What.cd, an invite-only music torrent website first launched in 2007, has been shut down after a raid by French authorities. The private tracker offered free (and often illegal) access to a massive, deeply thorough collection of music and was popular among audiophiles for its strict rules around quality and file formats. The site was created after the shutdown of another well-known torrent website, Oink, which operated between 2004 and 2007. Though its primary focus was music sharing, What.cd also permitted torrents of computer software, ebooks, and other content.
Zataz Magazine is reporting 12 servers that powered What.cd’s infrastructure were seized by French cybercrime authorities. What.cd hasn’t been taken offline completely, but torrents are unavailable and the homepage now displays a message confirming its demise:
Due to some recent events, What.CD is shutting down. We are not likely to return any time soon in our current form. All site and user data has been destroyed. So long, and thanks for all the fish.
That Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy line also served as Oink’s sendoff nearly a decade ago. What.cd’s IRC channel is offline as well. What.cd somehow lasted years longer than Oink, even as law agencies around the globe ramped up efforts to uncover people unlawfully sharing copyrighted content. It persisted as subscription music services like Spotify were born and skyrocketed into the mainstream, changing the way most people obtain music. That shift to streaming proved the ultimate counter to music piracy. Today, the way many of us quickly hunt for music is opening YouTube in a web browser — not opening a torrent app.
What.cd staked its name on staggering choice, a passionate community of users, and helpful tools for discovering new music. You could download the latest hot releases in MP3, or pull up an obscure, rare album from a lesser-known artist and probably find it available in lossless FLAC. The artists and albums absent from this or that streaming service were always present on What (again, so long as you didn’t mind stealing music).
But it went far beyond that. Cliche as it might sound, What.cd had the rare stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else — meticulously-organized and in any quality you wanted it. Independent artists used it as a platform for spreading their music. And now that’s all over. Here yesterday. Gone today. The torrent era is fast coming to a close. Users are already mourning the site’s sudden end on Reddit and across Twitter.