Why GIMP uses Torrents? - A Chat with Michael Schumacher, a GIMP Administrator

By Cajetan Bouchard

  2021-09-19
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ImagePhoto by Pat David retrieved on September 19th, 2021. ()

Background

On Christmas day 2020, we receive an amazing gift from Michael Schumacher. Yes, I'm talking about the amazing GIMP administrator, not the Formula 1 driver. Schumacher has blest us with amazing knowledge on how the open-source GIMP project decided to start distributing their software using the GIMP technology using the web seed technology.

In this blog post, we will try to summarize everything that was said in a Twitter thread .

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Love change, fear staying the same. - Maxime Lagacé

Like many great open-source projects, GIMP 2.10.22 was released around Christmas 2020. On Christmas day at 17h06, was when Schumacher decided to wore everyone's favourite red and white costume and tell us about this story. My phone started vibrating non-stop as I got bombarded with alerts just before diner.

A few hours earlier, we had tweeted about the the release for version 2.10.22 and mentioned that GIMP was using the web seed technology to improve the performance for their torrents. Having just started to use that technology ourselves, we were quite excited to see it used in the wild by other projects. In a nutshell, web seed are like special seeders that will share the torrent's content over the 80/443 ports. They are quite useful when no "human" seeders are available in the early life of a torrent.

Schumacher started his Christmas story like this (use Morgan Freeman's voice here).

We started using torrents and web seeds during the GIMP 2.8.x stable release cycle.

Doing that was based on two main motivations

  1. single servers don't scale; and
  2. P2P-blocking university networks suck.

Back in 2014, the server serving GIMP's website and its download links was aging quickly and was showing signs that it would become quickly unreliable.

Out of mere coincidence, it fails just in time for Earth Hour 2014 . We need to prevent single points of failure, and also need a way to keep downloads from mirrors in play, even if there is no website to tell people about them.

Also, the GIMP developers are currently at the Libre Graphics Meeting 2014 in Leipzig , hosted by Leipzig University. Running P2P software is not prohibited, but connections outside of the university network were blocked. Web seed downloads were possible and did work there, though.

Another main motivation to use the P2P torrent protocol, combined with the web seed technology, was the desire to demonstrate that yes, the BitTorrent protocol can be and is used to offer entirely legal content.

Back then, this even caused some backlash from users, who thought this put GIMP into the "illegal download" corner.

Nowadays, such concerns are either gone or invisible, and torrents are an established and reliable download option for many applications, and used transparently in company networks.

An Happy Ending

It seems that everything fell into place quickly right after that. GIMP is still running strong and is one of our favourite tool that we keep using every week for image manipulation.

We been using the same technology in our torrents for over a year now and got quite good at it. If you want to partner with, we would be quite happy to provide you up-to-date torrents that we will create/host/seed/promote for everyone. All this totally free of charge.

Twitter exchange where Schmacher agrees to let us use his story

A big thank you to Michael Schumacher that agreed to let us use his story.

Picture of Cajetan Bouchard

Cajetan Bouchard

I am a professional software developer, and founder of FOSS Torrents. I am a proud father and happy husband. Apart being an avid Linux and open-source lover, I love playing sports (any racquet sports), mountain bike, downhill skiing, and many more.

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