What Is BitTorrent?
BitTorrent is a method of transferring large amounts of data (huge files) from one computer to another (peer to peer) over the internet. Types of files could be music, movies, software. It was developed in 2001 and has since become an extremely popular method for transferring files over the web, some estimates place it as half of all worldwide internet traffic.
The basic system of how files are transferred is through a network of “seeds” and “peers.” Where a seed has a file stored on his computer and this seed gives peers on the web access to download this file. The reason why this format of sharing files becomes so fast and gives the capability to transfer such large files is through a multiplication of seeders. Once a peer downloads an entire file from a seed, the peer then becomes a seed, because he then has the file requested by others. When there are multiple seeders distributing their files, each seeder does not transmit the entire file, but instead doles out a portion of the file to other peers. For popular files (ie. movies, music, software, anything that could be put onto a file), this method of sharing leads to some very efficient file transfer.
There are quite a few reasons why this method has become so popular worldwide. For one, it takes the strain off of the root seeder’s computer and allows many computers to perform to role of seeder. The more popular the file, the more seeders exist, and the smoother the transfer. As an analogy, it’s the equivalent of having one McDonald’s in all of New York City vs. thousands of franchises spread throughout; everyone wants a Big Mac, but if there was only one store, chaos would ensue. Luckily the thousands of McDonald’s allow everyone to get a Big Mac easily and efficiently. Another plus of this system, much to the chagrin of Copyrighters, is the extreme difficulty in tracking the root seeder. With a popular file, once a few machines have fully downloaded it, the root seeder could take his file off the web and allow everyone else to distribute the file to others. A third advantage to BitTorrents over older software (napster) is the ability to transfer batch files. So you could search for say, every Beatles song ever recorded by typing “The Beatles Discography.” This would in turn lead to a batch file containing 19 albums with every song and album cover art. Let the file download for about an hour, depending on your internet connection speed, and simply listen to the music on your favourite jukebox software.
Read my next blog post on how to download a BitTorrent file from the start.
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