December 20, 2004 12:52 PM PST

BitTorrent file-swapping networks face crisis

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the tracker servers were easy targets for the MPAA and its allies in law enforcement. Several other large sites that served as distributors for torrent files, including and, also have vanished.

Hollywood officials said last week that legal actions had already been filed against BitTorrent tracker operators in several countries and that they would continue to pursue other copyright infringers online.

"Our message is this: If you are running an infringing server, stop," John Malcolm, the MPAA's director of worldwide antipiracy operations, said last week. "There are more enriching ways to use your talents. Take down your servers immediately, or face the consequences."

The future of BitTorrent
None of this means that BitTorrent is going away. The technology is already widely used in legal ways, such as to distribute games and versions of the Linux operating system. It saves the content publishers considerable money in bandwidth by deputizing their own customers to help in the distribution process.

"I think SuprNova was critical to BitTorrent, but it will still survive."
--Chris Hedgecock, president,

Some online tinkerers have been working on ways to merge BitTorrent with the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) news feed technology to create new ways to distribute audio and video. Cohen said he's close to releasing a new version of the technology with some improvements and is spending most of his time looking for ways to make it more mainstream.

SuprNova organizers have been working on a more decentralized version of BitTorrent called Exeem, according to peer-to-peer news site No word on that project was available after the site's closure.

There's no question that the disappearance of SuprNova and others will be felt widely around the Net, but file-swapping community insiders said it won't dramatically change behavior.

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