Private BitTorrent trackers

A BitTorrent tracker is the software in charge of orchestrating the communication between peers that are using the protocol. It keeps track of statistics and, in the case of private trackers, manages download quotas and various other restrictions.

BitTorrent Tracker software

You can find a short list of open-source torrent tracker platforms here.

It’s not immediately obvious as to why private trackers would be worth the effort to join. For one, private torrent trackers usually have a much longer retention rate, have more organised content and tend to be safer than public trackers (e.g. ThePirateBay, rutracker, rarbg). More importantly, some private trackers focus on old/rare content that is no longer obtainable legally. In the next section, we will explore the general registration process of private trackers.

Getting into private trackers

Most “top-tier” or specialized torrent trackers are invite-only, meaning that one has to be invited by a current member that has reached the user class required to invite other members. In most cases, the invite giver is responsible for the invitee’s actions. When a user is caught trading or selling invites, his entire invite tree will be banned. Therefore, members are very careful with their invites. This is especially true for trackers that are deeper in the Invite map. Such an environment makes it quite unlikely for a stranger to get invited to these trackers. Staff members also have various other countermeasures to fight invite trading/buying (more on that in the following section). It is, however, very possible for a person completely foreign to the torrenting world to join any tracker given enough time and energy.

Before attempting to join a private tracker, make sure that you are familiar with the BitTorrent protocol and the concept of sharing ratio. Having a good uploaddownload ratio is essential to keep your account at a given tracker and to climb up the user classes. Network bandwidth is really not as important as most people think. Dedicated or otherwise constantly running hardware and plenty of disk space – and it should not be a surprise for seasoned data archivists – are much more valuable in the long term. The second step is to join “open” trackers. Keep an eye on discussion boards for open-signup or application timeframes. Some trackers (notably, RED1 and MAM ) have IRC interviews.

Staying Informed

You can find miscellaneous information on Reddit (/r/trackers, /r/OpenSignups/) and 4chan (/ptg/). However do not expect much help for anything beyond technical problems coming from either forum, as most of their members are highly paranoid. As we will see in the next section, you are mostly on your own when it comes to information about specific trackers.

Invite map

Private trackers invite map

The tracker invite map is an interactive visualization of the official invite routes of a subset of the private trackers. Most private trackers have official recruiters with an infinite number of invites available for members with the required user class (see figure below) Data was gathered manually from tracker invite forums. An arrow pointing to another tracker indicates that one can be invited to the tracker via an official invite thread. Node size indicates the approximate number of enabled users (This metric is not always made available). Of course this is not a complete map, partly because this information is voluntarily made hard to find. Trackers with no invite threads from and to other trackers are not shown on this map.

Official recruiter in an invite forum

To view the most up-to-date graph, raw data and source code of this project, you can visit https://dataarchivist.net/trackermap/. If you carefully review the tracker map, you will notice that almost all of them are accessible through a handful of important trackers. Most notably, the music tracker Redacted (RED), which one can join directly via the interview process, grants you access to almost all other music trackers and many more. Once you joined the “lower tier” trackers, your goal is to reach the user class that gives you access to the invite forums. This process is different for every tracker but it always involves either reaching a particular amount of data uploaded while maintaining a good ratio, uploading a number of new torrents or staying a member for a certain length of time. There are various guides for specific trackers linked in the Additional Reading section.

Rules, “Marking” and security

Marking

It is generally frowned upon to share information relating to a tracker in a public forum. As such, staff members, are supposedly on the lookout for data that could be linked to a specific member – a screenshot of a forum which would indicate the date at which a certain thread was last visited, an exact ratio or a specific number of bonus points, etc. – and would in turn flag them. Flagged, or /marked/ members are more likely to get banned for minor offenses.

Links posted in /ptg/ are seen as marking attempts by staff.

Security

Although you are a lot less likely to receive copyright notices from your ISP while using a private tracker, it is generally a good idea to assume that the private information related to your accounts (your email, username password and IP address) is not safe. It is good practice to use different usernames and try to avoid making them associable (avoid sending screenshots of your other accounts2). Always use strong, unique passwords for all your accounts. Do not share any personal information (or any information at all, if possible) in the forums or IRC channels, and do not bother with trackers that are asking for personal information during the registration process.

Additionnal reading

Sinderalla database leak

IPTorrents owner dox (read the Why should I care section)

/ptg/


  1. You can find a walkthrough of the interview process here [return]
  2. It is common practice to ask for ratio proofs when invinting other members. [return]