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So I’m contemplating posting my BlueQuartz VMware image on VMware’s “Appliances” page, where it’d probably get a decent amount of downloads. I strongly doubt I’ll run into my bandwidth limit (it’d have to be downloaded about 3,000 times in a month), but I still don’t want to use bandwidth I don’t have to. When you’re distributing a big file to lots of people all of a sudden, BitTorrent is the perfect solution.
Unlike distributing, say, a bootleg movie, there’s an ‘official source’ for a lot of legitimate torrent hosting. This doesn’t mean anything in BitTorrent, but I think it should. The official source wants to ‘host’ it, but get people to help with bandwidth over BitTorrent.
There should be an easy way for them to host the file. Run a single command, pass it the file you want to distribute, and it’ll automatically create a .torrent file, register with some trackers (or host your own?), and begin seeding the file. In practice, this would probably take 10-15 minutes of work by hand. That’s pathetic.
There’s also a catch 22 at first: you want seeders (people who have the whole file and upload it to their peers), since, without them, no one can get the file. But you need a seeder before anyone can be a seeder. The obvious solution is to seed your own file, and this is how it’s done. But, as the ‘official’ distributor of a file, you don’t want to burn through bandwidth, so it makes sense that you’d want to throttle your available bandwidth: if there were lots of other seeders, you’d only use a small amount of bandwidth. By keeping the ‘server’ up as a permanent seeder, you alleviate the really annoying problem of no one having the full file, which, obviously, prevents anyone from ever getting it. This is sort of a “long tail” problem: after the rush is over, you often end up with BitTorrent not being so awesome. (And, if you set your throttled upload bandwidth to be inversely proportional to the number of seeders, when no one else is seeding it, there’s really no difference between someone downloading your file over BitTorrent and downloading it directly from your server.)
Of course, you’ll still have to distribute over FTP/HTTP, since not everyone can use BitTorrent. But, if you distribute it ‘normally’ over HTTP, you create an incentive for people to just download it from you, bypassing BitTorrent, which ruins the whole plan. So you also need to be able to throttle your bandwidth on those services, to make sure that it’s never faster than BitTorrent.
I really think there should be an all-in-one package to do this, so the host just runs a quick command on the server, and the file’s immediately being seeded on BitTorrent and available on HTTP/FTP. And for all of “us,” just think of situations that, say, Linux distributions must have with distributing large files.
This could even be a hosted service: a decent amount of people providing things like games have been smart enough to embrace BitTorrent. The market’s there. There’s just nowhere offering this.