About a year ago we first heard about SkyTorrents, an ambitious new torrent site which guaranteed a private and ad-free experience for its users.
Initially, we were skeptical. However, the site quickly grew a steady userbase through sites such as Reddit and after a few months, it was still sticking to its promise.
“We will NEVER place any ads,” SkyTorrents’ operator informed us last year.
“The site will remain ad-free or it will shut down. When our funds dry up, we will go for donations. We can also handover to someone with similar intent, interests, and the goal of a private and ad-free world.”
In the months that followed, these words turned out to be almost prophetic. It didn’t take long before SkyTorrents had several million pageviews per day. This would be music to the ears of many site owners but for SkyTorrents it was a problem.
With the increase in traffic, the server bills also soared. This meant that the ad-free search engine had to cough up roughly $1,500 per month, which is quite an expensive hobby. The site tried to cover at least part of the costs with donations but that didn’t help much either.
This led to the rather ironic situation where users of the site encouraged the operator to serve ads.
“Everyone is saying they would rather have ads then have the site close down,” one user wrote on Reddit last summer. “I applaud you. But there is a reason why every other site has ads. It’s necessary to get revenue when your customers don’t pay.”
The site’s operator was not easily swayed though, not least because ads also compromise people’s privacy. Eventually funds dried up and now, after the passing of several more months, he has now decided to throw in the towel.
“It was a great experience to serve and satisfy people around the world,” the site’s operator says.
The site is not simply going dark though. While the end has been announced, the site’s operator is giving people the option to download and copy the site’s database of more than 15 million torrents.
That’s 444 gigabytes of .torrent files for all the archivists out there. Alternatively, the site also offers a listing of just the torrent hashes, which is a more manageable 322 megabytes.
SkyTorrents’ operator says that he hopes someone will host the entire cache of torrents and “take it forward.” In addition, he thanks hosting company NFOrce for the service it has provided.
Whether anyone will pick up the challenge has yet to be seen. What’s has become clear though is that operating a popular ad-free torrent site is hard to pull off for long, unless you have deep pockets.
Update: While writing this article Skytorrents was still online, but upon publication, it is no longer accessible. The torrent archive is still available.