A great BitTorrent client is all well and good, but you need a great tracker to get the actual torrent files and stoke the bandwidth-burning fire in your client of choice. Here's a rundown of five of the most popular options.
A bit of clarification is in order before we share the list of the top five contenders with you. In our call for contenders we asked for you to share your favourite BitTorrent trackers, but we didn't explain the difference between a BitTorrent tracker and a BitTorrent indexer. The difference isn't immediately clear to the end user — nor does the difference even matter to many end users — and because we didn't make the difference crystal clear the votes were a mix of both sites that tracked and indexed and just indexed torrent files.
Since the purpose of the Hive Five is to help readers find tools and the ability to find torrents is more important to the majority of users than whether or not the place they find the torrents is also acting as the tracker for those torrents, we've opted to overlook the confusion in an effort to share a list of where Lifehacker readers go to search and download torrent files. The following list contains both true trackers and indexers. If you're curious about the technical details between a tracker and an indexer you can read up on them here and here.
The Pirate Bay is no longer the full-service tracker it once thanks to some rough battles with the law, but it remains in service as an indexer. The Pirate Bay has been and remains one of the most publicly recognisable faces of the torrent phenomenon and is still a popular destination for torrent seekers. It no longer indexes its own tracker but instead organizes torrents indexed to other trackers. The Pirate Bay is known for having, even now, a wide selecttion and a well-organised, easy-to-browse site.
BTJunkie is one of the largest torrent indexers on the web with over four million torrents and several thousand added daily. BTJunkie amasses such a high number of torrents by employing crawlers that dig through web sites looking for torrent files to index. The quality of torrents is ranked both by an algorithm and by user input which helps filter out low-quality or malicious torrents.
Another enormous indexer, isoHunt has nearly two million torrents and a huge user base. In addition to being able to search torrents and sort them by age, number of peers, and other common search factors isoHunt has an additional variable, appropriately called isoHunt Rank, that is a compilation of all the other factors like age, number of comments, user feedback, and more. Sorting by isoHunt Rank allows you to see which torrents are best overall instead of just best in some subcategory like number of seeders or age.
Demonoid is a semi-public tracker. Registration is traditionally closed — it opens a few times a year to let new users in, or you can be invited by an existing member — but the site is still quite functional even without registration. Registration gives you access to the deep archives of Demonoid, but even without it you have access to over a quarter million torrents — the most recently added ones — available for download. Demonoid has built a name for itself by having a low number of bogus torrents and a high level of user participation.
KickAssTorrents is a new kid on the torrent indexing block, but it has quickly built a name for itself by offering a user friendly experience. KickAssTorrents is the only torrent search engine that offers correction of spelling mistakes — search for Unutu for instance and it will ask "Did you mean Ubuntu?" — which is a small thing but highlights the level of detail put into the construction of their search engine. In addition to indexing regular torrents KickAssTorrents also indexes httpTorrents, which allow users who cannot access the BitTorrent cloud due to their location or firewall restrictions to access torrents.
Have a favourite torrent hangout that didn't make the list? Have a BitTorrent-related tip or trick? Let's hear about it in the comments.