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Closing The Ektoplazm BitTorrent Tracker

Blog | December 12, 2007 | Updated: June 27, 2012 | Posted by Basilisk

After nearly two years of service to the global psytrance community, the time has come to announce the closure of the Ektoplazm BitTorrent tracker. Instead of using BitTorrent to distribute the free music featured on Ektoplazm, I now plan to host everything on the web for direct download. As a result, there is really no need for BitTorrent any more. Effective immediately, the tracker is closed for business! If you would like to know more, read on.

I relaunched the Ektoplazm web site in March of 2006. Back then, I was keen on finding a way to enable small content providers (netlabels and independent artists) to distribute free music without needing to pay for hosting. BitTorrent technology seemed like the obvious solution–it’s free, relatively easy to use, and one can leverage existing broadband connectivity to get the ball rolling. The only tricky part was setting up a “tracker,” the central application that governed the transfer of data from user to user. I am relatively well-versed in deploying open source web applications however, and was able to find and install a suitable script without too much trouble. The Ektoplazm BitTorrent tracker was born.

From inception to closure, the tracker recorded more than 12,000 complete transfers–nearly 2,500 Gb of free music. Not bad for a consumer-grade Internet connection and a little help from random strangers! Nevertheless, the conditions weren’t right for the development of a truly effective file transfer solution. The main problem was simply that the tracker never achieved the kind of density necessary for BitTorrent to really shine. Transfer rates were seldom very high, and availability was often a problem–especially for older files. By design, it wasn’t necessary to register to access the torrents, nor was it possible for anyone other than myself to add new files. As a result, there was no real possibility for the formation of a community–an essential feature of any successful tracker service. Lastly, BitTorrent requires the use of specialized software, and many visitors were unwilling or unable to get up and running. This combination of factors cancelled out the positive effects of using BitTorrent as the primary means of transferring free music through Ektoplazm.

Currently there are close to 75 releases offered in the Ektoplazm free music catalogue. Last month I performed an inventory of every single release to check for dead links and other outdated information. I was dismayed to find that many of the older releases were simply unavailable. Many netlabels and content providers have used free file-hosting solutions like Sendspace, Rapidshare, and Megaupload to distribute their music, but their links invariably expire after a time. In many cases, BitTorrent was the only option, but a visitor would have to be very patient what with the poor transfer rates and sporadic availability. Clearly something had to be done!

Luckily I had the foresight to score a very nice deal on paid web hosting last year. My current plan with DreamHost provides ample space (several hundred gigabytes) and bandwidth (more than 5 Tb per month). This is more than enough for all of the free music available through Ektoplazm. Over the course of November I packaged up almost every release and uploaded the lot–something close to 50 gigabytes worth of free music! There are one or two releases that I still need to find and upload, but the rest are ready to roll. Downloading free music from Ektoplazm is now ten times as easy–every release is perpetually “in stock” and the transfer rates should be lightning fast. Although I was enamoured with the democratic idealism of BitTorrent, it is hard to argue with the practicality of direct downloads.

With the dissolution of the Ektoplazm BitTorrent tracker I now aim to ensure the long-term availability of every free release available through Ektoplazm. I am confident that my current hosting arrangement will provide for the growth of the site–and the free music movement–over the course of the next few years. If you should ever find a broken link, please be sure to bring it to my attention! Additionally, I can now offer hosting to netlabels, independent artists, and other content providers–contact me if you would like to work something out. Finally, I would like to thank everyone who supported the BitTorrent initiative over the last couple of years. It didn’t work out as imagined, but we had a good run of it–and now there’s something better!