When I first heard on July 26th that Tenboro, the admin of E-Hentai, planned to shut down the site, I felt absolutely gutted. It appeared as if the single most important repository of drawn smut on planet Earth had mere months to live. Being a paranoid curmudgeon who still downloads all of his hentai (things get taken down, hard drive space is cheap and any perceptible loading time when switching pages pisses me off), I at least was not among the many unfortunate users who had left hundreds of favorites undownloaded, but the feeling of impending loss drove me crazy. My overall feeling on the site has certainly changed since 2011 and it now proves to be an indispensable part of the ecosystem for finding sources. The very notion that we could lose hundreds of thousands of works - many unable to be found anywhere else now - compelled me to action. From my perspective, I had it all:
- Donator status on EH, which let me see all of the content invisible to normal users
- Perks to let me download tons of archives for free, millions of Gallery Points when the free downloads ran out and a 5-digit page view cap to save galleries by scraping
- Terabytes of free space on which I could store all of this stuff
- And most importantly, the technical knowledge to put all of the above to good use
I learned of Tenboro’s announcement in the morning; that evening, I was unable to sleep. I could not in good conscience sit idly by for any amount of time at all, knowing that the clock was ticking. In the wee hours of the night I set out to make a system that would archive content from E-Hentai and preserve it on IPFS, personally running a node that would always be available to serve the content, all 50 TB of it. I saw what was being done on the Library of Exhentai and knew that the crowd-sourced model would be imperative to any community effort to archive the site’s contents, but the whole thing seemed too disorganized. Without clear direction on what had already been saved, it seemed inevitable that massive amounts of people’s time and GP would be wasted downloading and submitting duplicates of popular works. I worked relentlessly over the next week to get the project ready as quickly as possible, putting off many things (including anything relating to this site) to try and get something functional out the door. And then, it was over. On August 2nd Tenboro announced that the site would stay online after all. I was relieved, as I’m sure we all were. I finally took a meaningful break, though I felt a bit lost after having my immediate objective rendered irrelevant. I felt like one of those Japanese soldiers emerging from a bunker nestled deep in the jungle, learning that the war is over, but still not entirely sure what to do with himself.
And yet the feeling of caused by the initial scare has not entirely left me. The unease surrounding the impermanence of such a vital resource continues to motivate me; I fully intend to continue my work, albeit at a more relaxed pace and with a different focus. The project will shift from being a bare-bones system for archiving existing content to being a more feature-rich system intended to act as an IPFS-backed mirror of E-Hentai.
Nothing lasts forever, especially on the web. The centralized model to which we have grown accustomed, particularly over the past decade, does not lend itself to permanence. A company runs out of money; now the service you valued so much ceases to exist. The author of an obscure blog says, “fuck it” and lets a hosting bill lapse; now the articles you read time and again, unknown to the Wayback Machine, disappear into the ether, never to be seen again. Decentralization is not the panacea to all of these issues - torrent swarms die, specific protocols lose popularity, etc. - but I do strongly believe that the current wave of decentralized tech can help.