One of the most widely used ways to share and download files in peer-to-peer transference is by using a torrent file . File extension torrent is basically a protocol for downloading archive of files that are typically URL of a file or group of files downloadable with a peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing program. Downloading from the torrent file reduces the burden in the single server, as it is distributed to the whole network. The torrent file allows people downloading the same file to upload data to each other. Downloads are split among multiple nodes and the nodes then download the pieces from each other, which reduces the bandwidth used by the primary server and speeds up download times.
In other words, a file extension torrent is simply a pointer file to the location of parts of the real file on the Internet. The Torrent client software puts your computer into a peer-to-peer network that then collects the various parts of the real file using the torrent file as a guide. Meanwhile, your computer serves as a server to collect parts of other files and forward them to others while you are connected. While you download the archive to your computer, you are also helping to distribute it to other users. In essence, torrent files include instructions for a compatible P2P clients where to find the "tracker" for the downloaded file, hashed checksum that verifies for the client that it is actually downloading the correct file, the full size of the file and the filename of the file.
So, technically .torrent files can be downloaded in matter of seconds as they are very, very small files that simply contain some textual data about the file itself. But in a computer with a peer-to-peer compatible client installed in it, launching a torrent file typically starts a process where the compatible client first contacts the tracker described in the torrent file and if the tracker server is found and "seeds" (people sharing the file) are available, launches a download process of the file described in the torrent file.
If you are not new to the Peer-to-peer world, then you must have heard about the “File Extension Torrent”files which have extension “.torrent” or “.tor”. These files need external software such as Bit torrent or uTorrent to download the complete archive of the package. You will need to download and install the software before you could start using the start using it. Once you have installed any one of the software, you will need to locate a Web site that will let you download an archive header or a .torrent file. There are a number of such sites that have updated file lists and let you download these header files, which add to the client software and then download the complete archive. This file contains a location that tells the software client where to go to find the tracker that manages the uploading and downloading of the archive.
Once you have downloaded the .torrent file, your software client will kick in and connect to a managing computer that then connects you to others who have the “File Extension Torrent” files. You may now be wondering that why would you want to go to Web sites first to download the header file? And what makes this network different from any other? The answer to this is “Speed”. Speed is the biggest advantage on the Torrent network. Downloading using this network is a dream since you are only limited by bandwidth and the number of seeds available. If both are high, rest assured, downloading gigabytes of data is all in a day’s work.
Most of this “File Extension Torrent” files depend directly upon the number of Seeders and Leechers for a particular archive.Seeder(s) are those users who have at least one complete copy of the archive with them and are sharing it on the Torrent network. However, for any user’s download to complete, you will need at least one seeder who has the complete copy. Under certain circumstances though, there may be no one seeder but enough people with all the parts to make up the whole archive, which is called a distributed copy. Leechers is a user who starts downloading from the network and then carries on downloading by connecting to different seeders. A leecher is part of the network and is uploading as well, many times more KB than they download. This ensures that all users on the network get an equal opportunity to download the file.
Software such as Kazza or Napster on your computer contacts the internet when you install it. And you can download any kind of necessary stuff through the internet. Peer-to-peer file sharing is based on this type of protocol.
Napster was launched in may 1999 based on this protocol. This was first peer-to-peer software but this was not in the truest sense of the world because it still needed users to connect to the main server and once the client was identified, additional file transfer was passed on to the nodes. Kazaa and eDonkey were the advanced software later. And much other software came up with different idea and scheme and brought great achievement in the field of technology.
After around 1999 many changes have occurred in the world of peer-to-peer computer network. Napster has since closed down owing to a ruling by the American courts. Napster is still available, but in a form where it is no longer striking enough for P2P users.
In the recent years, newer peer-to-peer software like Bit Torrent has raised its head and has become the latest rage amongst the peer-to-peer users. eDonkey was the other software which was between the Napster and Bit Torrent. It was running smoothly and strongly until the appearance of Bit Torrent. eDonkey is still pretty much available, but its favorite rating amongst users has dropped to a very large extent.
We will talk about the mostly used peer-to-peer software in the world and how to handle them in the coming section but before that you should never forget that downloading the stuff from the internet like music or movies that you do not own and do not have a copyright is illegal.
So we don’t overlook such activities. The information provided here is only for the sake of informing you as a reader but not giving you the ideas to download such stuff illegally. So you should be careful of what is legal and illegal on the internet and don’t do the activities that could possibly land you in jail. So with that let’s move into the software mentioned above and understand how it works.
The main advantage of a network such as Napster is the easy access provided to users for searching any music. Once connected, all you needed to do was send a search-and a specific one at that to get whatever you want.
Another factor is that unlike Web search results that are not updated from time to time, results obtained from Napster are current and available. One click and the download is on! Moreover, downloads are multi-threaded, so all available parts from sources are to be downloaded first instead of a sequential download. This multithreaded downloading principle is currently implemented in newer P2P software and even in software such as Mass Downloader and Flashget which let you make HTTP downloads faster.
In case of Napster, the system makes available a massive variety of music, because the users provide the files, not Napster. Napster just provides the software and network infrastructure, and users provide the content. This system inherently provides more benefit to the users the more popular it becomes. Popularity in this case is a direct result of improving content.
Napster’s revenue plans included selling advertising space on their Web site and use their brand equity to sell T-shirts. But therevenue generated using such an idea amounted to peanuts and so Napster was considered a free service and users just kept logging on and downloading.
However, there was one slight problem. The music industry in America is one of the biggest worldwide. Napster only dealt with music files and not with any other types such as documents or applications. This kept it out of the legal roadblocks but eventually the music industry’s feathers were ruffled.
Using legal resources, the Napster service was shut down by the American Music Industry that cited several reason including artists not receiving their rightful dues due to the Napster service.
Finally, Napster was shut down and merged with Bertelsmann (BMG Music). In its current avatar, Napster is charging an access fee for all their services and is now selling music online as well. But this was not the end of the world for P2P users. By the time Napster got into a legal tangle with the authorities, networks such as KaZaA and eDonkey had already arrived and users were switching to these networks, fast.