P2P networks on the Web are still being debated, there are a number of private invite-only P2P networks (aka darknets) out there which enable users to get quality-approved media and software. They are decentralized, secret and almost certainly not very legal in their media-sharing activities. Many of them use the Bittorrent service. A reader who goes by the name The Rub of Clubs let me in on a few of the secrets...While the pros and cons of
The Rub says that invite-only P2P networks are more popular than most people realise. He uses them "to get the kinds of albums, film, and software that are almost impossible to find anywhere else, including Netflix." What's more, these private networks are being used by some marketing companies to 'leak' new music - in order to get new songs quickly into the hands of influencers. The Rub says this has been an informal practice for a couple years and is not far separated from mp3 blogs or myspace.
I asked what he meant by "quality-approved" media, a term he used to describe the types of media that can be obtained in these private networks. He said quality-approved means there are strict standards of quality. For example, "telesync" films or "cam" films can't be posted, but "telecine", DVD quality, or HDTV quality films can be posted. For music, usually there is a minimum of 220 bitrate, and often music is posted with lossless quality. This Wikipedia list of standards explains more about quality-approved.
Recently The Rub's friend Ariel made a YouTube video about private torrent communities:
In it Ariel explains the story of a former Torrent network called WDMA (Where Da Moviez At?), which apparently had a user base of around 20k.... until it abruptly ended around August 2005. Copycat sites popped up afterwards, but what happened to the original? Well, according to Ariel's story "those in the know won't tell".
So what kind of people are using these secret P2P networks? The Rub told me:
"It's difficult to know how many people use these networks, their age, their occupations, locations, etc. That's just the nature of these networks. I get the impression that many are in college. Almost all male. They seem fairly intelligent, and tech-savvy, as you can imagine. It's very difficult to gather conclusive data about darknets, and I'm sure there are more networks that I don't know about. I've wondered about the possibility of an "ASmallWorld" type ultra-exclusive torrent trading network. Intriguing idea, but almost impossible to verify."
These private networks thrive on the concept of exclusivity, so there's little chance that people not in the know will ever know much about them.