Torrentz.eu, one of the largest and oldest search engines for torrents, quietly closed operations today without any warning or even an explanation. The unexpected shutdown essentially stops a chief portal for downloading pirated material from the internet.
Visitors to the site will now find a short, simple message bidding goodbye to users.
“Torrentz was a free, fast and powerful meta-search engine combining results from dozens of search engines. Torrentz will always love you. Farewell.”
While the site appears to be functioning normally, an ad from Alibaba pops up if a user clicks on the search box. The ability to login has also been disabled.
The shutdown of Torrentz is the second blow to the torrent community in the last few weeks. Kicka** Torrents (KATS) closed in July after U.S. officials arrested founder Artem Vaulin and charged him with copyright infringement and money laundering. The 30-year-old Ukrainian is accused of illegally copying and distributing copyrighted material worth over $1 billion. A Wired report indicates the site’s owner also made millions of dollars by selling ads alongside bootlegged content.
Based out of Poland, Torrentz.eu lasted longer than most because the site never actually hosted any torrent files. The site was essentially a directory of websites that did. According to a Variety report, the site had over 15 million unique visitors in August 2015 and 32 million active torrents through almost 30 piracy websites. Alexa currently ranks the site as the 186th most-visited in the world.
While torrents are often associated with illegal files, that is not always the case. The technology allows content to be downloaded to a computer from other users on the same platform. Much of the sharing involved files that were just easier to transfer using a torrent network rather than another method.
In the past, the Torrentz has cooperated with law enforcement by removing any links that connected to pirated content. In 2004, the website temporarily went down after a copyright holder sent a takedown notice to the site.
After which, Torrentz dropped the.com domain in favor of.eu after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began going after similar sites with the.com domain. The U.K., Denmark, and Malaysia have attempted multiple times to block the site as well.
While Torrentz’s operator has not come out and publicly announced why the site is gone, it doesn’t appear to be related to any legal issues. If the peer-to-peer sharing directory had violated the law or ignored a takedown notice, a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice would likely have replaced it.
Torrentz started over 13 years ago, just weeks before another popular torrent site, Pirate Bay, came online. Two years ago, the founding members of Pirate Bay came under intense scrutiny from authorities and nearly shut the site down.
Piracy experts estimate about 17 percent of illegal downloading of films and TV content comes from peer-to-peer sharing platforms, while 74 percent comes from streaming sites. Many have noted that online piracy is on the general decline as authorities crack down and some torrent sites re-invent themselves. BitTorrent, also popular in the torrent community, has transformed itself into a legitimate sharing site with legal content and even released an app available for iPhone and Apple TV.
With the closure of Torrentz, millions of users are seeking an alternative to the peer-to-peer sharing site directory. Even now, Reddit users are messaging each other about potential Torrentz replacements.
The community will probably not have to wait long for the next one to reveal itself, however.
“The next site will pop up pretty quickly,” says Dan Deeth, spokesman for network-equipment company Sandvine. “The technical sophistication of someone who uses BitTorrent in modern times usually surpasses the ability to find [torrents] by other means.”
The closure of Torrentz will probably have little effect on the rate of piracy. With the availability and affordability of movie streaming options like Netflix and HBO, many will just use them as an alternative rather than taking the risk of downloading illegal content.
[Photo by Sitade/iStock]