As the name suggests, a torrent is a group of files or a data stream that are being shared or traded between peers (users). The sharing or trading is made possible through a special protocol that works with a P2P (peer to peer) network which makes it similar to the sharing features on social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. In the first part of this three-part series, we will cover the basics of what a torrent is and how to download it.
What is a Torrent?
A torrent is a type of file or data stream that can be downloaded by users in exchange for content or resources that are being shared with other users. A torrent client enables users to search for and/or join a swarm of peers that are sharing files or media streams (video, music, etc.). When a swarm of peers is connected to each other, it is called a torrent swarm or just a swarm. Having a swarm will make your downloads much faster as these peers are helping each other out by sharing their limited resources (bandwidth, storage space, etc.).
In practice, a torrent can be thought of as a group of files that are being downloaded by users from other users (peers) who are also downloading the same files. This process is made possible through a special P2P (peer to peer) protocol called the peer-to-peer overlay network which connects users together.
The sharing of resources (storage space, bandwidth, etc.) within the overlay network is made possible through encryption which is a technique that is used to secure and encrypt data so that only the individuals or entities who have been given the encryption key can access it. Before we move on, it is important to understand that even though a torrent is a type of P2P network, it is not the same as a P2P network as a torrent is more of an organizational tool used to connect peers than it is a means of sharing information.
The Benefits of Using a Torrent
Apart from making your downloads go faster as a swarm of peers are helping each other out, there are several other benefits to using a torrent. Since the sharing of resources is made possible through encryption, the security of your data is improved as only those with the encryption key can access your data. This makes it ideal for when you want to share private or proprietary information that you don’t want to put out there for the world to see.
Additionally, when using a torrent it is possible to track the status of your files or how others are rating or reviewing your content. This feature is often found on popular platforms like Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook but it can also be used to follow the progress of your downloads via a torrent. The ability to track the status of your files is important as it gives you a better indication of when your content will be available for download.
How to Download a Torrent
To download a torrent, you will need to have a torrent client installed on your device. The most widely used and installed clients are Transmission and Vuze. These two clients are completely free and open source (GPL) so you have nothing to lose by trying them out. Additionally, these two clients also come with a built-in web browser which makes accessing links and downloading content super easy.
Once you have downloaded the torrent client, navigate to the website or link that you want to visit. Once there, you will need to find and establish connections with other peers. To do this, enter the swarm address (usually.torrent) into the search bar on the right hand side of the browser.
As you may have guessed, establishing a connection with other peers is a lot easier said than done. For a long time, BitTorrent’s website would prompt you to visit a dedicated torrent site to find and connect with other peers. However, with the rise of “fake news” and the spread of malicious content, establishing a trustworthy connection with other peers has become harder than it should be. So, BitTorrent has deprecated the use of third-party trackers and instead recommends users use a VPN to establish a secure connection. A VPN will encrypt all your data as it travels between your device and the server, hiding your IP address, location, and other potentially sensitive information. This ensures that no matter where you go or what you do, your personal details will stay private.
Once you have established a connection with other peers, you will need to add them to your swarms. To do this, simply enter the information that is provided and click the add member button. You should now see a small blue dot next to your connected peers in the list of swarms. As a best practice, it is always recommended to add only trusted peers to your swarm. You can determine whether or not a peer is trustworthy by looking at the reputation (public rating) that is associated with them. In general, high-quality, popular content will have higher download speeds and be more available for download. Additionally, paying for your daily data (which can be as little as 500MB) is also an option for those who want to make sure that their data is always secure.
Why Are Downloads So Much Faster Through a Torrent?
The reason why downloads are so much faster through a torrent is because many, if not all, of the peers are helping each other out by sharing their resources (storage space, bandwidth, etc.). This is made possible because of the nature of the P2P network. Once you have connected to the swarm, enter the swarm address (usually.torrent) into the search bar.
You will then see a list of available files that are being shared by your connected peers. To download a file, click on the amount of data shown next to it in the list. This will open up a new tab in your browser with the file being downloaded. When the download is finished, you can click the tab again to close it. To resume the download, simply click the start button associated with the torrent file.
This is how simple it is to download a torrent. In comparison, trying to download a single file from a regular website can take quite some time. Plus, you have to remember all the links and wait for the whole download to complete before you can move on to the next step.
At this point, you may be wondering what next. Well, you should now have all the information you need to dive into learning more about marketing fundamentals. Make sure to keep reading as there is more to come.