Which TPB Clones Are Beached Whales?

hydrabay1On December 9th, The Pirate Bay was raided, and taken offline. The site went down, and much of the net went nuts. Yet there was another, stranger phenomenon some might have noticed.

On just about every article posted about it were comments claiming that “it’s back at ”. Some even went out of their way to fool people, even issuing press releases that they were TPB, but ‘back’, or ‘working from a backup’ or ‘decided to go to a new domain’. Many fell for it, and after more than a month after many have been highlighted as less than meets the eye, people are still making the claim that they’ve ‘tested’ it.

So, to wade in to this, I decided to take a look into just how ‘good’ these sites are. And while it’s easy to claim to have all the TPB torrents it’s often hard to check. So, rather than check a whole slew of random torrents, I reasoned that the real test of how good their torrent database actually is, would be to use some less than popular torrents that I know are there. And, of course, using torrents that are 100% authorised for use on those sites makes it even more fun, because remember, according to some [very dubious] research, there’s no such thing on sites like TPB.

Specifically, I decided to use my own torrents. I had a VIP account on TPB (I’m not exactly going to put malware or spam torrents on the site and basically meant that I didn’t have to deal with the captchas) so it’ll be a good test of how they’ve dealt with such content. In addition, most of my torrents share a single keyword that’s unique to my torrents – “EFForums” – for the audio recordings of the panels I do at DragonCon, both MP3 and OGG format. There should be 12 efforums torrents in total (09-14 inclusive, in both formats) going back to mid-2011. If they then listed my username as the ‘uploader’, I instead focused on that, to see if they got the rest.

I also look at the individual torrent page for No Safe Harbor – the book I co-wrote and published back in 2012, and put on TPB. How a single torrent, its description and comments are handled is also important for many, especially sites that claim to be a ‘mirror’ or ‘successor’.

Finally, to give an idea of more mass-market view, I decided to go with TPB-AFK. What can be more appropriate than torrents about the documentary about the site and its founders?

As for the sites, as well as the original torrents on the old TPB (thank you Internet Archive) I’ve gone for a selection of sites that have been touted as ‘replacements’ etc. for TPB. They are

  • Thepiratebay.ee
  • Thepiratebay.cr
  • Thepiratebay.co.in
  • Theoldbay.org
  • Thepiratebay.co.ua
  • Thepiratebayv2.org
  • Thepiratebay.lv
  • Themalaysiabay.org
  • KickAssTorrents (KAT.ph) – not actually a clone, but there for comparison purposes

For ease of use, most of them will be called by their ccTLD (otherwise I’m going to get very sick of typing ‘piratebay’)

Even with the limited list of torrents I tested with, there were some quite interesting results.

Test 1 EFForums/K`Tetch torrents

So, first of all, let’s compare my own torrents. For comparison, let’s start with the torrents listed on TPB

tpb-ktetch-archive

The 16 torrents I’d uploaded to the original TPB (for some reason the Internet Archive captured it in Croatian)

 

A number of torrents, the last one uploaded back in September. Now, a fun fact is that most of these torrents are released through Mininova, and mininova’s track isn’t one that TPB accepted, so it would take off the mininova tracker (Grrrr) and add in several of its own (which makes me mad for other reasons) but it does mean that the scrape values are never the most accurate.

However, how well did the other sites fare?

Well, the results tended to be split into two groups. There were those that made an effort, and there were those that seem to be auto-generating content almost at random, based on what they can find, as we’ll see here.

Quite ironically, the only site that actually got them all copied accurately was .ee (why will become clear sooner). A number of others got some, while others just grabbed names and started duplicating them, sometimes giving unused SHA1’s as hashes. These are the ones that seemed to show they were all dynamically generated, as all results were seemingly uploaded at midnight, by ‘trusted’ or ‘VIP’ uploaders that show no torrents if you click on the account name. Also, listing “1-300 of 1000” is a bit of a giveaway that there’s something weird going on, especially with only 12 possible torrents.

Also, while some appear to have the 12 EFForums audio torrents, look closely – the 2014 audio torrents are duplicated. Not a good way to do things. Others only have a few, which is quite odd for sites that claim to be ‘TPB clones’. And the UA site has a torrent with no name, making it impossible to get any details on it.

It’s hard to do anything other than award the win to KAT here, because while they did no better than some of the others, they at least aren’t pretending to be something they’re not, and they don’t have tell-tale signs of trying to scam users.

Test 2 No Safe Harbor torrent

So we’ve looked at one group of torrents, to see how well they indexed a low-popularity group of torrents from a VIP user (end result, not good). What about a single torrent, that was pretty popular, and had a significant description and comments. Again while there’s thousands I could have gone for, I’ve gone for a known torrent (and incidentally marketed my book some more, win-win)

No Safe Harbor's Pirate Bay listing on the Internet Archive.

No Safe Harbor’s Pirate Bay listing on the Internet Archive.

 

As you can see, a nice long description, and two comments, one with a link. How well do these sites handle that?

As you can see, Not all that great, but better than expected. surprisingly most seem to fail at basic text formatting, which isn’t good, and only two even attempt the comments – UA and MalaysiaBay. Unfortunately, UA seems to think there’s only two files (there’s 6, as the others show). The only one that actually looks properly formatted is also the one with the biggest problem, as .EE doesn’t actually give you any torrent links unless you pay them. Of course .EE will look a lot like TPB, because it’s long been known as a scam site,

Other than that, all but the oldbay (which is based on Isohunt.to) show a remarkable similarity to each other. If you look closely though, you’ll see why, including why there’s no comments. The giveaway is in the top corner, where it says “verified torrent“. These sites aren’t TPB clones at all, they’re KAT clones. In which case, you might as well just use KAT.

So ,it’s not looking very good in the ‘real TPB successor‘ stakes.

Test 3 TPB-AFK torrent

When it comes to The Pirate Bay, perhaps one of the the most important torrents – at least symbolically – are the torrents of the 2013 documentary by Simon Klose, being somewhat iconic, and a of more concern and public interest than my own torrents, odds are they’ll do a better job.

Of course, the answer is no. It’s the same sort of results again.

At the end of the day, only three of the sites (EE, UA and MalaysiaBay) appear to have done any sort of ‘copy’ of ThePirateBay at all. EE is a paywalled scam site, UA has problems actually processing the data it has accurately, and MalaysiaBay has an absolutely horrendous site design that makes it difficult to take seriously, let alone use.

TheOldBay uses the database of isoHunt.to – not exactly unexpected, as they are sibling sites, but the database is a long way from being complete, but it is something they seem to be working on, and they at least, are not trying to deceive people as to who is behind it and why. Meanwhile, the rest of the sites are basically KAT, but stripped of a lot of the important stuff – You might as well use KAT.

OR there are other alternatives. One site I could have included, but didn’t (because it’s not a fair apples-to-apples comparison) for instance is BTdigg, which is a DHT based search engine. If a torrent has had DHT enabled on it (which includes every torrent that’s been on TPB, since they use magnet links which require DHT) then it’s on BTDigg. The downside is that it lacks most of the social side that other sides consider standard, even basic, but with a torrent index orders of magnitude larger than any other site, it’s often one that can be useful to one who has the patience to make it work.

But these pretenders, trying to cash in on the traffic and fame, they’re not worth the time of day; akin to barnacles – the crustrations that attach themselves on the hulls of ships, fouling them and making them less effective, requiring they be scraped off before top performance can be restored.