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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 ?
If it had launched in 2010, BitTorrent Live would have been a groundbreaking platform.
ethical implications of the BitTorrent protocol and its use by potential
That difference in design means that people using BitTorrent Syne don't have to worry about whether the cloud company hosting their data is properly securing it against rogue employees or other threats.
Although, the BitTorrent Live itself remains in beta, BitTorrent said that the lack of polish to the mobile app would be in the developing protocol and not the app itself.
We have to solve this pain point with the content industries," said BitTorrent marketing veep Matt Mason.
In this Note, I argue that the current legal framework in the United States concerning BitTorrent suits is not only subject to heavy abuse by copyright trolls, but the harm these suits seek to curtail might not in fact exist.
Specifically, we discover new torrents just after their birth by using the RSS service of the most important BitTorrent portal, namely The Pirate Bay.
Finally, alert users of your Internet account to the dangers associated with downloading movies or other copyrighted content using the BitTorrent protocol, lest you receive a subpoena for something your teenager did, the lawyers said.
This year, thousands of alleged users (1) of the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file -sharing protocol will open their mailboxes to an unwelcome surprise: a letter from a copyright holder threatening to sue the user for copyright infringement unless he pays a specified settlement amount.
New technology like BitTorrent makes piracy easier.
1 isoHunt and its three companion sites2 (the "isoHunt Sites") are online search engines used in conjunction with the BitTorrent file sharing protocol to download digital media such as music, movies and software.
will officialy launch today, leaked two weeks ago, with copies first appearing on BitTorrent tracking sites on April 24.