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A popular, distributed form of peer-to-peer file sharing that enables a client program to fetch different parts of a file (a "torrent") from different sources in parallel. The system is designed to encourage users to make downloaded data available for others to upload. This is aided by a scheme for exchanging unique identifiers, commonly stored in ".torrent" files. A downloader who does not serve data to others is called a "leech". A "seed" is a computer that has a complete copy of a file, possibly the original.

The site claims there are over 100 million users as of 2007-03-24.

Most of the data is copyright material like films or commercial software.


A popular protocol for sharing large files over the Internet, developed by Bram Cohen and released in 2001. In addition to Cohen's software, other BitTorrent client programs are available for all major platforms. There is no centralized server. Each downloading user becomes a source for another user who wants the same file. The BitTorrent client balances the load on the computer, because download speeds are faster than upload speeds.

Widely used for transferring pirated movies and software, BitTorrent, along with other file sharing systems, accounted for more than half of Internet traffic after the turn of the century. Since then, however, movie streaming from Netflix, YouTube and other legal sources became extremely popular, and BitTorrent traffic dropped dramatically.

BitTorrent breaks large files into smaller ones. A "torrent" is a file of meta-data that describes the files and the servers that keep track of the BitTorrent peers that have the parts of the file. In practice, a file itself is also called a torrent.

Users Share the Load (Leechers and Seeds)
A "seed" is a BitTorrent client that has the file. A "leecher" is a BitTorrent client in the process of downloading, and a leecher thus becomes a seed for someone else. However, a "leech" refers to people who exit BitTorrent after downloading, thus preventing seeding to others. For more information, visit

File sharing systems have been architected in different ways as outlined in the following illustrations. See peer-to-peer network, Napster and KaZaA.

References in periodicals archive ?
ethical implications of the BitTorrent protocol and its use by potential
Contrary to popular belief that Bittorrent protocol is only used to share copyrighted material, torrent.
19) One of the distinguishing factors of the BitTorrent protocol is that it uses the quid pro quo system in which one must give files in order to receive them.
The company invented the BitTorrent protocol and related peer-to-peer technologies which make up a globally recognized ecosystem of technology protocols, consumer software, and consumer electronics devices that help people find, share and move digital media.
LAS VEGAS -- Dune HD, one of the world leaders in designing and manufacturing HD media players, and BitTorrent, a leading peer-based technology company and inventors of the BitTorrent protocol, today announced a partnership to design, develop and market BitTorrent Certified Dune HD media players in Europe and Asia.
LAS VEGAS -- Antik Technology, a Slovakia-based manufacturer of IPTV devices, and BitTorrent, a leader in peer-based computing and inventor of the BitTorrent protocol, announced the first certified set-top box to be compatible with the BitTorrent ecosystem of technology protocols, consumer software and consumer electronics solutions.
Invented by Bram Cohen, the creator of the original BitTorrent protocol, BitTorrent Live leverages the power of the viewing community to stream live video over the Internet with no server infrastructure required and a low latency experience.
By becoming BitTorrent Certified, consumer electronics makers can leverage the speed of the BitTorrent protocol and key downloading, transcoding, sharing and file-shifting features to make it easy for their customers to find, get and play all files on any certified devices.
Beyond the powerful send capability based on the BitTorrent protocol, channels encourage social interaction through real-time commenting.
This updated version of Torrent also includes several feature enhancements, including full support for TP, an upgraded lightweight BitTorrent protocol, transport and congestion control support; improved magnet link handling; file relocation features; and many more.
With the BitTorrent protocol accounting for half of all global Internet traffic, it is key that NETGEAR ensure its products are optimized for BitTorrent's robust content delivery.
Until now, use of the BitTorrent protocol has required searching on obscure websites.