Members of What.cd were plunged into sadness Thursday following its sudden closure, believed to be at the hands of a French law enforcement agency, bringing to end a nine-year run as the premier pirated music community online. The website, which was founded in October 2007, allowed members to swap music files with one another using the BitTorrent protocol long before services like Spotify introduced the world to the concept of a virtually bottomless, on-demand streaming music library.
"This is as heartbreaking for us as it is for the rest of the users," a What.cd administrator told me in an online chat. The administrator, who wished to remain anonymous, made it clear that What.cd as we know it—or knew it, rather—will not be coming back. "What.cd is simply gone," the administrator added.
A message on the What.cd homepage now reads: "So long, and thanks for all the fish."
Were you a member of What.cd? Would you like to share what made the site so special to you? Then feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me via Twitter (my DMs are open).
What.cd launched in October 2007 shortly after the closure of Oink's Pink Palace, a similar online music community where users swapped music also using the BitTorrent protocol. The site's had analagous visions for what an online music community should look like: users had to be invited by an existing member to gain access, and then had to maintain a strictly enforced ratio of uploaded data to downloaded data in an effort to prevent "leeching," or the practice of downloading files without uploading files in return.
"What.cd was the Library of Alexandria of music," a former member who wised to remain anonymous told me, "and it was just burned down by a bunch of fanatics terrified of the knowledge contained within its hallowed halls."
In February 2016 What.cd noted that more than 1 million unique "music releases" had been uploaded to the site. The site's administrator estimated that it had 480,000 registered members in total, but that only around 150,000 were active users whose accounts were in good standing.
The administrator, who declined to reveal where the site's servers were located, claimed that members of the site should not worry about their data falling into the hands of law enforcement because all potentially "dangerous" data, like user names or torrent data, is now "gone."
"We'd like to thank [the members] for all the wonderful work they did to make this place what it was, and we're sad we had to part on these terms," the administrator said, adding that former members shouldn't expect to hear much from the team in the future. "We'll be off the radar for the time being," he said. "I hope."
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