Torrent Concepts, Torrenting in 2021 Explained
You might have clicked on this link with the preconceived notion that a pirate professor with a lab coat and an eye patch is going to teach you, based on experience, how to download files from the internet illegally without being caught. Well… for the most part, your wrong; torrent itself is not a bad thing, and it doesn't necessarily involve stealing or illegal download.
So what is torrenting? Does it involve risks? Do I need a wooden leg to be good at it? (not really). All that and more in this article.
The Concept of Torrent
So let's begin by explaining what torrenting as a concept is. Torrenting, in fact, is a way or form of file sharing. It was developed by a computer science student called Bram Cohen.
He created the first peer-to-peer torrenting protocol and the first program to share torrents (the infamous BitTorrent). The idea behind torrenting involves fragmenting a large file into small pieces (packets).
In comparison, direct download of a file requires using one robust server when many users try to download. However, with torrenting, the file is cut down into small chunks and downloaded from multiple different users (peers) with multiple ordinary devices with regular servers who already have the file on their device.
Let's say, for example, you want to download the works of Shakespeare; as his work is not copyrighted, the download can be done 100% legally unless it contains copyrighted commentary.
So what happens when you click download on a torrenting site? Well, to start, you download a torrent file. This file isn't really the product you are looking for; rather, it is a localizer that helps your device find the file.
To use this torrent file, you need to use a torrent client, which then reads the file and localizes the whereabouts of the file you are looking for on different devices uploading this specific file.
At this point, the download starts, and small fragments of the file simultaneously download while getting reassembled into one full file. Another method would be using the magnet link for download, which verifies the content of the file.
Advantages of Using Torrent Download
Now you might ask, how does torrenting help? Well, it has a few advantages.
First of all, imagine you want to patch a game, and every user starts downloading this game in a particular region using a standard direct download. This might cause internet traffic congestion and hinder the ISP (internet service provider) connection due to the high load.
Another reason involves the product producer; a direct download requires high bandwidth and often involves upgrading the hosting service bundle during a high load period, which can often be very costly.
As for users or downloaders, when it comes down to large files, using torrents makes the download much faster than a direct download. Faster, you say!? It works this way...
Since the internet is "Asymmetrical" (i.e., download speed is always higher than upload speed), this results in bandwidth limitation and inefficiency when multiple people try to get the same data from the same single source.
When using torrent, the small chunks of data (packets) are being uploaded and downloaded simultaneously from different users. Since they are small and aren't concentrated in one place, upload limitation is much less likely.
You probably came across the option of downloading a torrent either as a torrent file or using a magnet link. As to the difference between the two, magnet links are basically URI links that can identify files through their content using a cryptographic hash value instead of its location.
They don't involve a torrent file download. Hence, websites can save bandwidth and space by using it instead of a torrent file.
Using a magnet link, you can directly start downloading from peers without any additional files involved. However, some torrent clients can't download using magnet links and require a torrent file (.torrent) to download.
Some Uses of Torrent You Probably Didn't Know.
Video game companies apply a real-life example of torrenting. Many launchers are basically torrenting programs in disguise.
When a new game patch is available, companies such as Blizzard entertainment (World Of Warcraft, StarCraft, Overwatch, etc.) or World of tanks (a free online game) utilize torrenting.
This happens by downloading the patch on a few devices providing seeding (upload) for others to download this data without overloading the companies' servers and limiting the speed.
As mentioned previously, many websites like Facebook and Twitter use internal torrenting to move their data around to different servers. Facebook reportedly uses BitTorrent to save time and effort when moving the massive content to its other servers.
So why don't we get rid of all direct downloads and use only torrenting? It sounds great! Well, torrenting has a few limitations of its own relative to direct download.
Before we begin, let me clarify some terms. Seeding refers to the uploaders of data in a torrent. Leechers are those downloading data. Both Seeders and Leechers can be referred to as peers. The collective sum of peers (both seeders and leechers) is referred to as a swarm.
To start with, torrenting starts slow and then ramps up speed as more people download the product and start seeding. Seeding begins with a single seeder, every time a person downloads a file, they become seeders and start uploading the file. That's why at the start, when the number of seeders is limited, the download speed is low.
Once a few people have downloaded the file, it should be faster, so what's the big deal? Oh, my sweet summer child. Prepare to be introduced to the concept of leeching (not to be confused with leecher).
When downloading a file, even before it's fully downloaded, the small bits you already have start seeding, and by the end, when you have the full product, you seed the whole file.
Leeching is when leechers intentionally throttle their upload speed from inside the torrent client and proceed to remove the torrent once their download reaches 100%. So they don't use any bandwidth in the uploading process.
Second of all, since P2P is community-driven, the torrent file creator doesn't have control over who seeds or not. The number of seeders to Leechers can be used to estimate how fast a file can be downloaded, but it isn't very accurate. The people downloading like to download at top speed, while people uploading most of the time limit the upload, so it doesn't affect their connection.
Even if seeders don't throttle their speed intentionally, their internet connection speed could be a limiting factor for the upload speed they can provide. Lastly, Small files are downloaded slower using torrent when compared to direct download. These are problems that aren't encountered with a direct download.
The Dark Side of Torrent
With all that's said, why does torrenting carry such a negative stigma? You guessed it! Piracy. Torrenting websites are basically treasure-islands filled with unending renewable treasures (those poor 15 men didn't have to die on that dead man's chest).
Instead of paying $100 to buy that expensive book you wanted, or to buy that movie that just came out. Using torrent, you can easily download all that cost-free if it's seeded. However, just because it's available doesn't mean it's legal; if it's copyrighted, you run the risk of piracy by downloading it using torrent.
Many countries ban the use of torrents by blocking websites of torrent clients and piracy websites. Piracy websites have been finding a way around that by creating multiple proxies (mirror pages).
Individuals who still want to use torrents legally or illegally started using VPNs to cover their tracks and change their IP to countries where torrenting is legal. our top recommendations for VPNs to use while torrenting are ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
Another thing to consider when downloading torrents is the safety of the files downloaded. In fact, so many of the torrenting websites are nested with malware waiting for you to download them. We recommend you use a good antivirus when downloading a torrent to keep you safe. Check our #1 antivirus product Norton 360.
The files' authenticity is another thing to note. Sometimes, the files sent may contain corrupted data that would cripple your file. Typically a good torrent client would detect this and stop it.
Click here to see our 10 times video game companies punished piracy in their games.
Torrenting websites can be divided into two groups, ones with mixed legal and illegal content and ones with strictly legal content. For websites with mixed content, a famous example would be The Pirate bay.
The content on The Pirate Bay is much larger than in those of strictly legal content. The Pirate Bay recommends you don't download anything, whether legal or illegal, unless you have a VPN active to cover your IP, and we at Several.com second the use of VPN with torrent.
On the other hand, while strictly legal websites' content is less, their uptime is obviously higher with no governmental interference. An example of a legal torrenting site would be public domain torrents, which is a website that provides free movies legally.
Different torrenting clients can affect your experience when downloading a file, but don't they all do the same job of downloading the torrent file? Well, yes, they all do that, but there are differences.
Ranging from speed, impact on your device, built-in virus protection, and file authenticity checking. Each torrenting service differs a bit in what it has to offer. However, as an overview of torrenting, we won't go through all the differences; it is a factor to consider.
The Role of VPN in Torrent
A virtual private network (VPN) can be used to mask your IP and encrypt your data. that way, you can access torrenting websites blocked by local governments while encrypting your data so your ISP can't see your log activities (See 5/9/13 Eyes Alliance).
However, using a VPN doesn't always mean complete safety as some features are essential for privacy and must always be taken into account when using a VPN for torrenting.
These include: the level of encryption, the presence of a kill switch, and even where to VPN service is based can sometimes affect your experience.
Some Torrenting websites might even prevent you from downloading unless you have a VPN set up with a secure connection, even when trying to access legal content. Our top recommendation for a VPN would be ExpressVPN for torrenting websites! Followed by NordVPN.
Now that you have read this article, I bestow upon you the eye patch of torrent knowledge. Go out there and break a wooden leg. Remember to be responsible with this new knowledge and stay away from illegal activity.