What is BitTorrent and how does it work?

What is BitTorrent and how does it work?

Today, many businesses, media, and software creators are using torrents to share files. Torrents use Peer-to-Peer (P2P) method BitTorrent, which is one of the most efficient mechanisms to transfer large files over the Internet.

BitTorrent is not a program. It is a communications protocol of peer-to-peer file sharing, which is used to distribute data and electronic files over the Internet. BitTorrent is a protocol that enables fast downloading of large files using minimum Internet bandwidth. It costs nothing to use and includes no spyware or pop-up advertising. Unlike other download methods, BitTorrent maximizes transfer speed by gathering pieces of the file you want and downloading these pieces simultaneously from people who already have them. This process makes popular and very large files, such as videos and television programs, download much faster than is possible with other protocols.

BitTorrent Inc is a company based in San Francisco. It is so popular that more than 170 million users adopt its technology on a monthly basis. BitTorrent protocol moves as much as 40% of the world’s Internet traffic every day.

How it's work?

When you download a web page like this Geekboots page, your computer connects to the web server and downloads the data directly from that server. Each computer that downloads the data downloads it from the web page's central server. This is how much of the traffic on the web works.

In case of BitTorrent, it use Peer-to-peer file sharing which is different from traditional file downloading. In peer-to-peer sharing, we need to use a software program to locate computers that have the file we are looking for. Because these are ordinary computers like yours, as opposed to servers, they are called peers.


Because BitTorrent breaks up and distributes files in hundreds of small chunks, you don't even need to have downloaded the whole file before you start sharing. As soon as you have even a piece of the file, you can start sharing that piece with other users. That's what makes BitTorrent so fast. Your BitTorrent client starts sharing as soon as it downloads one chunk of the file.

Once connected, a BitTorrent client downloads bits of the files in the torrent in small pieces, downloading all the data it can get. Once the BitTorrent client has some data, it can then begin to upload that data to other BitTorrent clients in the swarm. In this way, everyone downloading a torrent is also uploading the same torrent. This speeds up everyone's download speed. If 10,000 people are downloading the same file, it doesn't put a lot of stress on a central server. Instead, each downloader contributes upload bandwidth to other downloaders, ensuring the torrent stays fast. Importantly, BitTorrent clients never actually download files from the tracker itself. The tracker participates in the torrent only by keeping track of the BitTorrent clients connected to the swarm, not actually by downloading or uploading data.

In recent times, a decentralized-trackerless- torrent system allows BitTorrent clients to communicate among each other without the need for any central servers. BitTorrent clients use distributed hash table (DHT) technology for this, with each BitTorrent client functioning as a DHT node. In effect, each peer becomes a tracker. When you add a torrent using a magnet link, the DHT node contacts nearby nodes and those other nodes contact other nodes until they locate the information about the torrent. DHT can also work alongside traditional trackers. For example, a torrent can use both DHT and a traditional tracker, which will provide redundancy in case the tracker fails.

Piracy on BitTorrent

Unfortunately, BitTorrent protocol has a bad reputation due to its usage in pirated content sharing. But BitTorrent isn't made for piracy. Torrents are not synonyms of piracy. It's not illegal.

WikiLeaks distributed data via BitTorrent, taking a significant load off their servers. Linux distributions use BitTorrent to help distribute their ISO disc images. Official software products like Ubuntu Desktop can be downloaded using BitTorrent.

Torrents are also helping discover trends. Netflix, a media streaming giant, is using torrent sites to study tendencies in media. They are monitoring torrent download sites to see what is being downloaded.

But, now-a-days most the people use BitTorrent to distribute large files to significant numbers of people without paying for the web hosting bandwidth. A pirated film, music album, or game are hosted on BitTorrent, allowing an easy, free method of distribution where the people downloading the file also help distribute it.

BitTorrent may be primarily used for piracy at the moment, as its decentralized and peer-to-peer nature are a direct response to efforts to crack down on Kick Ass and other peer-to-peer networks with central points of failure. However, BitTorrent is a tool with legitimate uses in the present and many other potential uses in the future.

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