Magnetico: Self-hosted BitTorrent DHT search engine suite that can’t be taken down
Those using torrents know that the entire network has a centralized structure on which the rest of the network is dependent. Magnetico, is a project trying to change all that.
After being around for more than a decade, BitTorrent can safely claim the title of an enduring P2P protocol. And through that time, the protocols haven’t developed much. So someone decided to do something about it, a new project called Magnetico aims to solve this by crawling BitTorrent’s Distributed Hash Table and generating an index on a machine controlled by the user. This week, TorrentFreak caught up with its creator.
That’s not to say no one has tried it before. DHT and PEX, for example, were great contributions but the reliance on centralized websites such as The Pirate Bay still persisted. That’s the problem that troubled Bora – the programmer hailing from Istanbul – who feels having a less centralized system would benefit the entire ecosystem.
“All the legal action taken against the community has always targeted the points of centralization, as they were the weakest points in the whole mesh,” Bora says. “In the beginning, trackers were required to facilitate the traffic between peers, but then we ditched them once more and more clients supported the distributed hash table (DHT). We eventually got rid of .torrent files as well [in favor of magnet links], which in turn allowed people to download the whole sum of The Pirate Bay in a hundred megabytes.”
In his efforts to achieve this, Bora has been working on the project magnetico (small ‘m’), which aims to “unplug” conventional torrent sites altogether. Just like the now defunct BTDigg and the more recent AlphaReign, Bora’s software uses the Distributed Hash Table to search for content and peers with the difference being that the indexes magnetico creates will be private. In simpler words, it acts as a user’s personal search engine and can be installed on a machine that’s under the user’s control.
“magnetico is a collection of programs called magneticod (magnetico daemon) and magneticow (magnetico web),” Bora explains. “magneticod runs in the background and ‘trawls’ the DHT network to discover info hashes and then fetches torrent metadata from the peers (most importantly, the title and the file list). magneticow is a lightweight web interface for users to search and view the discovered torrents.”
“The magneticod module [accesses the DHT] and creates a dummy BitTorrent peer to fetch the metadata from the announced peer, and saves it in a database which you can later search and view,” Bora says. “As info hashes are the SHA-1 hashes of the torrent metadata, we can be sure of the validity of the metadata we got.”
Bora mentions that both modules can run without user intervention, thus making it simple to operate. Though, the software is still in its early stages of development, therefore, it might suffer from bugs – one of them being it becoming a resource hog and needing a restart.
“I am hoping to address all these issues in the next releases, after collecting useful feedback from the community,” Bora says. “I would consider myself as having succeeded if major client developers decided to push for BEP 51 and if we together make BitTorrent truly decentralised right in the protocol, rather than resorting back to the brute force solutions,” he concludes.
In the meantime, Bora hopes that BEP 51 (a BitTorrent Enhancement Proposal concerning DHT) will come to fruition. While magnetico may not be for the novice, Bora says its relatively easy to get it going. To find out more about it yourself, you can head over here.