So Sad That It Should Come To This.

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WitherSlick

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Jul 3, 2009
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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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