Peer-to-peer,P2P, networks have been the dominant means of content piracy since the advent of Napster at the turn of the millennium. Nowadays, BitTorrent clients have become the mainstay, as their fast transfer speeds facilitate large data transfers. However, the government and content protection groups, like the MPAA, have recently been trying to exert pressure to stop torrenting. Although, BitTorrent operates on a P2P model, with users making direct transfers between one another, it still has a weak point to government shutdown.
In order for a user to use the BitTorrent protocol to use P2P sharing, they must do two things. First they must download the torrent file, and second they must initiate the connections with the peers they will be transferring data with. Torrent sites accomplish both. The torrent sites provide an indexed database of uploaded torrent files, as well as torrent trackers. Torrent trackers are servers, which keep track of the users transferring any given torrent. In this way trackers facilitate the initial connection between peers. In this way, we can see the tracker as the key node in making the group of peers into a single connected component (everybody transferring the torrent), from many connected components (groups of active connections between peers). Therefore all a government needs to do is to shut down the tracker and no further connections can be established, and eventually all transfers will stop (completions or disconnections).
Tribler is a new BitTorrent client that doesn’t use trackers, and is completely decentralized. In this way there is no effective way for the government to stop piracy because they can only go after individual users. Tribler works like other social networks, with users being able to create social links, to share each other’s bandwidth. The search feature is also decentralized and instead brings back results from individual users rather than a centralized database. The only concern for Triblr is how new users will be able to find other peers. At the moment that is solved by having “bootstraptribler peers” who are trusted users that have an list of active users. Tribler has never been shut down in its 6 years of running.
The Tribler model of minimizing centrality seems to be the future of P2P networks. For networks that often engage in illicit activity, it provides the best protection from government pressure and crackdowns.