BitTorrent, the king of P2P exchange protocols

Bram Cohen is the founder, director, president and CEO of Chia Network, a company dedicated to blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Its coin was launched in 2021. And unlike Bitcoin Y ethereum, its mining depends on the amount of disk space we dedicate to it instead of the processing power. The company was founded in 2017 and is valued at $500 million. But Bram Cohen has a past. Today she is 46 years old but at the age of 26 she created BitTorrenta file exchange protocol that practically everyone knows despite the fact that social networks and streaming platforms have taken center stage from it.

There is a dance of figures around the world internet trafficbut the different approximations give us an idea of ​​the weight of BitTorrent in today's internet. According to a report published in March 2022 by Sandvine, a company that manages broadband, by type of content, file sharing ranks seventh, led by video (53.72%), social networks (12.69%) and the Web (9.86%). ). File sharing drops to 3.74% of total internet traffic. However, if we stick to the traffic figures of data upload, BitTorrent is still the king, heading the list with 9.7% of the total. Followed by HTTP (9.05%), Google 88.02%), Facebook (5.77%) or WordPress (5.01%).

In the page official from BitTorrentthe company that manages the trademark, protocol and official P2P client of the same name, the names of Netflix, Facebook, Google, Twitter either Lionsgate as featured clients that use this protocol to send and receive content. Other sources also speak of Wikipedia either Blizzard. And on her day, her own Valve, responsible for Steam, used BitTorrent to handle your high volume of file uploads. However, in the beginning, BitTorrent was associated with the downloading of movies, music and video games without the permission of their authors. Today, this use is still there despite the rise of services such as Netflix, HBOMax either Disney+. Or precisely because of the saturation of subscription platforms. But how were things when BitTorrent was released?

Interview with Bram Cohen in 2019. Source: ChiaNetwork (Facebook)

Math, puzzles and P2P

Reviewing the biography of Bram Cohen, father of the BitTorrent protocol, of its first official client and founder of the company of the same name that today manages the brand, we can see that all the pieces fit together. Come on, it was practically inevitable that Cohen dedicated himself to creating a file exchange protocol that would speed up the process by downloading the file from several simultaneous sources. This was the basis on which Cohen created BitTorrent in 2001. But the idea came a little earlier, when he was working for MojoNation. But let's go by parts.

Bram Cohen was born in New York City on October 12, 1975. Specifically, on the Upper West Side. The son of a computer science teacher, he soon learned to operate computers. In Wikipedia it is said that he learned BASIC at 5 years of age. Whether this is true or not, Cohen's love of mathematics led him to participate in the math olympics from the United States during his time in high school. We do not know in what position he was left. Since then he has continued to demonstrate his passion for mathematics and puzzles. However, although he began college at New York State in Buffalo, he did not finish it. Instead, he worked at various dotcoms of the time until he found MojoNation.

Is in MojoNationor rather, in its mother company, Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow, where it messes with file encryption and distribution. Precisely, this company, founded by Jim McCoy, among other enthusiasts, has its own P2P client. And although it hasn't penetrated too much into the collective memory, this software introduced several new features that we are still talking about. To begin with, its file transport protocol used encryption based on public keys, nodes, point-to-point encryption and other elements that have been used later by the protocol itself. BitTorrent. And by related technologies such as blockchain which we talk about non-stop today due to cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Precisely, MojoNation also had its own digital currency. Many years before the arrival of tokens and cryptocurrencies.

He said that of MojoNation Great ideas arose that today we continue to apply to various technologies. One of those great ideas was the creation of BitTorrent by Bram Cohen, then an employee of the startup. Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow, which was the owner of this P2P software. Thus, after some time there, in April 2001 he decided to establish himself at his own risk to create his own P2P software. First the protocol itself and then the first official client, with the same name, and programmed in Python.

The speed and popularity of BitTorrent

Although not the first of its kind, napster was the application that revolutionized the way of exchanging files. It was the star P2P program. Although his life was rather short. It was launched in 1999. And while it wasn't perfect, it was the best we had back then. A varied catalog of songs, shared by the users themselves and a chat to talk while downloading the songs. Process that took its time with the connections of the time. And that was if the exchange was not cut off because the other person closed the program or the connection dropped. ADSL and fiber optics for all were far from being reached.

In the first decade of the 21st century and after the fall from grace of napster for legal reasons, closing of the platform in July 2001, a multitude of alternatives will arise. names like WinMX, iMesh, Audiogalaxy either KaZaA They remain in the memory of many. But they all had a drawback: the download was slow because it was done from user to user. Wouldn't it be better to receive a file from two or more sources simultaneously? This was the idea that Bram Cohen had during his stay in Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow and that he put into practice with BitTorrent. And of course, his popularity came right away. Fast downloads without cuts. Could you ask for more?

Actually yes. Although this P2P protocol caught on with the public, it had its drawbacks. There was no built-in search engine to find the files you were looking for. You should get a text file, extension .torrent, and based on the information in that file, the download and upload of the file was started. But in 2005, one of the most popular BitTorrent clients, Vuze, introduced distributed tracking. In this way, BitTorrent clients could exchange the data necessary to share the files.

Over time, BitTorrent clients with integrated search enginethe magnet linkswhich prevent downloading files .torrentthe BitTorrent v2 protocol (May 2017) and many clients such as uTorrentwhich was acquired by the BitTorrent company itself, and others like Transmission, Deluge, BitComet either qBittorrent. To this we must add the endless ecosystem of pages and forums dedicated to offering content for this P2P network.

The legacy of BitTorrent

As I mentioned before, although BitTorrent joined at the beginning to downloading copyright-protected content, an unavoidable association for all P2P technologies, over time, companies around the world realized the benefits of BitTorrent for sending and receiving large files. And safely, thanks to concepts such as network decentralization, encryption, hashes of information, etc. Precisely at the end of 2003, Bram Cohen himself worked on Valve to assist in your digital distribution of content through the gaming platform Steam. The following year he would leave the company and create his own, BitTorrent, Inc. He would do it with his brother, Ross Cohen and others like Ashwin Navin.

At the end of 2017, the father of BitTorrent left his own company to follow the path of cryptocurrencies. At the beginning of this article I talked about Chia Network, your current company and professional project. An alternative to bitcoin and ethereum. Interestingly, both BitTorrent and cryptocurrencies have a lot in common. Without BitTorrent, blockchain technology would not have been possible. Without blockchain, we would not have cryptocurrencies.

Be that as it may, the BitTorrent protocol is still more alive than ever. It may have lost popularity against TikTok Netflix either Youtube, but companies around the world continue to use it for their internal management of large files. Many of us continue to use this protocol to find discontinued content. There are even web browsers that support BitTorrent. And thanks to the protocol WebRTCwhich owes a lot to BitTorrent, we can share large files from the browser with other people with free, legal and safe services like ShareDrop, FilePizza and the like.

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