Private bittorrent trackers are markets

Private bittorrent trackers have a currency called ratio, which is the bits you upload divided the bits you download.

You have to keep the ratio above a certain lower limit, otherwise you get banned from the market or have to cut a deal with the moderators → bancruptcy

New liquidity (?) is introduced to the market by so-called “freeleech” events or tokens, which essentially allow you to exchange a token (or some time in the case of time-restricted freeleech) for some data, which can then be seeded to generate future profits without spending ratio.

Sometimes, ratio is pulled from the market by allowing to exchange it into website perks, like forum titles or other benefits like chat-memberships. This has a deflationary effect. It could be compared to “vanity items” in MMOs, which don’t grant a mechanical advantage in the market. Is there a real-world equivalent? i.e. allowing rich people to exchange some of their worth for vanity items instead of investing it for future gain?

Sometimes, ratio can be traded for more than just transferred bits, for example by requesting a torrent for a certain album or movie, paying some ratio for the fulfillment of the request.

Based on how bittorrent works, usually multiple people “seed” a torrent. This means multiple people can answer a request for trading ratio. Part of the request (i.e. the first 30% of a movie) can be fulfilled by one party, part of it by a second or even more parties.

For small requests (e.g. albums), often the time between announcing the trade and filling the trade is important for who is able to fill it. Getting a 1 second head-start vastly increases your chance of a handshake and starting the transmission, so on average you get a vastly higher ratio gain from that torrent. Meaning that using a bittorrent client which is fast to answer as a seeder will lead to better outcomes. This could be compared to mechanisms seen in high-speed trading.

Of course these market-mechanisms are in service of a wider policy goal, which is to ensure the constant availability of as much high-quality data as possible. There is more mechanisms at play on these trackers that all contribute to this goal (possible keywords to research: trumping, freeleech for underseeded torrents).

In general, it is important to remember that markets are only a tool, never an end in themselves, as neoliberalists would like us to believe. They always are in service of a wider goal or policy. We live in a society.