BitTorrent: A P2P File Sharing System

A peer-to-peer system of sharing data or files has some significant advantages over the traditional single-source downloading system. P2p downloads are typically faster as they can’t be bottlenecked due to a limited server bandwidth or server downtime. Due to their decentralised nature, they are more efficient in the transmission of data from one point of the network to another point. They tend to be harder to track as p2p systems typically have a large number of users at any given time. The host of benefits it offers has made it one of the most common methods to transfer files over the internet today.

The most common p2p protocol for file-sharing is known as BitTorrent. Designed by programmer Bram Cohen in April 2001, it was released months later in July 2001. Since then, it has taken the digital world by storm as the most popular means to share one’s favourite piece of media and other countless types of files. The BitTorrent protocol consists of a vast number of users simultaneously uploading, downloading, and sharing a file. This decentralised system means the download is not dependant on any one server. Instead, the group of computers as a whole can be thought of as one giant server.

The end-user makes use of a program known as a BitTorrent client. This client locates trackers using a BitTorrent file and then proceeds to access and download the desired file. Other computers on the network are known as peers, and the ones that transmit the data are known as seeds. A higher seed count is considered to be a healthier torrent file, whereas a lower seed count denotes a weaker file. This method of downloading data is both efficient and easy. Because of this, it has often come under scrutiny by copyright watchdogs as BitTorrent allows easy duplication of copyrighted content. Some countries even restrict their use. Regardless, the BitTorrent protocol has been a testament to the authenticity and usefulness of a peer-to-peer system.