Feeds

Why can't we do better than these crappy torrent sites?

P2P sites are getting poisoned again – and nobody seems to care

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Here's a puzzling thing that gets lost in the copyright wars. Why don't we demand more from music services? Today's P2P services are embarrassingly crappy – but is this the best we're ever going to get? The very proposition is an insult to our intelligence.

Since Napster closed, they've always been a dispiriting experience. Who needs to chat to a Ukrainian crack addict while choosing a movie – or dabble in a get-rich quick fraud?

("We have a ration of 3 women to men: Busty Russians" promises one popular Torrent tracker I logged onto today. You see – there isn't even a spell checker.) Is there something heartwarming about boosting the business interests of a Neo Nazi?

And technically, too, they're a major fail. Ideally, we'd build networks geared towards shifting movie and music content around nicely, from the ground up – and not start from here. But even as the most basic music offerings, they're rubbish – the searches are hopeless and the quality control zero.

Now we can see why – people who want stuff for free overridingly just don't care. Via Ars Technica we learn of a study that reports that 30 per cent of files on the major BitTorrent portals are "poisoned", with many of the garbage files having been planted there by anti-piracy agencies operating for the music business. Zombie users don't care – apparently they download most of them anyway, with 25 per cent of all downloads being in some way compromised, or junk files.

This might have a familiar ring to it. Many years ago, I spoke to Matt Warne, who'd just left his job as head of IFPI's technology unit. (You can tell it was a long time ago – IFPI still had a technology unit back then.) It was Warne's idea to poison the new post-Napster P2P networks with toxic files – files that purported to be a digitised version of the sound recording, but merely contained noise. Warne eventually quit the post in disgust, vowing never to return.

But it was the mutual zombie part of the story that fascinated me then, and does today. Step back and think about it for a moment.

"I, Zombie"

Here we have a transaction that encourages both parties to be dumb. The downloader wants "stuff", but doesn't care that a third might be garbage – and obviously doesn't care that it's already a sub-optimal experience for all the reasons I've already outlined. For its part, the music company – supposedly the experts in finding, distributing and promoting talent – instead finds itself distributing millions of copies of dead and useless files. Both parties are encouraged to be something less than a fully alive human. It's like something out of a science fiction satire.

This is an incredible collective failure of the imagination. From my pulpit here at El Reg I've suggested many things over the years, from personal file-sharing over Bluetooth, to legal file-sharing clubs, to books that find speakers and start playing some music – all of which we should have now. Many people would pay for such things – but they all have something in common: we don't know how many people would pay and how much because the legitimate paying market (two-thirds of all users, remember) hasn't been given the choice. Maybe some are bad ideas few would want. Maybe some are good ideas that wouldn't support the producers well. Everything and anything should be tried.

But the militant nerd community – the people who should be forging partnerships and going out and building this stuff, as Spotify and others have done – has simply found a nice trench and wants to sit in it. The trench gets more crap piled into it each year, as the cause becomes more and more hopeless, but they won't budge.

Historically, all technology has been used to create new markets for creators. Maybe it can be again. Right now, pretending that today's torrent sites are as good as it's going to get feels like pretending that the emperor is fully clothed. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Nintend-OH NO! Sorry, Mario – your profits are in another castle
Red-hatted mascot, red-colored logo, red-stained finance books
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.