P2P: The Owner Free File System

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 10, 2009
Updated • Jun 8, 2017
File Sharing, Software

OFF-System, which stands for Owner Free File System, is a distributed system which uses peer to peer technology for distributing files.

Peer to peer networks are often associated with the dark side of the Internet as they became widely known for listing and making available large numbers of commercial files to anyone with the right tools to access these files.

File sharing on standard p2p networks like Bittorrent is not anonymous as IP addresses are visible once a connection is made from a client system to a network. While there are ways to overcome this, by using VPN software or proxies for instance, it is still at least in theory possible to trace back individual users.


The OFF-System is a peer to peer networking system that uses a different approach when compared to darknets such as Freenet.

Darknets anonymize user data, while the Off-System creates randomized multi-used data block instead which makes it impossible to map data blocks to a single file on the network.

To retrieve data from the peer to peer network one would need to download all required blocks plus the so called retrieval url which is created when files are added to the network. Each block on its own is nothing but a set of random data which means that this data does not fall under copyright, and cannot be used to identify files that are downloaded or shared.

No creative works, copyrighted or not, are ever communicated between OFF peers. Only meaningless blocks of arbitrary data. No tangible copies of creative works are ever stored on OFF peers. It is completely unnecessary.

The developers have a multi-page article on their website that describes the system in great detail.

Users on the other hand can simply download the Open Source client of the Off-System which comes with a comfortable search function build in.

The options are quite extensive ranging from incoming and outgoing filters, security settings like trusted nodes to networking and advanced options. There is usually a overhead involved when replicating files which can range from a 50%-200% file increase on the receiving end though.


OFF-System offers an interesting, fresh approach to online file sharing. It addresses anonymity or user accountability in different ways than other anonymous P2P solutions.

Update: OFF-System has not been updated since 2008. While you can still download the latest release version of it from the project's SourceForge page, it is a given that the project is dead at this point in time.

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  1. Alex said on April 14, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Just to clarify, the retrieval URL is in a sense a .torrent file and all data exchanged between peers is virtually anonymous?

    Or do i have it wrong? Maybe I should just click the link & read the developers page :)

  2. Sameer said on April 10, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    that is clever

  3. BillB said on April 10, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Martin, I have comments on your latest format. (Mostly complimentary, thank you.)

    Should I add my comments to the latest article I see, like I’m doing now, even though the comments are off-topic for that article?

    Or should I go back to your last article about comments and continue the discussion back there? I have to say, though, it’s not easy for me find that somewhat ancient article now.

    1. Martin said on April 10, 2009 at 6:26 pm

      I prefer you to be on topic. An alternative would be to send me the comment about the format by using the contact option at the top nav. You can leave the comments here: https://www.ghacks.net/2009/04/06/testing-a-new-theme/

      looking forward to reading them.

  4. LethAL said on April 10, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    I’ve tried this ages ago. It’s nice to see that it’s been updated.

    it’s especially great for sharing files with people you know, since you aren’t likely to be uploading to them.

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