What are "torrents"?

Just as the subject line asks: what are “torrents”?

I’ve encountered this term a few times recently. A co-worker, when asked what his plans for the weekend are, replied, “I’m going to spend time on my computer, checking out some torrents.” A web site offering audio book recordings of works in the public domain has as part of its FAQ, “Do you offer torrents?”

I gather from context that torrents are a way of moving audio and video files around the Internet, but how do torrents differ from streaming and just plain downloading?

http://www.bittorrent.org/introduction.html

From the originator.

BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer system for downloading very large files. It works by dividing the file up into chunks, keeping track of who was which chunks, and then downloading the needed chunks from the people who have them. As you acquire chunks, new people can then download them from you. Assuming the file in question is in high-demand, the system is fairly efficient and spreads load across a wide area, thereby not crippling one guy’s server.

BitTorrent: http://www.bittorrent.com/index.html
And a wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BitTorrent

Note that most torrent sites are full of unauthorised copies of copyright material. The mods don’t like discussion of them, and usually close down threads PDQ.

Yes, I inferred that idea from the information in the above links. But they gave me enough info to at least understand what torrents were, which is all I wanted to know.

Folks, thanks very much for your help. And Mods–if you feel it is warranted to close this thread down at this point, since what I wanted to know has been answered, then please do so.

That’s true, but there’s a lot of legitimate stuff also distributed via BT, such as CD images for Linux distributions and whatnot.

And World of Warcraft uses BitTorrent to distribute patches. And BitTorrent is actively working with copyright holders (such as Warner Brothers ) to use the technology to distribute material legally.

So while sites like the Pirate Bay do contain much illegal material, there are perfectly legal and nice things to do with torrents.

One of the hot rumors about OSX Panther is that Apple will build Bit Torrent into iTunes, and pay people in iTunes dollars or something to authorize using their legitimately purchased songs in a BT peer-to-peer network. Apple could save a lot of money in bandwidth if they were actually only sending you the torrent file for the songs you purchased, iTunes, OSX, and Quicktime updates. I’d think about leaving iTunes open a lot and giving bandwidth, especially when I’m not home, for 5-10 free legit songs a month.

You’d think it wouldn’t be a rumor any more, since Panther shipped years ago. You mean “Leopard” perhaps?

Note that all torrents contain INFORMATION. INFORMATION is potentially DANGEROUS and could DESTROY YOU.

I suggest we all put our heads under our pillows until the nasty information passes by.

I can’t wait for Mac OSX Liger… I hear they’re developing it for it’s skills in magic.

I think it warrants repeating: BITTORRENT IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH PIRACY.
Many podcasters and web-video producers are absolutely on BitTorrent to keep distribution costs down.