There are a number of reasons for the changing community, but I think you really hit the nail on the head here. Largely people choose the most convenient option when it comes to consuming entertainment media, and entertainment media is more readily, conveniently, and economically accessible than ever before.Either that, or interest in private trackers has regressed substantially since then & there simply isn't the same swath of new blood ready to be pumped into the system.
If the latter is the truth the reason for that seems to be pretty obvious: the advent of streaming platforms.
To use myself as an example, I'm about the most shameless thief you can imagine when you're talking about digital media content. I don't think it's right, nor do I delude myself with arguments of "copying isn't stealing" and "all information should be free", I'm aware that my actions are morally objectionable. I just don't care.
Yet since the advent of Spotify, I've downloaded about a total of 10 albums in the last 5 years. I love music, but I could care less about lossless and super-rare pretentious shit. Spotify satisfies all my music requirements and does so in a much more convenient manner than downloading and archiving the actual files. In fact, it's that convenient I actually paid for Spotify premium, simply because I value the service so much.
Or at least I did, until about a year ago I discovered that I could obtain all the benefits of Spotify Premium simply with a hacked version of the app.
I do the same thing with Netflix. If the content is available on Netflix, it's much more convenient than private trackers. And although I don't currently pay for Netflix (I purchased a stolen login for $10 which has lasted 2 years), I have done in the past and would do so again if I found myself otherwise unable to access the service.
This sort of trend appears to be occurring throughout most of the developed world. This is why we're seeing a major decline in the new community entrants from wealthy English speaking nations in favor of poorer non-English speaking nations. As these platforms often remain unavailable in developing countries due either to lack of access to streaming services or lack of economic viability.
I believe this is also the primary reason for the rise of selling tracker invites/accounts, as the economically disadvantaged have turned invites into a commodity, one that appears to net a healthy profit when adjusting for exchange rates and purchasing power. This rise has in turn led to a more guarded, hostile, and insular community as trackers have sought to protect themselves.
Combine these factors to the history of TPS which was severely crippled after the previous staff ran the site into the ground and the rise of open discussion platforms such as Reddit, which has certainly filled much of the role once served by us in this community (a central location for topical news/discussion) and TPS has seen a marked decline in activity from our height of popularity in 2010.
For those that weren't around during that era, to put things in perspective, we usually have between 10-40 members browsing TPS at any one time (excluding guests and including members browsing in hidden mode). Conversely, the record for number of users browsing the old vBulletin version of the site (TPSv1) at one time was over 500 members. That's the approximate number of members we now see in over 48 hours.
We'll probably never be that active again, largely due to the aforementioned drop in not only the overall activity of the community, but the additional decline in the quality of new applicants (translating into far less members that apply and that are actually approved). So the question then becomes, who do we want to be? What role do we want to play in the new private tracker community? And are we willing to make radical changes to evolve with the times?
The answer to these questions then determines where we go as a community. I see a few options offhand:
- We're content with our rate of growth/activity and are happy to continue doing what we're doing.
- We actively promote a policy of becoming a "gateway" into the private tracker community, similar to that of the role played by W.CD.
- We remove invites completely and open registration for everyone. (Gasp!)
The second option would require a much more active role in promoting TPS as an option for entry into the PT community. This has the potential to be not only beneficial for us, but beneficial for the entire community, as we're in a very good position to educate new entrants to the community with the wealth of knowledge and information available in our existing posts and from our existing veteran members. We also have the added benefit of being much more stable due to our status as a fully legal site, as opposed to a "gateway" that is always at risk of being shutdown.
The problem I see with this option, is that a very large percentage of members applying via the public application process are of extremely poor quality and are immediately rejected. Many of these people are referred here from Reddit and make no effort to write a serious application (these kinds of people make for extremely poor and entitled members). Increasing the number of these applicants would be pointless. In order to avoid this, there would need to be an equally well promoted campaign to communicate our expectations when applying for membership (similar to the whatinterviewprep.com site).
The final option is a radical yet interesting proposal. For a long time now TPS has not been about invites, we're almost exclusively a private tracker & piracy discussion forum with a very minor part of the board dedicated to invites. Yet much of TPS site policy is determined by the idea of providing a safe environment for people/tracker staff to distribute invites. The NML, the application process, the necessity to root out traders/sellers/cheaters, the restrictions on new members; all the barriers to enter TPS and contribute are centered around this idea.
By removing the invite requests sections of the site, all these extremely important and necessary polices evaporate in an instant. Access can be restored to thousands of inactive members without worry of lurking traders, membership can be opened to everyone, and TPS could once again have the potential to become the primary hub for this community to meet and congregate, with the added bonus of avoiding the downvote brigade, much better organization and information collation, more involved moderation and integration, and a much more personal platform for members to meet and network with each other (IMO the most valuable part of TPS).
I personally believe the platform TPS utilizes is better suited for this community than that of Reddit. Yet Reddit maintains a much larger "market share" (if you will), this is due to the open nature of Reddit. TPS could provide the same sort of openly accessible discussion, without being indexed on search engines (retaining the existing private subforums/threads system) but allowing for anyone to register and contribute.
Another variation of the final option could be to allow invites to remain, however, move invites behind a special "Application Approved" usergroup that requires an application/approval process similar to the existing membership application, except geared toward approving members for access to the Invite Requests and Tracker Recruitment sections of the site. Therefore allowing public access to everyone for discussion/involvement at TPS, while still providing a firewall between potentially bad users and any available invites.
Regardless, spacely you've just taken the first step in building some real friendships here, and our members are some of the most well-connected veteran members this community has. If you stick around and continue to contribute at this level you'll quickly earn the respect and friendship necessary for whatever you desire.