What is a torrent?


The terms torrent, Internet Protocol (IP) address and seeder are often used when the issue of Internet piracy arises.

The torrent file, found easily through a search engine, is not the actual product the downloader hopes to receive. Instead, this torrent file is merely a key to access the product itself. The product could include movies, music or software. The torrent knows where the product is located and how to retrieve it.

Once the product is retrieved by the torrent, it is then separated into smaller pieces that are distributed amongst other users. The users are called seeders. When downloading the product, the user actually receives bits of data from multiple seeders. The more seeds, the faster the download. The required bandwidth can be split amongst multiple users.

This faceless interaction is why torrenting is considered a peer-to-peer downloading service. What is being downloaded actually comes from other users. But what makes it all possible is a protocol, or set of rules for a message to follow. The protocol includes where to find the files and how to divide them. This is otherwise called the BitTorrent protocol, which is where the popular BitTorrent torrenting site gets its name.

When a computer connects to one of these torrents to either download or help seed the file, that computer leaves a fingerprint of sorts on the host of the file. The fingerprint is called an IP address. Every network, like Webster University’s provided Internet, has an individual IP address. All activity can be linked back to it. Each computer that connects to the network is assigned its own individual IP address that links it to that network. So every file downloaded can be traced back to the very computer from which it was downloaded.

This IP address is how people who illegally download torrents are oftentimes caught. Tracer programs are put out to entice people to download them. The programs then track user’s IP addresses so they can be confronted by the company, Internet provider or watchdog group.

—Reporting by Gabe Burns 






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