Do you know anything about torrents? Maybe you heard about Internet pirates watching every movie or series for free? Are you aware of BitTorrent becoming a decentralized file storage system? Whichever you are, you’re probably going to be interested in this article.
History of BitTorrent And How It Works
The first torrent client was announced on April the 4th in 2001 by programmer Bram Cohen. The official release took place on 2 July 2001 and since then the technology was conquering the net.
So what is torrent? “BitTorrent (abbreviated to BT) is a communication protocol for peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P) which is used to distribute data and electronic files over the Internet,” says Wikipedia. What does it mean?
BitTorrent is a way of sharing files, like music albums, movies, books and practically everything else you can store digitally. And an even greater way to share huge files. Like whole Game of Throne series, Blu-ray quality video, or updates. For example, Facebook indeed uses BitTorrent to distribute updates to its servers. Blizzard Entertainment also does so with patches for Diablo, StarCraft and World of Warcraft. Why is that? It’s because of BitTorrent’s a bit decentralized way of working.
A simple explanation is: first a “seeder” uploads a file to the network of peers, known as a swarm. At that moment the file is being divided, segmented, cut into tiny pieces, like a puzzle, where every piece is held by one, or some peers. All those pieces are hashed, so none should be lost. This also is a very important part of how BitTorrent system works. Then the user who wants to download that file can get those tiny pieces from different hosts, putting back a so-called puzzle, also becoming a host to that piece for other users. When somebody has a full file, they can become a seeder too. What are the advantages here? Networks have the bandwidth, and they are usually not enough to pass large files quickly. BitTorrent solves that problem, allowing to upload and download files through multiple peers at one time, simultaneously. Decreasing the bandwidth usage helps to prevent Internet traffic spikes in given areas, to work effectively in low-bandwidth networks. And most important, it helps to just download real big files, fast.
The only thing you usually need is a torrent client. Those are apps, that can download the fragments of files and put them back together. They do so by giving hash sums to pieces, so then every file could be seen as some sort of index, to find those pieces through different peers. This also ensures detecting any modifications of the file, preventing a breach of the file’s integrity. So client downloads pieces non-sequentially and rearranges them into the correct order, and there you have it.
The pros here: no waiting time for downloading. Meaning, users do not need to wait for source seeder, because of those pieces, which when downloaded to a peer, can be distributed to every other peer that wants that piece. Thus, the original source is devalued, the need for it is reduced, making the system more stable.
The only problem here is the lack of anonymity. In order to bring pieces back together torrent needs to know the IP addresses of computers, where these pieces are stored. There were times, when big centralized torrent servers like Pirate Bay were attacked by the government and shut down, people even went to prison for that. Though, now when the server swarm is shut down, it’s usually back online again in just a few days. This is still much better and more practical than centralized systems or any one-way server-client transfers. But BitTorrent is changing now, to become first scalable really decentralized storage system.
Actually, the anonymity problem here was partly solved before in different ways. Torrent-client Tribler makes available a Tor-like onion network, to obscure every data transfers. The Invisible Internet Project (i2p) offers kinda the same, only allowing to download files that were uploaded to its network. There are other solutions, but none provide complete anonymity. That’s why we believe that only BitTorrent itself can bring full freedom of control.
Getting back to torrent-clients, the most popular and smallest one is μTorrent. Ludvig Strigeus Swedish developer and now a billionaire started working on it in 2004. In September 2005 he dropped the first version of μTorrent, and it became popular through Windows users in a matter of days. After a couple of months, it was used by a hundred thousand people. By the end of 2008, this number rose to 28 million. 2010 – 100 million users. Now it’s around 150-200 mil and this is enormous progress. μTorrent was sold to BitTorrent on December the 7th 2006, so that’s no coincidence it progressed so much. Ludvig, by the way, started his work on Spotify after that.
The Future of BitTorrent.
The prospects of BitTorrent are interesting, and it’s all about innovations and our comfort. It’s the largest P2P network in the world, but it still relies on centralized distribution and can’t truly avoid censorship and security breaks. And its developers understand that they want something much better and safe. So they suggested something a bit new, reshaping the whole system in order to make it decentralized. And they call it simply – BTFS. Which stands for BitTorrent File System. They haven’t actually changed anything in the name, but the core is going to be different.
BTFS is paired with the TRON network, the BitTorrent ecosystem and TronGrid. That means that it can utilize all of their Nodes. That is 100.000.000 BT user Nodes, more than 1000 TRON full Nodes and 27 super representative Nodes. Quite impressive, huh?
All of that will lead to BTFS widespread adaptation, unlike proposed decentralized systems IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) or Storj. Which weren’t failures, but still couldn’t actually make it.
In early 2019, BitTorrent successfully launched the BitTorrent Token (BTT). The developers want to integrate it into the BTFS, to work as an incentive in order to create “healthy, fair, and efficient file sharing & storage marketplace”. So everyone will store, exchange, transfer data for a bit of crypto, and that will furthermore ensure a stable permanent decentralized web.
BTFS will offer “vastly reduced storage costs” and “superior security and reliability”. We suppose they can achieve this goal, judging by the progress they made. TRON has hit every promised milestone, becoming huge Blockchain sensation. Paired with each other they can achieve probably everything they want.