Leechers are the scourge of the peer-to-peer community. They disable uploads during their download sessions and slow down the network for everyone else. Leechers run rampant on public trackers where there's no accountability.
Because private trackers enforce ratios, leechers are spotted quickly and their accounts are disabled. Ratios work like this -- if you upload as much data as you download, you have a 1:1 ratio. Better trackers have higher ratio requirements, but generally speaking 1:1 is considered good.
Private trackers make sense if you're concerned about sharing files with an anonymous group of people. Most private trackers are invite-only, meaning you need to (1) know a member and (2) he/she has to vouch for you before you can sign up. The vouch part is important -- usually there are consequences for inviting bad people (i.e. leeches, spammers, etc). And often there are limits on the total number of active members allowed at any one time, so the community doesn't get out of control.
If you're using public BitTorrent for sharing illegal files, the odds of getting busted is still very small, but perhaps the entry barrier required for private trackers may give you an extra warm, fuzzy sense of security.
Public trackers index a HUGE number of files, which is why they work well for non-power users. But when you start looking for torrents that fall into niche categories -- particularly with large sizes (e.g. high-def torrents) -- it becomes a real challenge to find good stuff with decent download speeds. This is where private trackers really shine.
There are entire torrent communities dedicated to certain categories or genres of torrents. If you are looking for hard-to-find or very specific stuff, this is where you want to be.
You'll find a lot of the same files on public and private torrent sites, but if you want new releases as soon as they come out -- you're much better off monitoring private trackers for new files. Not only are the files seeded faster, but they're often among the very first distribution points on the web .
Interested? So now what?
If you're ready to check out a private tracker, I have to warn you there's an obstacle in your way: you need to find a tracker that's open for registration or find friends that have invites they are willing to share. I can tell you from personal experience it can be incredibly frustrating to wait around for an invitation, so here are a few resources to help get you up and running faster:
InviteShare lets you send and receive invitations to sites that are in beta or invite-only. I've used it before and it works -- the problem is you have to wait in line ahead of everyone who registered before you. There are a bunch of private trackers in their database, like HDBits, TorrentLeech, SceneTorrents, SuperTorrents. BitMeTV and IndieTorrents.
Another option is to use software to help you keep up with the open registrations across trackers. These apps periodically check a huge customizable list of trackers and alert you when one opens up for registration. There's TrackerSpy for Mac and Tracker Checker 2 for Windows -- both are freeware (duh).
Some of the best private trackers.
To be honest I don't have accounts to all of these trackers. But that's kind of a good thing, because it tells you just how elite they are. Here's a rundown of some of the best trackers out there. A lot of the info I received from the FileSharingTalk forums, which is a great resource for someone looking to learn more about BitTorrent.
BitMe is an e-learning tracker with a ton of e-books and resources on topics like art, health, technology, martial arts, language, etc. They also have documentaries, instructional videos, college lectures, and design templates.
HDBits is a tracker devoted to high definition video, TV shows, and movies. These aren't the compressed, transcoded files from HD sources you see on public trackers. These are the real deal: 720p/1080p videos and the file sizes are usually several gigs.
IndieTorrents is a music tracker that offers torrents from independent musicians and indie labels. They are pretty strict about what constitutes "indie" so you won't find any mainstream stuff here.
BitMeTV is often considered the best tracker for TV shows. Episodes are available quickly after they are released and download speeds are fast. They also take requests.
OK so that wraps up the basics of private BitTorrent trackers. Let me know if you have any questions about any of this, but please don't ask me for invites! If you have any tips or suggestions, put them in the comments or send them to us. Happy torrenting!