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What is Bit Torrent?

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 9/16/2008

Find out about the hottest file sharing movement.

  • slide 1 of 4

    Building a Community

    In the software sharing revolution there has been a lot said about the new software and networks that allows people to transfer files directly. We started off with controversial giants like Napster and Kazaa, but as the technology developed so did the methods for achieving the person-to-person file sharing goals. Today Bit Torrent has taken the reins in this field.

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    P2P

    Bit Torrent is a person-to-person file sharing protocol. What this means is that the files that are being transferred are essentially being stored on someone’s computer. When you are trying to download a file, instead of it coming from the server on a website to your home PC, it is coming from another computer. This make the process much faster because if several people on this person-to-person network have the same file that little parts of it can be taken from each person at the same time, making the final download much quicker.

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    Bit Torrent

    What separates Bit Torrent from other traditional person-to-person file sharing clients is that any file that is downloaded using this protocol is done so by first receiving a “Torrent.” The user first downloads a Bit Torrent client program, which allows them to receive torrent files. There are a number of these programs available free on the internet, one of the best of them being Torrent Tornado. Once you have installed this program you simply search at torrent websites for whatever media or software you would like. Once you find it, you download the torrent, which is automatically opened in your torrent program. This file is simply a download queue, which quickly downloads the files in question from other people on that same network. Once the torrent has finished downloading your whole file it will simply drop into whatever folder you have identified for your torrent client. Likewise, if you want to make a file available for peer-to-peer distribution you must first create a torrent file that will be used to download that file from you. Many torrent clients have this ability built in.

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    Rules?

    This is a easy process for someone to try out, but can be difficult when trying to produce your own torrent links. Like any person-to-person distribution model, the torrent networks and websites are each a community. If there are any rules or courtesies listed on the website where you are downloading your torrents, then it is important to respect those, or you may lose access to that community. And even more importantly, it is still illegal to download copyrighted material, so any state and federal laws still apply to torrent downloads.