Pirates of the Everything

"It's the end of an era"--so reads the release from the Pirate Bay blog about their decision to decommission their centralized torrent tracker. They continue:

This is what we consider to be the future. Faster and more stability for the users because there is no central point to rely upon.

The acephalous organization: It's the way of the future (and, the Bay folks are eager to remind us, the present) isn't it? From terrorist cells to the Invisible Committee to digital "pirates," how do you ceremonially behead a headless organization? The Pirate Bay founders may go to jail, but without a central hub or hierarchy, how can industry hope to contain infinite, ever-migrating packets of information?

I was thinking about this recently while preparing an essay for eMusic on the year "2000," part of a "yearbook" series they commissioned to reflect upon the past decade. I kept coming back to Napster, a precursor of both Pirate Bay and eMusic. At the time, it really seemed like peer-to-peer networking on that scale might endanger whole industries, and in the end, maybe it did. But the lane Napster opened up was not one toward subversion or global barter-networks--there's no money in that. Instead, Napster--and the instant celebrity of Shawn Fanning--returned as Friendster, blogspot, MySpace and Facebook, and whatever new innovation in online community-building will emerge in the next year or two. It returned as Pirate Bay, too, but we know how their story will end.

Anyhow, here's my essay on the year 2000, originally titled "Another World was Possible."

Vaguely related: a look at Cory Doctorow, "publishers' enemy no. 1"

Presented by

Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. More

Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Bookforum, Slate, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe Ideas section and The Wire (for whom he writes a bi-monthly column). He is on the editorial board for the New Literary History of America.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Entertainment

Just In