What is a torrent? Torrents are a system by which data are distributed over the web. To enable what's called peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing, they run over the BitTorrent protocol.
There are a variety of advantages over conventional file sharing that torrent-based file sharing has. To transfer files to several people at once, costly server infrastructure is not required, and low-bandwidth (slow) networks can just as easily download large volumes of data.
A special file which uses the .TORRENT file extension is the most common way to use torrents. There are guidelines inside the file about how to exchange particular data with other persons.
All of this may sound a little complicated, but the principle is actually very clear. Torrents rely on a peer-to-peer network, as you read above. This also means that the torrent data can be accessed from more than one server at a time, whatever it may be. Anybody who downloads the torrent gets it from the other servers in bits and pieces.
Imagine if I built a torrent to distribute a program I made, for instance. I trigger the torrent and share the online file. Dozens of people, and you're one of them, are downloading it. Depending on who is currently sharing it and which servers have the portion of the file you currently need, your torrent software will select and choose which server to take the file from.
Sharing a 200 MB program with 1,000 individuals in a typical file sharing setup that uses a file server will quickly consume all of my upload bandwidth, particularly if they all requested the file at once. By letting users download only a little bit of the data from me a little bit from another user, and so on until they've downloaded the whole file, torrents remove this issue.
Once the entire file is downloaded by more than one user, the original sharer will stop sharing it without impacting anyone. Because of BitTorrent's decentralized, P2P foundation, the file will remain available to every other user of the torrent.
If a torrent is made, one of two items can be exchanged by the creator: the .TORRENT file or a torrent hash, also referred to as a magnet connection.
Without having to deal with a TORRENT file, a magnet connection is an easy way to find the torrent on the BitTorrent network. It's exclusive to that particular torrent, so it's just as good as getting the file even though the link is just a string of characters.
Magnet links and TORRENT files are also listed on torrent indexes, which are sites explicitly designed for torrent sharing. You can also share data about torrents via email, text, etc.
Since magnet links and TORRENT files are just the instructions for a BitTorrent client to know how to get the info, it's fast and simple to share them.
If you intend to use torrents, here are some helpful words to know:
Seed: Seeding a torrent means sharing it. The number of individuals sharing the full file is a torrent's seed count. Zero seeds mean the entire file cannot be accessed by anyone.
Peer: A peer is one who downloads a file from a seeder, but doesn't have the entire file yet.
Leech: More than they upload, the Leechers download. Instead, a leecher could upload nothing at all after downloading the full file.
Swarm: A group of individuals accessing the same torrent and distributing it.
Tracker: A server that monitors and helps all the linked users find each other.
Client: The software or web service that a torrent or magnet connection uses to understand how files can be downloaded or uploaded.
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