That way, you could immediately download an earlier version of a resource and then get the updates as they spread through the network.
They have a big problem in their design where currently it works exactly as you described, and at "some unknown point in the future" when the database of all transactions EVER in the history of bitcoin gets too big for each person to have to have a copy of in order to add another transaction, they'll "figure out a way" to make it unnecessary.
Or is there some subtle flaw in that idea?
Somebody did that last time PB was in trouble, e.g. one of the pieces: magnet:?xt=urn:btih:4232363a47fe29acdf2c77874365a5e3368854b4&
That's a pretty interesting dataset to mine.
Is there a list of countries where this has been ordered by courts? I know it's already the case in my country (Belgium) as well.
Also since they say that it's like every user would have the TPB site on their computer, does it mean blocking the site would be completely useless? And since they are just links, and links are pretty much speech, I figure it would be impossible to turn it into law as well, to specifically target magnet based sites like TPB.