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What is a Torrent?

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If you downloaded a file, movie or even game from the internet without even paying for it then that file is most probably a torrent. It is an internet element using which we can enjoy various other internet elements without a price tag. Torrents currently handle more than half of the world’s internet traffic. Torrents are a bunch of files that hold information related to other files and folders that are to be distributed. The thing here to be noted is that torrent files do not actually contain the data but only the information where the data is located. Torrents are powered by BitTorrent that is a file transfer protocol that breaks a large file into pieces and connects those pieces to transform those small pieces into a large file in our computers.

Terms Related to Torrents:

  • Peers: They are members in peer to peer network (P2P)involved in downloading or uploading of files.
  • Seeders: They are the ones seeding files and allowing users to take bits of their data that has been fully downloaded on their computers.
  • Leechers: They are the people who are downloading the file in bits from the seeders.
  • Indexers: Are referred to as the torrent sites having different types of media.
  • Trackers: Act as bridges in a P2P network transferring small data pieces between uploaders and downloaders.
  • BitTorrent Clients: Are applications that act as requirements for downloading the torrent files.

How Torrents Work?

Whenever we are downloading something from a traditional webpage that is seemingly very popular we face a lot of traffic from the site because our computers directly download the file from the main server of the webpage. This is where the role of torrents come into play.
The main principle behind the working of these torrents is the use of a peer to peer protocol, which implies that a group of computers is used for downloading and uploading the same torrent. Torrents are used to transfer data between each other without the need for a central server. In other words, they use a decentralized server in which every torrent participant is actively involved in downloading and uploading files.

  • A computer joins a BitTorrent network by loading a torrent file into the BitTorrent client.
  • BitTorrent network contacts a tracker specified in the torrent file. This tracker contains a special server keeping a track of all connected computers.
  • The BitTorrent client then downloads the bits of files in the torrent.
  • The BitTorrent clients then upload that data to other BitTorrents.
  • This creates a huge swarm of BitTorrents downloading and uploading the same torrent.

During this process stress on a central server is avoided ensuring the torrent stays fast. The thing to be noted is that the presence of a seeder who has the complete copy of the file in the swarm(a network of bit torrent clients)is mandatory for leechers to download the files or else the users will be unable to download the files.

Trackerless Torrents: Earlier presence of central tracker in the file was mandatory that would keep a record of the IPs of all the computer but in recent times tracker less torrent, systems have been introduced which allows the communication of bit torrent clients over the network without any central server managing the swarm. These clients use DHT technology, for this in which each peer becomes a tracker. In these tracker less torrent systems, we add a torrent using a magnetic link that contacts clients who act as DHT nodes and this process goes on till the other nodes locate information regarding the torrent file. These links of a Torrents can use both traditional as well DHT trackers just to provide redundancy if one of the trackers fails.

Advantages of Using Torrents:

  • Since it is a P2P network so it provides a secure and better downloading environment as we do not rely on the central server.
  • Even if the download of some torrent stops due to unavoidable circumstances one can resume the download without downloading the torrent from scratch.
  • Torrents provide surprisingly fast downloads as compared to traditional downloading.
  • The majority of torrents maintain quality standards as they filter out the corrupted files.

Disadvantages of Using Torrents:

  • When using torrents one cannot preview them to see their quality but only believe in the reviews before downloading the file.
  • When using torrents we expose our IP address to many people in the swarm. So the use of VPNs is mandatory if you want to protect your privacy.
  • DDoS attacks can also be launched very easily on popular torrent sites due to their vulnerability.
  • The presence of a seeder is a must while torrenting.

Although torrenting may mainly be associated with piracy in the present day. It surely provides very effective ways of communicating with a large number of people without current bandwidth requirements. For piracy, we cannot blame torrents as the technology can be used both constructively and destructively. In addition to that, the advantages of torrents surely outweigh its drawbacks. However, the use of unsanctioned copyright materials must be discouraged completely.

Last Updated : 30 Sep, 2022
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