For nearly a week the two largest BitTorrent trackers on the Internet have been mostly offline. With the recent DDoS attacks at BitTorrent sites in mind, some feared that both OpenBitTorrent and PublicBitTorrent were victims of a similar assault. Although both trackers are indeed overloaded, the origin is friendly fire this time.
OpenBitTorrent and PublicBitTorrent are two non-commercial BitTorrent trackers running on the beerware licensed Opentracker software. Neither service hosts or links to torrent files and both are free to use by all BitTorrent users.
The trackers were listed as number one and two in our latest list of most-used trackers, and both are generally coordinating the downloads of 20 million people at any given point in time.
Despite the seemingly neutral setup, OpenBitTorrent has had its fair share of legal issues in the last year. Both Hollywood and the music industry have declared war against what they see as an illegal service. After Hollywood won its case against the former provider of OpenBitTorrent, IFPI went after its new host in Spain, forcing the tracker to move again.
Considering this turbulent history, it is no surprise that many users were fearing the worst when OpenBitTorrent became unresponsive last week. However, this time the outages have nothing to do with legal threats.
We contacted the operator of the tracker who informed us that the downtime is related to an increasing number of users. The servers are simply overloaded and can’t handle all requests. We were ensured that the problems will be dealt with but it is expected that this might take a few days.
As a direct result of the problems at OpenBitTorrent, the only other major tracker PublicBitTorrent had to deal with many extra users, again causing trouble. This week, PublicBitTorrent has been unresponsive for half of the time as their servers are overloaded as well. This is a prime example of how vulnerable the BitTorrent tracker ecosystem is.
The operator of PublicBitTorrent told us that extra servers are on the way. Hopefully this will solve the problems, but it is expected to take up to a week before everything’s setup properly.
The upside to all the bad news is that most people can still download torrents. Instead of using a tracker, most downloads work fine when they solely rely on DHT and PEX. Hopefully, both trackers will be fully functioning by the end of next week.