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Torrents are specialized files utilized in peer-to-peer (

P2P) network environments.


P2P is a network of personal computers that communicate with one another by runn
ing proprietary P2P software.
The first P2P software designed to utilize torrents was BitTorrent by Bram Cohe
n. Other torrent clients have followed.
Torrents are distinguished by a unique transfer process.
To compare how torrents download to standard files, let s first consider how norma
l files download off the Internet.
At any given website a user might click on a file to transfer it to his or her c
omputer.
Upon clicking on the file, the website s server starts sending the file to the vis
itor in discreet data packets.
These packets travel various routes to reach the user s computer and are reconstru
cted upon receipt to complete the file
transfer.
While this works fine for smaller files, it is cumbersome to transfer larger fi
les this way.
If the server is busy, download time can be very slow. Communication between you
r server and the computer can even crash,
causing corruption in the transfer, or at best, delays.
Unlike downloads off the Web, torrents do not point to a single source on a P2P
network when requesting files.
Instead, torrents contain specific information that multiple computers in the ne
twork can read to send various parts of
the requested file simultaneously and en masse. Torrents keep active track of wh
ich parts of the file are needed to complete
the request. By downloading bits of the file from dozens, hundreds, or even thou
sands of sources, large files can download
very quickly. Working with torrents is also unique for another reason. At the s
ame time the user is downloading file parts,
the computer is also uploading parts already received to others. This decreases
download time because users do not have to
wait for file sources to have completed torrents before receiving needed parts o
f a requested file.
Once requested torrents have downloaded in full, you become a seed for those fil
es. A seed refers to someone that has the
entire file available. It is considered rude to download torrents and disconnect
, referred to as leeching.
Instead, users are encouraged to participate by seeding the file for others so t
hat a minimal 1:1 share ratio is maintained.
A swarm refers to the entire group of people transferring a file at any given ti
me.
To encourage sharing, software used for downloading torrents keeps track of the
share ratio. The torrent client will
automatically allocate more bandwidth for downloading at faster speeds when a us
er shares more than he or she downloads.
This usually means leaving the computer running while doing other things, as ups
tream bandwidth is much slower for most of
us than downstream bandwidth. While it might take 40 minutes to download a 250MB
freeware suite, it can take several times
longer to upload that same amount of data.
Torrents are archived in libraries that are sear
chable with a Web browser.
One cannot download torrents without installing a torrent client first. There ar
e many free torrent clients available,
some of which are open source. Once a desired torrent is found, clicking on it w
ill open the torrent client to begin the
download process. The user may have to configure his or her firewall to allow th
e use of certain communication ports.
Many types of files are shared as torrents, includi
ng software, music and videos.
While P2P sharing is not illegal, sharing copyrighted material without permissio
n from the copyright holder is illegal.
The Recording Industry Artists of American (RIAA), and Motion Picture Associatio
n of America (MPAA) have targeted some
websites that cater to archiving illegal torrents.
Unlike most P2P networks, however, BitTorrent stands ou
t for 5 major reasons:
1) BitTorrent networking is NOT a publish-subscribe model like Kazaa; instead, B
itTorrent is true Peer-Peer networking where
the users do the actual file serving.
2) Torrents enforce 99% quality control by filtering out corrupted and dummy fil
es, ensuring that downloads contain only
what they claim to contain.
3) Torrents actively encourage users to share ( seed ) their complete files, while p
unishing users who "leech".
4) BitTorrent can achieve download speeds over 1.5 megabits per second.
5) BitTorrent code is open-source, advertising-free, and adware/spyware-free. Th
is