One of the really interesting uses for BitTorrent is archiving content. If a few people think a thing is important enough to keep seeding it, it will always be available to anyone who wants it. The people who are seeding can come and go. As long as there’s one person who’s holding a copy, it will be both preserved and made available. Thanks to nonprofits like ibiblio and the Internet Archive, we have the beginnings of serious perma-seeding infrastructure.
Webhosts come and webhosts go, but BitTorrent can be forever. A great example of that is the Archive Team’s torrent of all of Geocities (650GB compressed!). When Yahoo announced they were shutting down Geocities, Archive Team kicked into gear and saved the site for posterity. Geocities is a photo album of the web’s growth, starting when it was a toddler just learning to walk and going through to its awkward early teenage years. It’s a crucial part of the heritage of early “Digital Natives” (myself included), and an invaluable resource for people studying the way people and cultures acclimatized to the new model of the world we all live in.
It’s also a great resource for art. A favorite project of mine was “The Deleted City,” which took viewers on a little tour of the Geocities archive on a video monitor. The artist behind it has released a follow-up piece, making it an interactive tour.
“The Deleted City” is an artifact of the enabling power of BitTorrent as a decentralized storage/dissemination tool. It’s also really neat, and rather nostalgic for those of us who remember those very MIDIs. (This is from a world before MP3s were ubiquitous, if you can imagine that.)