Blockchain Project Review: BitTorrent:7.1 A P2P File Sharing Protocol

Original article by EVALUAPE

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A. Introduction

Introduction: A decentralized storage platform as well as a P2P file sharing protocol with token incentives.


1. The project is created by a well-known company in the early days of the Internet era, and achieved wide market share as well as popularity.

2. It is one of the top blockchain projects by popularity and ecosystem.


1. The mode is out-of-date and lacks competitiveness.

2. The progress remains unknown due to the lack of roadmap and open GitHub repository.

3. The team members have not been disclosed so far.

B. Industry

Launched in 2001, BitTorrent is a first-generation file sharing protocol and the first decentralized Internet protocol to be adopted in almost every country in the world. In BitTorrent’s system, files are cut into pieces to enable faster download speeds. In the first 10 years of the 21st century, due to the lack of Internet infrastructure services and the negligence of media companies, BitTorrent dominated the market as it provided easy-to-use solution for large file distribution through the Internet. Nevertheless, its P2P nature also turned it into the hotbed of pirated stream media works, including music and film. When large film studios and record labels finally recognized the harm of the problem, despite lawsuits against pirated production, they also turned to online platforms to sell products of higher quality on the Internet via streaming media. Meanwhile, they also partnered with companies like Netflix and Hulu to carry out exclusive shows and broadcasts. Compared with the messy content and potential Trojan Virus hidden in BitTorrent’s downloads, the former’s superior quality was embraced by the Western developed countries, causing the glory days of BitTorrent fading.

In the upcoming 5G era, due to the high speed of network transmission, people are gradually abandoning file downloading and are more likely to watch online videos on portable devices like smartphones. However, it is undeniable that BitTorrent and its derivative services still attract a large number of users in less developed countries and areas where mainstream media cannot reach. In July 2017, TRON Foundation acquired BitTorrent for $140 million, with the intention of expanding its own ecosystem and establish a distributed storage network to serve its own business based on the large user base and extant technology of BitTorrent.

Given that there is no DAPP able to support so many users currently, it is impossible to compare BitTorrent with other DAPPs. However, in the field of distributed storage, there is the №1 rival of the project, IPFS. As a next-generation distributed storage protocol, the technology of IPFS overshadows that of BitTorrent in many aspects. With the DAG data structure of IPFS, files can be downloaded with simply a hash address. On contrary, BitTorrent always requires a “seed” to download a file. In this way, IPFS allows users to download more content or the specific file they need in a package. In addition, IPFS has also copied some of the design of Git, so it is able to store multiple versions of a piece of content. BitTorrent does not have this feature as it appeared earlier. Currently, IPFS is still at a disadvantage due to the lack of user base and implemented projects. The final result of this competition remains unpredictable.

C. Mode

In essence, the project is to add token incentives on top of the original BitTorrent protocol — the world’s largest distributed storage network, without modifying the protocol itself. The ultimate goal is the wider adoption of BitTorrent, providing distributed infrastructure for third-party DAPP developers while enabling consumers to gain some rewards by sharing the idle resources. The project has developed a new feature BitTorrent Speed to establish the incentive model. This feature is an optimization of the choking algorithm — the mechanism with which BitTorrent currently allocates resources. By adding a precondition to the choking algorithm, BitTorrent allows users to bid for privileges with a sum of BTTs they are willing to pay. This part of tokens will be distributed to those who provide the resources as incentives. Tokens will be distributed as rewards to those who participate in the governance of the project’s ecosystem and those who promote the project. Once the project runs sustainably, the project may turn to a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). At present, BTT mainly offers the three services below:

1. A decentralized content delivery service to enable service requesters to advertise bids and pay BTTs for bandwidth to receive a particular piece of content.

2. A decentralized storage service to enable service requesters to pay for storage over time.

3. A decentralized proxying services to enable service requesters to pay a client for retrieval of content by URL.

In the future, token holders can propose BitTorrent protocol extensions, which will be submitted for comments to the BitTorrent community BEP. Following the community feedback, the project may develop and implement the extensions, and release them as an open source library. It will also establish support and incentives for integration into third-party BitTorrent or other clients, in order to broaden the pool of clients that can support BTT applications as soon as possible.

D. Technology

BitTorrent Speed is the core modification by TRON based on the original technology of BitTorrent. The key concept is to add an incentive layer on top of the application layer. When peers discover each other via the existing BitTorrent protocol mechanisms, they announce to a tracker using an infohash. In this way, all peers are divided into swarms of users with common interest. To initiate a bid, service requesters have to place some BTTs into a payment channel between service requesters and service providers guarantee the authenticity of funds. In the bidding round, the requester announces to the trackers a message that contains the number of BTTs that it is willing to pay per piece. Connection will be cut down automatically when the price is too low. The bidding round closes with the highest price. After the bid, the service provider will retrieve lists of infohashes and recent bids for service against those hashes. This allows provides to find torrents in need of supplemental bandwidth. The service providers will include both bid data and peer upload rate in its decision about which peer to unchoke. They will then sort the users and allocate resources based on the sequence. When a service requester receives unchoke and bid-response messages, it sends a contract to the private ledger for the amount of a single piece of BTT/byte rate. The system will automatically allocate the data and transfer BTT based on the contract. Overall, the technical model of the project is satisfactory. Its auction mechanism can help consolidate the decentralization of the system. But centralized servers also come with the risk of data being stolen.

As a TRC-10 token, the performance and on-chain data of BTT are open on the blockchain explorer of TRON. However, in the past two months, there is almost no update on the GitHub page of BitTorrent. So far, there is no new category of BitTorrent Speed. Neither has it disclosed any information about the roadmap or the test net. According to the explorer, the token was created on the morning of January 20, 2019 with all tokens being released. There are few transfer records so far. Interestingly, most of the addresses hold about 1 billion tokens, accounting for 1% of the total tokens. However, according to the related information, we cannot find holders match the records. Apparently, there are problems with the transparency of the on-chain data and technical progress.

E. Team

Team members has not been disclosed yet. According to a third-party website Crunchbase, BitTorrent has 13 members in all. Eric Klinker, CEO, specializes in technology. Eric served as CTO and CEO at several Internet companies and has rich experience. It was said that when BitTorrent was acquired, five employees left the company, including its founder Bram Cohen. Later, it was also confirmed by the company. However, Crunchbase has still listed Bram Cohen as a member, so the truth of its information remains unknown. Considering the consistent behavior of TRON, it is unsure whether the members of the new BitTorrent team will be disclosed.

F. Community

According to the whitepaper, BitTorrent has more than 100 million active users and about 1.6 million additional new installs every week. Although this number cannot be confirmed, it seems exaggerated in comparison with data provided by SimilarWeb. According to SimilarWeb, the monthly web traffic of BitTorrent is about 5.6 million, ranking №12500 globally. Besides, this figure also appears to stop increasing now. As a part affiliated to BitTorrent on its website, the true data about BTT also remains unknown. But as a blockchain project, BTT has achieved good performance on both Twitter and Telegram. It inherited the followers of BitTorrent’s old account. The account was opened in 2009, with 5,167 tweets and 64,900 followers. Recently, it is mainly forwarding the tweets published by Yuchen Sun and airdrop-related information. The Telegram group has 65,140 members, with no specific creation time. The most popular issue is information about airdrop. However, compared with the followers of Netflix US (5.6 million) and hulu (600,000), BitTorrent apparently performs badly as a predecessor. This may be due to a change of targeted market though. Instead of the developed countries, BitTorrent is now shifting their attention to less developed ones.

G. Conclusion

With the increasing awareness of copyright protection, the pirated edition that BitTorrent provides is gradually replaced by high-quality works from the on-demand video platforms in the developed countries. As a first-generation P2P sharing protocol, it is also overshadowed by new comers like IPFS. Is this really the endgame of BitTorrent? We believe the key point to break through lies in the less developed countries. However, TRON seems to have made up its mind to root BitTorrent in the blockchain industry. The problem is that with the mass adoption of 5G in the future, people are more likely to watch online videos instead of downloading them. In this situation, it is unlikely for BitTorrent to attract more users with additional fees. Of course, BitTorrent has some applications in the gray areas that may be applicable to the blockchain sector, but in the future, it is very likely to be replaced by the more advanced technology of IPFS. In summary, we are not optimistic about the future development of BitTorrent in the industry. As for the technology, it has not open sourced the core part BitTorrent Speed so far. Neither has it released the roadmap or information about the test net. Although the descriptions seem to be very promising, there is no way to check the real progress. Team members are unknown till now. It seems that the promotion is done by the team of TRON. Overall, it is very hard to foresee the development of the project due to the lack of transparency.

Hype Score: High

Risk Score:Medium


Total Score:7.1

All information in this article is provided for reference only and does not constitute investment advice.

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