BitTorrent makes distributing massive data files easy. Distributing an OS image or movie may strain servers; torrenting allows users to share chunks of their file among peers so that its delivery can be evenly spread among multiple machines.
Seeders are computers with full copies of a shared file that upload it to other machines in a torrent swarm, while leechers download parts without uploading.
What is BitTorrent?
BitTorrent is an innovative technology that enables users to download large files in chunks from many peers simultaneously, making this peer-to-peer distribution method ideal for the distribution of massive data files such as video games, operating systems/software, movies/music/books. Furthermore, this technique can also be used illegally and subject to ISP takedown notices.
BitTorrent requires users to utilize a special program called a “client”, in order to manage the files they download and upload. Clients may be free, proprietary programs installed directly onto a desktop or laptop computer or web-based services that feature search functions that help locate content to download; some even allow hosts for other torrent clients!
As soon as a torrent is created, software produces a file known as a ‘torrent index’ that includes trackers to assist peers looking for specific pieces of information within the swarm. This file is then published on a torrent index site where its information can be easily searched by other BitTorrent clients for the data it represents.
BitTorrent can also be an efficient means of sharing open-source software and pirated movies, videogames, music albums and books without overburdening one server. Organizations maintaining these programs no longer need to host them themselves as it quickly disburses large files that meet immediate demand without overwhelming any single server. Furthermore, BitTorrent serves as a medium for sharing patches for older games not supported anymore as well as independent art such as movies or music not distributed by traditional media companies.
Some of the most acclaimed BitTorrent sites (such as The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents ) operate within an unclear legal sphere, providing users with free access to copyrighted material that may be illegal in their jurisdiction and operating unsafely by hosting malware and phishing scams.
How does BitTorrent work?
Torrent files contain information that identifies peers on the Internet who are sharing pieces of a file with each other. When opening a torrent file in BitTorrent client software, it connects to one or more tracker servers specified in the torrent and requests a list of seeds and peers currently sharing pieces of the file – as well as mechanisms to optimize download/upload rates.
BitTorrent users typically begin as leechers, downloading from other users until they have enough to seed themselves and start uploading back out into the network to help other people download files. Leechers should continue seeding until they have received back as much of what they have uploaded back from others – typically two downloads will equal out.
Due to its decentralized nature, BitTorrent makes large files easily available across networks faster than ever, without being at risk of an individual server failing. Also unlike traditional web downloads which usually follow sequential download paths, which limits who gets their desired file first – BitTorrent transfers are typically random or “rarest-first”, enabling more people to get it sooner than before.
Other advantages of BitTorrent downloads include its ability to pause and resume downloads, and its capacity to distribute files of virtually any size – even very large ones (since total transfer size depends solely on number of bits sent per packet, not file size itself). Also, since data is spread out among multiple IP connections rather than being concentrated onto one server, downloading with BitTorrent tends to be less vulnerable to network interference, slowdowns and “flash crowd” overload than traditional server-client software downloads.
Because of these advantages, open source and free software projects frequently encourage both HTTP/FTP downloads as well as BitTorrent downloads to increase availability and reduce server loads. Linux distributions of software and games often make use of BitTorrent downloads as they free their host organization from hosting all their files themselves; independent artists also utilize BitTorrent protocol to distribute their work.
What are the benefits of BitTorrent?
BitTorrent’s decentralized nature enables it to greatly decrease server and network load when distributing large files, as it distributes them across many peer computers in a swarm. This increases speed and resilience against traffic spikes compared to traditional downloads from single source servers.
BitTorrent technology utilizes a torrent file’s content information (a cryptographic hash of its contents) to identify and exchange missing bits with other peers, meaning your file never goes “missing”, even if your computer crashes or stops responding. Furthermore, the BitTorrent protocol supports downloading pieces of larger files at once for quicker download times.
Use of BitTorrent can violate copyrights, often being used to download pirate movies, games and music without authorization from their original source. As a result of this piracy-related activity occurring within their BitTorrent environment, ISPs often send warning letters or educational materials about anti-piracy techniques directly to users of this technology. Therefore it is crucial that all BitTorrent users maintain internet security best practices such as regularly updating virus definitions and installing OS patches when available.
BitTorrent can also serve legitimate uses, such as accessing software, books and materials that have entered the public domain or are licensed Creative Commons licenses – this includes video game installers, patches and modifications for unsupported video games that use BitTorrent downloads as one method of distribution. Many open source and free software projects promote BitTorrent downloads in order to widen their user base and promote their products.
A torrent file provides instructions to a BitTorrent client so they can locate and download the file it refers to, such as its unique identifier, data relevant to its nature and cryptographic hash of file contents. Shared through web links or magnet links which can then be opened using BitTorrent client programs, torrent files can be shared between individuals easily.
Seeders (users who possess complete copies of the torrent file) can help speed up download speeds significantly by searching on torrent search engines that sort results based on various criteria, including seeders and leechers.
What are the disadvantages of BitTorrent?
BitTorrent seeks to address some of the challenges associated with traditional file distribution methods. Large files may strain servers and limit upload speed, leading to slower download speeds. Furthermore, centralized servers cost money and may become susceptible to hardware failure or power outage; but with BitTorrent the file distribution takes place across a network of computers instead of being solely dependent on one source.
BitTorrent does not work particularly well when dealing with smaller files due to file size limitations imposed by it; these constraints make it hard for small files to stand out in a sea of other clients downloading them.
To use BitTorrent effectively, it’s also necessary to have a seed (a peer that holds a complete copy of a file in the swarm) always connected; otherwise you won’t ever be able to download the file you need from BitTorrent. Seeds must remain online as leechers depend on them to download files they need from them – as well as being essential for the health and performance of BitTorrent itself.
People often worry that torrents will be used to spread viruses and malware, but torrenting can also be used legitimately for sharing software, entertainment media and music by artists such as Thom Yorke and Madonna who utilize BitTorrent to promote their content and grow a fan base.
BitTorrent also poses the potential threat of denial-of-service attacks due to its underlying protocol, UDP. As this allows spoofing of source addresses of Internet traffic, attackers could potentially send large volumes of data through torrent users’ torrent accounts and cause their service or crash altogether.
Some individuals may worry that BitTorrent can be used to illegally copy intellectual property. While torrenting can be used to illegally obtain software and entertainment media, most people using BitTorrent don’t do anything illegal themselves – most use similar technology that their local library employs when photocopying books.