Happy Birthday BitTorrent! Turned 15-Year-Old
A developer named Bram Cohen had posted a short message online fifteen years ago, declaring his new file-sharing tool BitTorrent. Three years later, his protocol was accountable for a quarter of all Internet traffic, and now it assists people to share hundreds of petabytes of data per day.
bittorrent_logo“My new app, BitTorrent, is now in working order, check it out here,” Bram Cohen wrote on a Yahoo! message board on July 2, 2001.
It was the first time a working copy of the BitTorrent code had been made publicly available, but the initial reaction wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring.
The only reply he received on the board was “What’s BitTorrent, Bram?”
Now, fifteen years later, BitTorrent has become one of the most noticeable technologies of the current millennium, which has changed the way web is looked at and is still immensely relevant today.
When Cohen first proclaimed his invention to the world, he could have never believed that the technology would be used by hundreds of millions of people in the following years.
By utilizing people’s upload and download capacity at the same, he was just trying to enhance file transfers.
Commenting on these early days, Cohen told TorrentFreak, “Fundamentally, I was trying to figure out how people on the Internet could utilize all the unused upstream bandwidth to make it faster to send huge files.”
While the main centre for Cohen was the technology itself, the public were quick to understand that BitTorrent paved the way to sharing huge files, which was very occasional at the time.
Popular files are distributed more rapidly, since BitTorrent users download and upload at the same time. However, distribution slows down with other file-sharing technologies.
At that time, this idea was a major discovery, as torrents made it possible for a regular Internet user to share a video with dozens of people, which was nearly impossible before that. As a result, BitTorrent soon became accountable for a quarter of all Internet traffic.
As with many improvements on the web, porn fans were among the first to embrace the new technology in its full glory. Many of the early torrent sites were completely centred on adult content, and a torrent site without a porn category was infrequent.
After a few months, torrent sites began to come up frequently listing an extensive range of content. This included perfectly legal Linux distros, but also pirated copies of Photoshop, The Matrix and the Spice Girls’ latest album.
The emergence of sites such as The Pirate Bay, Mininova, isoHunt and KickassTorrents, torrents saw piracy becoming another word among the wide ranging public. However, the technology itself is “neutral” and used more broadly than most people understand.
The power of BitTorrent was also discovered by social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. In the background, it is assisting tech giants distribute files across their servers quicker and more effectively than any other alternatives. However, the chances do not up there.
Over the past years, the company Bram Cohen co-founded in 2004, BitTorrent Inc. has released several applications for the BitTorrent protocol. A “sync” tool that allows people to run their private backup solution, for instance or a browser that serves webpages without the need for a central server.
Cohen himself also worked hard on a live streaming implementation of BitTorrent. Even though this hasn’t been embraced on a huge scale just yet, BitTorrent Inc. has confidence that it could power the future of online live news and entertainment.
It is safe to say that with BitTorrent, Bram Cohen changed the lives of dozens of millions of people, irrespective of what the future may seem like.
It has allowed people worldwide to directly and easily share large files without the need for a central server. However, indirectly it has acted as one of the great motivators for the entertainment industries to contest with piracy and provide their content online.
The Internet may have looked very different today, had it not been for Bram’s invention that was made available to the public fifteen years ago.