Three years on the air. Back in early November, 2009 a TV tracker was born. But it wasn't the juggernaut you see before you. Oh no, quite the opposite. BTN was a humble little experiment using a framework known as Gazelle, which had experienced very few successful implementations outside of What.CD.
In the beginning, the site wasn't even known as BTN! It was PMTR (Pass Me The Remote). Rolls right of the tongue, eh? So the name was changed and legend has it that our old friend AzzA typo'd the domain and thus, broadcasthe.net was born, with only one t. Friends of the early staffers were invited, along with staff from other respected trackers to help test out the beta site. In those days, BTN was a crude, poorly designed site. But the functionality was there it was indeed a working tracker. It indexed TV shows and categorized them wonderfully as only gazelle can. The fortunate few who were on the site at the time were witnessing the birth of something just a little bit special.
After a few months of steady progress, staff were confident the site was ready for the public and for the first time, BTN opened its doors. I remember the day. I was your average torrenting pleb. I had been on a few trackers for a while etc etc. A friend linked me to a article that exclaimed "'BTN' Launches - An Innovation Among TV Trackers". Potential members had to answer a few questions on IRC which were reviewed by staff. If they were successful, they were invited. On February 10, 2010 900 people joined BTN, including yours truly. My vague recollection of the questions asked in that interview were like "where are you from", "do you know what gazelle is", "why do you want to join BTN". That kind of stuff. Honestly, there were no wrong answers and I don't think anyone was denied an invite. If you happened to be in the right place at the right time, you were granted pretty early access to what would become in many people's opinion - the greatest TV tracker on the internet.
Early recollections. I joined the site having had very little idea of what gazelle was or how it worked. I had been a member of What.CD for only a week or so and it was all still new to me. BTN had a choice of three stylesheets which was neat. (The sites I had been on previously only had one!) They were SMPTE, BTN_Blue and BTN_Red. Like I said, pretty crude. But having a choice of how the site looked was innovative. As the site developed, many talented designers would join and create some wonderful stylesheets which you can still choose today.
The tracker itself was limited. But heck, the site was young and obviously had enormous potential. I recall around that time a friend of mine wanted the first season of The Mentalist. Well BTN had the scene DVDRip with 4 seeds. That very torrent is still alive today with 45 seeds and is accompanied by many other types of rips/encodes, all well seeded. So, BTN was offering a tracker that categorized its shows very nicely, used banners and posters from tvdb, had an ever-expanding selection and (what many believe to be its greatest asset) was ratio-free. Members were welcome to download as much as they wanted without having the hassle of maintaining a positive ratio, provided they seed for an amount of time depending on the type of torrent. No ratio restrictions?! As people say where I'm from - you little beauty! I bookmarked the browse page.
During the next 12 to 24 months, BTN began to come into its own. The site experienced unparalleled growth both in the volume and longevity of torrents. Why was retention so exceptional for a site that had no ratio restrictions? Why were people seeding for months on end when no one needed the upload credit? Pardon my language but at the time, around 10,000 members were keeping a shitload of content alive. Was the formula BTN was using actually working? Yeah, it was. Members were awarded bonus points for seeding torrents long-term. Every month they kept a torrent alive and active in their client, their bonus points multiplied. E-peen is often thrown around as a strong motivator for progressing through user classes, but I think people genuinely cared about the tracker and its success. Also, anyone could upload. Back in those days, getting an invite wasn't the impossible dream as some see it today. Each time a new member joined, they had some show or a different encode of an existing show that they could share. And love it or hate it, with very minimal trumping laws, BTN was becoming quite the archive for television.
The userbase was becoming more knowledgeable too. With all the different types of rips being uploaded from all sorts of sources, 'Origin' was added to the upload page. Why settle for a scene rip when there is also a P2P edition available, and vice-versa. Other than porn and rared files, BTN allowed it all. Members began to notice and pretty soon, many were making it their primary tracker for television. Why download a TV show that was rared and took a bite out of your ratio when you could get it on BTN for nothing?
Soon after, BTN's internal encoding team began to take shape. Previously, a few caps/encodes had been released by members of the site but without any real direction. Today we have two internal groups working hard to provide you with quality content. NTb for HD stuff and HiSD for transparent SD encodes. No, they didn't create the show. But they have packaged it for you, often with screenshots and enough technical information to keep you satisfied that it is superior to anything else available. Next time you download one of these releases, why not let the uploader know that you appreciate it? After all, it was capped/encoded and uploaded by a BTN member, for BTN members. I also worked hard at building relationships with encoders from other sites. Today you see them as 'Guests of Honor' with that purple username that stands out on the browse page. Other than a bit of kudos from our members, these people have little incentive to provide us with their content and I personally thank them for all their contributions. BTN and its archival nature was now being swamped with releases from established external P2P groups, direct from the original sources themselves! Just awesome.
During the latter stages of 2011, BTN really began to kick some ass and many people were already calling it the king of the TV tracker world. The members, and their relentless uploading and seeding contributed a great deal to this. But let's not forgot those people behind the scenes. Love them or hate them, BTN staff are ever-present. Our skilled coders were pumping out fun new features regularly. I'm talking about TV News, TV Favs, Schedules, User Reviews, Series Summaries. Lots of stuff. After all, you gotta keep the punters interested. BTN had come a long way since the stock, out-of-the-box gazelle that it launched with. There are also the torrent mods and First Line Support members that keep BTN running smoothly. When a series is packed, the single episodes don't just disappear automatically. Someone has manually deleted them. Hundreds upon thousands of man-hours are volunteered by these people with little motivation other than to help the site out. I have worked with many of them for a long time now and can't thank them enough for what they have done for this site. BTN does not function without you, staffers. Respect.
And sure, most of the time it is only text on a screen (either on IRC or via the site itself) but I like to think I have built strong friendships with a lot of these people. At any given moment, there are at least a few of them talking about what they are working on for the site or just having a chat about something completely unrelated. You've got ES and kenyz, who I believe possess the sharpest wit in the bit torrent world, alexj who has not only found a solution but implemented it faster than you can ask "hey, is the site down?" and damn Bitey who often has nothing better to do but to make my life miserable. These are only a few of the cogs that keep the BTN wheel rolling on and on.
Since its inception, BTN has always been well funded. Through the generosity of our members, we have always been able to pay for the rather expensive infrastructure that BTN demands. The staff team and I have never been fans of extravagant gifts for people who donate. A donation should not require huge incentive other than wanting to help pay the bills, and of course, a warm fuzzy feeling. To our kind donors, much love. You know who you are.
Now, as we celebrate BTN's 3rd birthday, I just wanted to reflect on what we have here today. Picture this for a moment; it's Sunday night in the USA. Some awesome, awarding-winning TV show has just finished airing on the east coast. Thanks to BTN's AutoBot, the show is already on site. Thanks to knowledgeable members with fast servers, there are already 30 seeds and the thing only finished airing a minute ago! Sometimes I just click on the browse page to see what's happening and it never ceases to amaze me what a success this site has become. Sure, the damn thing goes down occasionally, like when Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad airs. To me, that just shows that there is an active community that want their favorite TV show now damnit! Relentless F5ing of the browse page from many of our members doesn't exactly help (particularly when there is a torrent announce channel on IRC hint hint) but again, it goes to show that the community is active. You only need to join #BTN on our IRC network to notice it is in all probability, the most active channel in bit torrent today. At times, the subject matter can be a tad unsavory. But freedom of speech is a wonderful thing and after all, it's the internet. And while the forums can never compete with the likes of What.CD, I think they provide an excellent resource for people seeking assistance, or to just discuss a whole range of topics. To those people who don't really participate in the community aspects of the site, I say to you: GET INVOLVED. You can have a direct impact on the direction BTN takes in the years to come.
I could go on. I really only have touched the surface of what this site and its members mean to me. I am hoping that you, the reader, will express what BTN means to you. How has it effected your life? This thread is very much open to input and contributions from the members. What are some things that make you proud to be a BTN member? What are some things that piss you off to no end? Let's hear it!
To many more years of mind-numbing television, courtesy of a little thing we like to call BTN.