There’s no doubt about it – torrenting’s got what can only be described as a very bad rep these days. But then it’s hardly surprising as its growth in popularity as a way to download huge files has largely come from those individuals wanting to get their hands on pirated films and CDs.
But we all know just how dangerous it can be to generalise and, while no-one would deny that a great deal of illegal downloading is carried out using BitTorrent, that’s not to say that all of the people using it are doing it for illegal activity.
Now this may be easy to say – and even easy to prove – but not all internet service providers are able or willing into look into the precise details when they identify that P2P downloading is being carried out on their network. The consequences can range from a sternly-worded warning to finding your download speeds being dramatically cut. In the most severe case you could even find yourself being cut off completely. Plus, as it’s a P2P process, it’s inevitable that your IP address will be shared openly with everyone else who is downloading at the same time.
There are however, more legitimate uses of Torrents, and while some ISPs use a blanket approach to penalise Torrenting users, there are methods to ensure that your data is kept secure from your ISP. Virtual Private Networks encrypt your data, meaning that your ISP only sees your use of a proxy server, and not of the location of the torrent. This can permit access to some sites that your ISP may incorrectly block. This did come with an additional concern though, as VPNs normally slow down your internet speed. There are services that will provide VPNs that provide a faster experience, with VPNs specifically designed for Torrents.
With a surprisingly wide number of legitimate applications, more and more companies and even governments are starting to use it as one of the most efficient ways to distribute large files without blocking up high proportions of bandwidth.
For example the creators of World of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment, include a BitTorrent client with each online purchase of the game which speeds up the download considerably. There are also a large number of music and video files that are available to download quite legitimately and, in order to bring the practice out of the shadows and more in to the mainstream, the BitTorrent website has a wide choice available. The growing acceptance of torrenting is further underlined by the fact that the UK government also often chooses it as the method of distributing large data files.
As with most internet technologies, it was student’s demand for sharing data that led to initial growth. This remains the case, with datasets increasing in size, and research requiring more and more bandwidth to share, as well as an increased demand for speed when getting information. As data sizes continue to increase, the use of Torrents are likely to become more legitimised, though the sharing of files is unlikely to go away, even with continued threats of retribution from ISPs.