This is both an FAQ and a glossary for some of the common terms and concepts used in PeoplePlanet Magazine. Much of the information came from “snipped” Wikis on the broader topic. If you’d like to drill down deeper for more in-depth information on the topics, just follow the link to access the entire Wiki. Many of these show the latest theory in the field, and cutting edge developments.

P2P(Peer to Peer)
General Definition
Historical perspective
Social and Economic Impact
Content Delivery
Exchange of physical goods
Communications networks
Future Uses of P2P

Social Networking
About Social Networking
Social Networking Services

File Sharing
Types of File Sharing
File Sharing Services
Legality of File Sharing
Ethics of File Sharing

Bittorrent Technology
How Bittorent works
Uploading and downloading
Industry and User Adoption
Legal Issues with Bittorent

Bittorrent Clients
About Bittorrent Clients
Bittorent Client Comparisons


Acronym for “PEER TO PEER”. Peer to Peer is a technology, most commonly known as the method used for people to “share files” such as at music trading sites (replacing the old Napster model). P2P has evolved from these basic technological beginnings, and now it is also a way to trade goods, connect and work in cooperation globally, and is proving to be the methodology that business, socializing, and indeed, the governance of the planet is evolving towards.

According to the Peer to Peer Wiki, this is some of the technical information on how P2P works:

Peer-to-peer (P2P) computing or networking is a distributed application architecture that partitions tasks or workloads between peers. Peers are equally privileged, equipotent participants in the application. They are said to form a peer-to-peer network of nodes.

Peers make a portion of their resources, such as processing power, disk storage or network bandwidth, directly available to other network participants, without the need for central coordination by servers or stable hosts.Peers are both suppliers and consumers of resources, in contrast to the traditional client–server model where only servers supply (send), and clients consume (receive).

The peer-to-peer application structure was popularized by file sharing systems like Napster. The concept has inspired new structures and philosophies in many areas of human interaction. Peer-to-peer networking is not restricted to technology, but covers also social processes with a peer-to-peer dynamic. In such context, social peer-to-peer processes are currently emerging throughout society.

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Historical perspective

Tim Berners-Lee‘s vision for the World Wide Web was close to a P2P network in that it assumed each user of the web would be an active editor and contributor, creating and linking content to form an interlinked “web” of links. This contrasts to the current broadcasting-like structure of the web.

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Social and economic impact

Here are some of the implications that Peer to Peer technology holds for changing all of our day to day lives, again from the Peer to Peer Wiki:

The concept of P2P is increasingly evolving to an expanded usage as the relational dynamic active in distributed networks, i.e., not just computer to computer, but human to human. Yochai Benkler has coined the term commons-based peer production to denote collaborative projects such as free and open source software and Wikipedia.
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There are numerous applications of peer-to-peer networks. The most commonly known is for content distribution

Content delivery

    Many file sharing networks, Peer-to-peer content services, Peer-to-peer content delivery networks, Software publication and distribution (Linux, several games), and Streaming medias comprise current P2P content delivery and technology.

Exchange of physical goods, services,or space

  • Peer-to-peer renting web platforms enable people to find and reserve goods, services, or space on the virtual platform, but carry out the actual P2P transaction in the physical world (for example: emailing a local footwear vendor to reserve for you that comfy pair of slippers which you’ve always had your eyes on, or contacting a neighbor who has listed their weedwacker for rent).

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Communications networks

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Future Uses of P2P

  • The U.S. Department of Defense has started research on P2P networks as part of its modern network warfare strategy.[13] In May, 2003 Dr. Tether. Director of Defense Advanced Research Project Agency testified that U.S. Military is using P2P networks.
  • Kato et al.’s studies indicate over 200 companies with approximately $400 million USD are investing in P2P network. Besides File Sharing, companies are also interested in Distributing Computing, Content Distribution.
  • Wireless community network, Netsukuku
  • An earlier generation of peer-to-peer systems were called “metacomputing” or were classed as “middleware”. These include: Legion, Globus
  • Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer based digital currency.

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Social Networking

Social networking are communities that arise on the Web, and bring together in social groupings people with shared interests: it could be old school friends, networking with your peers, people who share a common hobby, etc. This social networking can “link up” people who are geographically distributed, and bring them together in a shared space on the Internet. Common examples of social networking include Facebook, Sina Weibo, Linked In, etc. Social networks include business, government, dating, education, finance, social and political applications. From the social networking Wiki:

A social networking service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, who, for example, share interests and/or activities. A social network service essentially consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services. Most social network services are web based and provide means for users to interact over the Internet, such as e-mail and instant messaging. Online community services are sometimes considered as a social network service, though in a broader sense, social network service usually means an individual-centered service whereas online community services are group-centered. Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, activities, events, and interests within their individual networks.

The main types of social networking services are those which contain category places (such as former school year or classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages) and a recommendation system linked to trust. Popular methods now combine many of these, with Facebook and Twitter widely used worldwide, Nexopia (mostly in Canada); Bebo, VKontakte, Hi5, Hyves (mostly in The Netherlands), Draugiem.lv (mostly in Latvia), StudiVZ (mostly in Germany), iWiW (mostly in Hungary), Tuenti (mostly in Spain), Nasza-Klasa (mostly in Poland), Decayenne, Tagged, XING] Badoo and Skyrock in parts of Europe;[5] Orkut and Hi5 in South America and Central America; and Mixi, Multiply, Orkut, Wretch, renren and Cyworld in Asia and the Pacific Islands and LinkedIn and Orkut are very popular in India.

A 2011 survey found that 47% of American adults used a social network. Another 2011 study from HCL Technologies conducted research which showed that 50% of British employers had banned the use of social networking sites/services during office hours.

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File Sharing

File sharing is the most well known application of P2P technology, exchanging digital media such as music, movie, television shows, and e-books. It typically uses bittorrent technology. From the File Sharing Wiki:

File sharing is the practice of distributing or providing access to digitally stored information, such as computer programs, multimedia (audio, images, and video), documents, or electronic books. It may be implemented through a variety of ways. Common methods of storage, transmission, and distribution used in file sharing include manual sharing using removable media, centralized servers on computer networks, World Wide Web-based hyperlinked documents, and the use of distributed peer-to-peer networking (see peer-to-peer file sharing).

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Types of file sharing

Main article: peer-to-peer file sharing

Users can use software that connects in to a peer-to-peer network to search for shared files on the computers of other users (i.e. peers) connected to the network. Files of interest can then be downloaded directly from other users on the network. Typically, large files are broken down into smaller chunks, which may be obtained from multiple peers and then reassembled by the downloader. This is done while the peer is simultaneously uploading the chunks it already has to other peers.

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File hosting services

File hosting services are a simple alternative to peer-to-peer software. These are sometimes used together with Internet collaboration tools such as email, forums, blogs, or any other medium in which links to direct downloads from file hosting services can be embedded. These sites typically host files so that others can download them.

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Legality of file sharing

Main article: File sharing and the law

The legal debate surrounding file sharing has caused many lawsuits. In the United States, some of these lawsuits have even reached the Supreme Court in MGM v. Grokster. In that particular lawsuit, the Supreme Court has ruled that the creators of P2P networks can be held responsible if the intent of their program is clearly to infringe on copyright laws.

On the other hand, file sharing is not necessarily illegal, even if the works being shared are covered by copyright. For example, some artists may choose to support freeware, shareware, open source, or anti-copyright, and advocate the use of file sharing as a free promotional tool. Nearly all shareware, freeware, and open source software may be shared as much as the end user wishes, depending on the license for that specific piece of software. Content in the public domain can also be freely shared.

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Ethics of file sharing

In 2004 there were an estimated 70 million people participating in online file sharing.According to a CBS News poll, in 2009 fifty-eight percent of Americans who follow the file sharing issue, considered it acceptable in at least some circumstances; with 18 to 29 year olds this percentage reached as much as 70%.

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Bittorent Technology

Bittorrent is both a noun and a verb in modern day parlance. Bittorrent the noun refers to the technology, as well the software users install and work with in order to “torrent”–an example of it as a verb. One creates a torrent to digitize media such as music, movies, e-books, etc. Then trackers take these digital files and “torrent” them–which means that you can use a Bittorrent software client to upload the digital files you’ve created, and other can download them from the tracker .

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Bittorrent Software Clients

From the Bittorrent Client Wiki: A BitTorrent client is a computer program that manages downloads and uploads using the BitTorrent protocol.

The first client, known as BitTorrent, was created by Bram Cohen, in October 2002.

Many subsequent clients have been at least partially based on it. Not all clients were originally built for BitTorrent, having added support for the protocol later on.

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How Bittorent works

From the Bittorent Protocol Wiki:

The BitTorrent protocol can be used to reduce the server and network impact of distributing large files. Rather than downloading a file from a single source server, the BitTorrent protocol allows users to join a “swarm” of hosts to download and upload from each other simultaneously. The protocol is an alternative to the older single source, multiple mirror sources technique for distributing data, and can work over networks with lower bandwidth so many small computers, like mobile phones, are able to efficiently distribute files to many recipients.

From the user’s point of view, the torrent creation process begins with the use of a BitTorrent client. A BitTorrent client is any program that implements the BitTorrent protocol. Each client is capable of preparing, requesting, and transmitting any type of computer file over a network, using the protocol. A peer is any computer running an instance of a client.

A user who wants to upload a file first creates a small torrent descriptor file that they distribute by conventional means (web, email, etc.). They then make the file itself available through a BitTorrent node acting as a seed.

The file being distributed is divided into segments called pieces. With BitTorrent, the task of distributing the file is shared by those who want it; it is entirely possible for the seed to send only a single copy of the file itself and eventually distribute to an unlimited number of peers.

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Operations (Uploading and Downloading)

Animation showing 7 remote computers exchanging data with an 8th (local) computer over a network.


In this animation, the colored bars beneath all of the 7 clients in the upper region above represent the file, with each color representing an individual piece of the file. After the initial pieces transfer from the seed (large system at the bottom), the pieces are individually transferred from client to client. The original seeder only needs to send out one copy of the file for all the clients to receive a copy.

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User and Industry Adoption

A growing number of individuals and organizations are using BitTorrent to distribute their own or licensed material. Independent adopters report that without using BitTorrent technology and its dramatically reduced demands on their private networking hardware and bandwidth, they could not afford to distribute their files.

Film, Video and Music

  • BitTorrent Inc. has obtained a number of licenses from Hollywood studios for distributing popular content from their websites.
  • Many musician sites, as well as labels, are making albums and videos available for purchase or for free via BitTorrent.
  • Podcasting software is starting to integrate BitTorrent to help podcasters deal with the download demands of their MP3 “radio” programs. Specifically, Juice and Miro (formerly known as Democracy Player) support automatic processing of .torrent files from RSS feeds. Similarly, some BitTorrent clients, such as µTorrent, are able to process web feeds and automatically download content found within them.
  • Broadcasters
  • In 2008, the CBC became the first public broadcaster in North America to make a full show (Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister) available for download using BitTorrent.
  • Subsequently, many Television and Movie companies have experimented with making their content available via their own sites using bittorrent technology.
    Personal material
  • The Amazon S3 “Simple Storage Service” is a scalable Internet-based storage service with a simple web service interface, equipped with built-in BitTorrent support.
  • Blog Torrent offers a simplified BitTorrent tracker to enable bloggers and non-technical users to host a tracker on their site. Blog Torrent also allows visitors to download a “stub” loader, which acts as a BitTorrent client to download the desired file, allowing users without BitTorrent software to use the protocol. This is similar to the concept of a self-extracting archive.
  • Software
  • Many software games, especially those whose large size makes them difficult to host due to bandwidth limits, extremely frequent downloads, and unpredictable changes in network traffic, will distribute instead a specialized, stripped down bittorrent client with enough functionality to download the game from the other running clients and the primary server (which is maintained in case not enough peers are available).
  • Many major software companies, including licensed software (i.e. you must pay a fee to purchase the software), open source and free software projects encourage BitTorrent as well as conventional downloads of their products (via HTTP, FTP etc.) to increase availability and to reduce load on their own servers, especially when dealing with larger files.
  • Others
  • Facebook uses BitTorrent to distribute updates to Facebook servers.
  • Twitter uses BitTorrent to distribute updates to Twitter servers.

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Legal issues with BitTorrent

The BitTorrent protocol‘s wide use for copyright infringement has led to legal issues with BitTorrent. The technology itself is perfectly legal, but it has been debated if its implementation in connection with copyrighted material or otherwise illegal material makes the issuer of the bittorrent file, as opposed to the copyrighted material itself, liable as an accomplice or infringer. A bittorrent file can be seen as a hyperlink or very specific instruction of how to obtain something on the internet, sometimes illegal or copyrighted content. The degree to which this is illegal varies, but, in general, court decisions in various nations deem it illegal. Due to the nature of the internet, it is possible to host the bittorrent file in areas where it is not illegal – making it more an issue if ISPs can provide access there and if anyone can access that file (or the illegal content), which again would vary by jurisdictions.

About Bittorrent Clients

From the Bittorent Client Wiki:
A BitTorrent client is a computer program that manages downloads and uploads using the BitTorrent protocol.

The first client, known as BitTorrent, was created by Bram Cohen, in October 2002.

Many subsequent clients have been at least partially based on it. Not all clients were originally built for BitTorrent, having added support for the protocol later on. There have been attempts to package malware as BitTorrent clients, probably due to the availability of many legitimate clients and users’ willingness to try new ones.

Bittorrent Client Comparisons

The following tables compare general and technical information for a number of applications supporting the BitTorrent protocol. They are neither all-inclusive nor necessarily up to date.

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