So Sad That It Should Come To This.

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WitherSlick

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#1
So Sad That It Should Come To This

What.cd surely has a special place in every pirates heart, I know it does for me, and most likely to whoever is reading. We lost a huge building block in the piracy world on this day one year ago. It seems like it’s been much longer. In the time since then many new trackers have appeared, but none are anywhere close to as influential or as amazing as that little website we all used to call home. They still haven’t really approached the torrent count. We all know that wasn’t what made What.cd special anyway, not really.

What.cd hit one million torrents on December 22nd 2010. It was a major accomplishment that no other music tracker had ever even gotten close to before that. Oink would have had a chance, had it not been so mercilessly put to sleep. Their spirit awoke, and in force, a few days after when What.cd was founded. It was amplified by the fact that a common person knows that music, especially from decades ago should be free. A common person cannot afford a 10,000 CD library. At the time when What.cd was at its peak even legal options to purchase digital tracks almost never offered lossless FLAC. For a person who appreciated music as an art, or even a regular person who wanted to hear his music in the best quality available nothing compared to What.cd.

When I first truly realized What.cd was something special was when Microsoft COFEE leaked. It had had the largest request bounty on the site for a long time. Nobody thought it would ever be uploaded, so the admins let it stay in the request list, at the top, for years. On November 8th 2009, before What.cd even had it’s 1,000,000th torrent COFEE leaked. When it leaked it was celebrated by all the users as the achievement as an impossible task. However the staff had this to say, according to TorrentFreak: “Suddenly we were forced to take a real look at the program, it’s source, and the potential impact on the site and security of the staff, and we didn’t like what came of it. So a decision was made. The torrent was removed (and is not to be uploaded here again)”. According to the staff this decision was made without contact from Microsoft or any security agency. They made the decision solely to protect the site. They knew the additional media spotlight and government scrutiny would kill the site, so they deleted the torrent within a few hours.

Another leak that really testified to the power and influence of what.cd was the leak of JD Salingers unpublished works. The only known copies resided with family in highly secure locations. However, in typical fashion the What.cd request was eventually filled for terabytes of bounty. Not one, not two, but three previously unpublished works became available at the same time. It set the literary world in a storm over the moral and ethical complications of reading a work that the author didn’t want read. It’s not my place to say it’s right or wrong, but personally, I think What.cd made the world a better place. Salinger died in 2010, and he won’t ever know people read his unpublished works.

What.cd wasn’t just a tracker, it changed the meaning of the word. It was first and foremost a community of like-minded individuals with truly brilliant staff, an amazing and active forum, and the best developers of any private tracker, or dare I say it, any tracker at all that we’ve ever seen. There was never a place before where if you wanted a specific release of a specific album you could easily find it in any common format. Even on other trackers who didn’t go with Gazelle it would be hard to find in the 100 results that popped up, if it was there at all.

A lot of people don’t remember what bittorrent, especially music trackers, was like before Gazelle. There is a good reason for that. It was truly revolutionary and the best method of categorizing music, and even many other types of content that we’ve ever had. Gazelle is still used by most of the popular private trackers today, a testament to how innovative and “outside the box” What.cd always was. A lot of what they accomplished was on the back end as well.

Ocelot made private trackers much easier and faster to run, and really helped usher in the golden age around 2010. This was back in 2010, before What.cd even hit a million torrents. Despite being relatively hard to get into, more than five million peers were using the sites tracker, making it one of the most busy online. The thing that was revolutionary about What.cd's compared to other trackers is that when they realized previous tracker software wasn’t up to the task, **they made their own**. And they did it more efficiently and better than anyone had before. It was a huge task, but they didn’t shy away. They looked at it head-on and made something beautiful and efficient. Then they released the source code for free. It’s hard to overstate how amazing Ocelot was compared to what was available at the time. One instance of Ocelot was using 20-30% of one CPU core compared to four instances of XBTT each using 50-100% of one CPU core.

Not as many people care about private music trackers as did in 2010 when What.cd really gathered steam and made the best free repository of human music that ever existed. Spotify is killing us, and I really mean that. Spotify, Apple Music, and etc are destroying the private tracker music ecosystem. They love this. That was their goal in the first place. I don’t think that any serious music fan should consider these a replacement for somewhere they can download lossless checked FLAC of any album though. These people really need to consider that one day an album can be on Spotify and the next week be pulled because the creators got greedy. I’m not blaming the end user as much. I mean if you can easily listen to almost all the music you want for 10 euros a month why wouldn’t you? I just think that attitude is highly toxic to music in general…

The final part of my post is how What.cd died. Nobody except staff at the time really knows. My understanding is that several servers that served as reverse proxies for What.cd were seized on the French OVH network. It’s impossible for staff not to panic in this situation. It seems to me, a bystander that if only the reverse proxies were seized they could set up new ones. What.cd staff panicked, and I could never blame them. It’s not the users that will go to jail, it’s that they would. In that situation the best situation for users and staff is to instantly scrub user data and go deep underground. Maybe one of them reads this now, and by god I hope they do. If any former What.cd staff reads this, all I have to say is thank you so much. You did the world an amazing service, and even though we don’t know you, and we’ll likely never see your face… You’re a true hero. You deserve more recognition than you’ll likely ever know. In a world full of Sharks and Barracudas, you, the little fish swam against the stream. You fought the system, and by god you won. Even winning for a few years was a massive victory not only for you, but the entire free software movement, and the idea that idea’s can’t truly be owned. You fought against the stream for years and you fucking won. Very few people alive on earth can say that.

Way up, way up, way up to the moon! Boy it's good to know we had a site like you!

If we could have changed one thing, we would all have learned to sing

So long and thanks for all the fish.

Move along

I apologize for any spelling or grammatical mistakes. I was sorta drinking when I wrote this.
 
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YuWarez

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#2
What.cd was my first private music tracker...At the time I just got in BTN and PTP and I was looking to fulfill my music needs. I heard about recruitment interview and went for it. It was first time I heard about MP3 V0 or V2, whats difference between FLAC and lossy format etc...When I got in it was amazing it had almost everything even music from my country, found one serbian hiphop album I was looking for ages in FLAC format. What I needed What.cd had it. I hope Redacted.ch would be able to fill that void that What.cd left behind. I did my part in that and uploaded all torrents that I had from What.cd that weren't available on Redacted. It currently has 27k users and 1.1m torrent.So I'm optimistic.
 
street_fighter

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#3
I'm also optimistic about the future of RED. I remember the shock and horror of trying to visit What on that fateful day and thinking of all the things I could have, should have downloaded, the buffer I never spent, the community that was lost, the official recruitments I never got around to applying for. While I had been on other private trackers before, What was the first real big name site I joined, it got me into a lot of other great trackers too. When that was all suddenly and unexpectedly gone, it was a real shock.

Fast forward a year and look where RED has gotten to already with a fraction of the members, it's truly astonishing. Yes, we should remember What and all the great things it represented, but I feel we've come a long way in a short time towards replacing what was lost, that makes me very happy and very optimistic about where things are headed.
 
peteyb

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#4
For me, What.cd will always be the paradise I just missed, having come onto the scene earlier this year. While I'll never be able to experience the magic everyone describes, the legacy of What can be clearly seen in many trackers today. I, too, am hopeful that RED will continue to grow and thrive.
 
street_fighter

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#5
For me, What.cd will always be the paradise I just missed, having come onto the scene earlier this year. While I'll never be able to experience the magic everyone describes, the legacy of What can be clearly seen in many trackers today. I, too, am hopeful that RED will continue to grow and thrive.
I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but I think some of this is nostalgia. Don't get me wrong, What was an absolutely amazing tracker, it was pretty much jaw-dropping when I first saw how much content they had, how well it was organized and how great Gazelle was at presenting it (this was my first Gazelle tracker).

As far as I see though, RED is very much well on the way to replacing What, it's essentially a carbon copy of the what.cd site with a subset of the same members (presumably those that are more motivated and into the tracker scene), the same rules, same organization of content etc. Yes, it's still possible to find gaps in the content even with a million torrents, but at only a year in I'm amazed and encouraged at how far the site has gone towards putting together a collection that I fully believe one day will be comparable to What. The recent release of the old What metadata, collages etc can only help to achieve this even faster. What.cd rightly deserves the praise and nostalgia, but I'm convinced that we will have something that is as close to like-for-like one day.

I suspect that RED staff are not targeting to have the same number of members as What did at its height, but in the interests of security and keeping a low profile that can only be a good thing. All this stuff like the Salinger, COFEE leaks, Martin Shkreli asking for a what.cd invite on Twitter and so on brought an unwanted level of publicity to the site which I'm sure eventually led to its downfall. I sincerely hope that RED keeps a lower profile so that we can continue to enjoy it for many years to come. Having a much lower number of members than What doesn't seem to have hampered RED from building up a great catalogue in a very short time. I still do miss What a little bit, but much less than a year ago, and maybe in another year's time it might not even be at all.
 
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oklahomaboy

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#6
WCD was the bomb. Unfortunately for me, I came to know about private trackers too late and by the time I understood seed boxes, buffer building and proper seeding etc. they went bust and I had barely built 15 GB or so and was terrified to use any of it.

So, for me the rising of RED was actually a superb thing because in the beginning they were FL and with seed box it was possible to build some buffer and grab albums I wanted in FLAC-quality. On WCD this would not have been possible.

RIP What.CD, viva la RED!
 
Vib3r

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#7
Impressive post and I can not agree more. They gathered together music lovers from all around the world and with this in mind a massive community was built. And let's not forget that it was impossible to search for something and leave empty handed. Respect for who they were and what they did.

RIP WCD.
 
AbeSimpson

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#8
I’ll never forget what.cd. When I first joined what I wasn’t really interested in the content there. I only saw it as a means to get into all the other trackers I wanted. I soon realized how great it was.

I’ll always be grateful for what what taught me about music and for the start it gave me in the tracker community
 
nFinite

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#9
Plain and simple What.cd was an amazing private tracker. I could always find great music on there, in a multitude of different qualities. I miss it greatly!
 
mft39

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#10
That is very true that project was simply great. To organize and run it takes a lot of effort. When you go that big you will always attract a lot of attention. Hope staff is doing alright and nobody went to jail.
 
LadyCuddles

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#11
Great post. One thing that What did, was grow to a point of being larger than any library could contain of music in the World. The music within the site was special, some of it may not have been available any other place, and could possibly never be seen again, now.

The take down of What could easily be seen as the same book burning of the Nazis, for the literary World, or the destruction of priceless statues and art work over the History of the World. Only this take down, destruction, was at the justification of it being illegal.

In either case, it is a serious loss.
 
pWned

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#12
The industry is very well aware that "1 Download =/= 1 lost sale" ... that's all publicity bullshit. I think what pisses them off even more about sites like What/BTN/PTP is that these sites are actually proof of concept that consumer-oriented content provision is possible.

Just think about it. How many times have you read from content provider services that they can't give you this show "for technical reasons" or that that movie is not available for "technical reasons." I mean, big-corp people in the content industry really seem to know no bounds anymore. I remember one instance where people had bought X-Mas movies from Disney on iTunes, mind you, bought - not rented, but miraculously they disappeared from their libraries during the holidays.

The initial excuse was ... drumroll ... "technical reason," later on it turned out Disney wanted to prop up PPV sales across all platforms during the holidays and had demanded that iTunes temporarily remove them from customer libraries (or was it Netflix? Not sure, one of the big ones).

So yeah. Content-providers make plenty of money, after all, entertainment is one of the few recession-proof industries. If anything, bad economic times make people want to escape reality even more, not less. Money is not really the issue, their real issue is that consumers could catch on how products should be, rather than having a completely lobsided product economy where the suppliers dictate how their product is consumed in some Banana-Republic-Dictator way.

I mean, just look at what it was, a few volunteers and some (comparatively) small-fry hardware were capable of creating the greatest and most comprehensive repository of human-created art in the history of mankind. I would feel threatened too if I lived in their corporate communism world, where value is not created by the product itself, but by centrally planned distribution schemes.
 
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