[tor-talk] Putting the "Tor" back in Torrent

Helder Ribeiro helder at discor.de
Fri Jul 11 21:12:18 UTC 2014

How a Popcorn Time fork could incentivize people to run thousands of
new Tor relays


Thinking about NAT traversal as Tor's killer feature lead to this
discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8018213

**If torrents are P2P's killer application, and NAT traversal/"static
IP" are Tor's (via hidden services), putting them together could prove
to be the best incentivization scheme for growing the Tor network
other than cold crypto cash[1].**

## You're stupid

Everybody knows you're not supposed to use torrents with tor[2], right?

But the problem there is using _existing_ bittorent clients and how
they leak IPs to trackers, etc. Drop those stones for a second and
hear me out. We're not proxying traffic from regular bittorrent
clients through tor, we're making something new.

## Onion Popcorn

Say we do the following:

1. Make a DHT that serves out peer onion addresses (OAs?) instead of
IP addresses;
2. Fork Popcorn Time, make it create a hidden service for the user and
connect to the OA DHT to fetch peers;
3. Connect to peers via their hidden services.

## Stop righ there, you'll break the network!

Oh, I forgot:
4. Make the Popcorn Time fork also **be a relay by default* whenever possible**.

Nobody would agree to do this on the main tor software for a thousand
reasons, but it's an *app* and you can decide to do that in it
independently. If you're going to add a lot of load to the network,
you have to give back.

This "Onion Popcorn" could also **soft-enforce download limits** based
on the amount of traffic the user has relayed. **Sane defaults and
interface nudges can go a long way.** (Popcorn Time itself doesn't
even expose network/bandwidth adjustments to the user and, for the
mainstream, we can count on hiding some options as something easier to
do than coming up with a proof-of-correctness anti-leeching scheme.)

Bandwidth at first probably wouldn't be enough to _stream_ anything,
but otherwise should work for downloading and watching.

**The end result is that you're incentivizing Tor "miners" by giving
them something they want (so bad, in fact, that it takes up most of
the Internet's traffic) in exchange for relaying traffic for the rest
of the Tor network.**

To boot, you end up with a very, very private torrent network that
never touches any exit node.

## You'll _still_ break the network!

Even if these torrent nodes are a net positive in terms of relay
capacity, this much usage of hidden services would probably put an
unanticipated load on hidden service directories and introduction
points. That could turn out to be a problem.

With enough demand, though, I think capacity finds a way of taking
care of itself. Isn't "the whole Internet is all of a sudden trying to
get private!" the thing we want the most? Much better problem trying
to scale a network that a lot of people want to use, than trying to
convince people to use something they don't see a need for.

If it's something people want, they'll find out about "how to make X
faster" and learn that it's based on Tor and that you should become a
relay or donate money here so that your connection gets faster.

Oh, and for every 100 new relays, you gain on average X extra kbytes
of download speed: help us get to this month's goal of another 100 by
donating 5 bucks a month!

## What do you say?

Alright, now back to me being stupid: please tear this idea down :) Thanks!


*: There are issues with running a relay and a hiddens service on the
same machine. Discussion here:

P.S.: you can follow me @obvio171 on Twitter.

P.S.2: comments on Hacker News: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8022341.

[1]: http://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/news/torcoin-making-anonymity-pay/2014/06/06
[2]: https://blog.torproject.org/blog/bittorrent-over-tor-isnt-good-idea

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