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August 5, 2016updated 21 Feb 2017 9:25am

What is BitTorrent?

Sharing large files over the Internet has never been easier.

By Hannah Williams

BitTorrent is a protocol which allows the sharing of large amounts of data over the Internet.

One of the most well-known and common protocols for transferring large files, like those containing movies, BitTorrent is defined as a peer-to-peer (P2P) communications protocol.

In order to use BitTorrent, users must install a computer program, known as a BitTorrent Client, on their Internet-connected computer. There are many different Clients available, such as μTorrent, Xunlei, Transmission, qBittorrent, Vuze, Deluge, BitComet and Tixati.

A BitTorrent Tracker, which is a server facilitating communication between peers, gives users a list of available files to transfer and allows the user to find other peers, known as seeds.



Have you joined a BitTorrent ‘swarm’?

A core aspect of the BitTorrent file distribution system is torrent files. These are computer files which contain information, or metadata, about files to be distributed. Torrent files also usually contain network locations of BitTorrent Trackers which, as previously described, helps peers find each other. Torrent files does not contain any content, only the information about those files.

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Trackers also help to create swarms, which are efficient distribution groups. Rather than using a single server to download a file, BitTorrent lets users form a ‘swarm’ of hosts to upload or download from each other simultaneously. This is just one reason why BitTorrent reduces the server and network impact of sharing large files.

The BitTorrent protocol was designed in April 2001 by student programmer Bram Cohen.


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