When the World Wide Web was still young peer to peer sharing played an important role in the sharing of big files. Podcasts, videos and music could be shared as long as a group of people were seeding bits of the entire file.
Bittorrent is an interesting technology for those interested in peer 2 peer. Whereas the conventional peer to peer system takes files from computer Ato computer B bittorrent takes data from computer A and distributes the data far more effectively. It is based around packet switching as are most programs but the packets take a different form. Bit torrent files are split into small packages which can be downloaded independently from one another. Imagine that you would like to download my lakeparade video for example. As you're downloading the file from the server you have to download it from beginning to end.
Bit torrent technology takes a file and creates a quantity of small packets or bits. As one packet is made available by one peer you make a request to download that packet. As you leech(download) files from the users you also begin to share(seed) these files with them. This means that you may have ten to twenty people sharing the same video file and each one has certain bits of that file. As the download progresses and the parts are collected you begin to get the whole, in other words a file that you can play on the computer. To explain this technology imagine that your file is a deck of cards. In order to play you need all the cards. The order of the cards (bits) is not important, simply that you get all the cards from that deck (file). Once all the files are collected you can watch the file which you have taken the time to download.
This technology is interesting because you are no longer dependent on a single person's connection but rather a collection of connections. You may be downloading from one person at 200 bytes per second and from another person at 6Kbs for example. If you've got a fast connection then you may be using your bandwidth far more efficiently than with programs like Kazaa etc.
Articles by Richard Azia unless otherwise indicated.