User:Chrisballinger/Anomos (protocol)

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For other uses, see Anomos.

Anomos is an anonymous peer-to-peer file sharing protocol used for distributing large amounts of data based on the BitTorrent protocol. It borrows the concept of 'onion routing' from Tor and applies it to BitTorrent.

Programmers John Schanck and Rich Jones described an initial version of the protocol in June 2008 and released the first implementation on 4 June 2009.[1]

Description[edit]

Anomos is a privacy preserving variant of the BitTorrent protocol. It enables its users to share content in the multi-peer-to-peer fashion of BitTorrent without revealing their identities to other clients on the network. Anomos accomplishes this by routing its traffic across other users registered with the same tracker server. As more clients connect to the network, the number of relay nodes grows proportionately to the number of file sharers. In order to minimize the number of relay hops taken while preserving anonymity, the relaying behavior is coordinated by the tracker server. An ‘onion routing’ scheme similar to that used in Tor is used to initiate streams in order to ensure that relay nodes cannot determine the origins and destinations of the traffic they relay and strong encryption is used end-to-end on the actual content so that intermediary nodes cannot determine what they are relaying.

Ideally, Anomos gains strength through high usability. The mainline implementation doesn’t require a user to run any background services or know anything about proxy services. The anonymity and security should be completely transparent to the end user - anyone who is capable of using a BitTorrent client should be able to seamlessly transition to Anomos. Usability and minimalism should be kept in mind as design goals of any Anomos implementation, as poor usability has been one of the primary impediments to the adoption of privacy enhancing tools.

Operation[edit]

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 individual pieces 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. To stop animation, click browser's Stop or hit ESC key.

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.

To share a file or group of files, a peer first creates a small file called a "torrent" (e.g. MyFile.torrent). This file contains metadata about the files to be shared and about the tracker, the computer that coordinates the file distribution. Peers that want to download the file must first obtain a torrent file for it, and connect to the specified tracker, which tells them from which other peers to download the pieces of the file.

Though both ultimately transfer files over a network, a BitTorrent download differs from a classic download (as is typical with an HTTP or FTP request, for example) in several fundamental ways:

  • BitTorrent makes many small data requests over different TCP connections to different machines, while classic downloading is typically made via a single TCP connection to a single machine.
  • BitTorrent downloads in a random or in a "rarest-first"[2] approach that ensures high availability, while classic downloads are sequential.

Taken together, these differences allow BitTorrent to achieve much lower cost to the content provider, much higher redundancy, and much greater resistance to abuse or to "flash crowds" than regular server software. However, this protection, theoretically, comes at a cost: downloads can take time to rise to full speed because it may take time for enough peer connections to be established, and it may take time for a node to receive sufficient data to become an effective uploader. This contrasts with regular downloads (such as from an HTTP server, for example) that, while more vulnerable to overload and abuse, rise to full speed very quickly and maintain this speed throughout.

In general, BitTorrent's non-contiguous download methods have prevented it from supporting "progressive downloads" or "streaming playback". However, comments made by Bram Cohen in January 2007 suggest that streaming torrent downloads will soon be commonplace and ad supported streaming appears to be the result of those comments.

Creating and publishing torrents[edit]

The peer distributing a data file treats the file as a number of identically sized pieces, usually with byte sizes of a power of 2, and typically between 32 KB and 4 MB each. The peer creates a hash for each piece, using the SHA-1 hash function, and records it in the torrent file. Pieces with sizes greater than 512 KB will reduce the size of a torrent file for a very large payload, but is claimed to reduce the efficiency of the protocol.[3] When another peer later receives a particular piece, the hash of the piece is compared to the recorded hash to test that the piece is error-free.[4] Peers that provide a complete file are called seeders, and the peer providing the initial copy is called the initial seeder.

The exact information contained in the torrent file depends on the version of the BitTorrent protocol. By convention, the name of a torrent file has the suffix .torrent. Torrent files have an "announce" section, which specifies the URL of the tracker, and an "info" section, containing (suggested) names for the files, their lengths, the piece length used, and a SHA-1 hash code for each piece, all of which are used by clients to verify the integrity of the data they receive.

Torrent files are typically published on websites or elsewhere, and registered with at least one tracker. The tracker maintains lists of the clients currently participating in the torrent.[4] Alternatively, in a trackerless system (decentralized tracking) every peer acts as a tracker. Azureus was the first[citation needed] BitTorrent client to implement such a system through the distributed hash table (DHT) method. An alternative and incompatible DHT system, known as Mainline DHT, was later developed and adopted by the BitTorrent (Mainline), µTorrent, Transmission, rTorrent, KTorrent, BitComet, and Deluge clients.

After the DHT was adopted, a "private" flag—analogous to the broadcast flag—was unofficially introduced, telling clients to restrict the use of decentralized tracking regardless of the user's desires.[5] The flag is intentionally placed in the info section of the torrent so that it cannot be disabled or removed without changing the identity of the torrent. The purpose of the flag is to prevent torrents from being shared with clients that do not have access to the tracker. The flag was requested for inclusion in the official specification in August, 2008, but has not been accepted.[6] Clients that have ignored the private flag were banned by many trackers, discouraging the practice.[7]

Downloading torrents and sharing files[edit]

Users browse the web to find a torrent of interest, download it, and open it with a BitTorrent client. The client connects to the tracker(s) specified in the torrent file, from which it receives a list of peers currently transferring pieces of the file(s) specified in the torrent. The client connects to those peers to obtain the various pieces. If the swarm contains only the initial seeder, the client connects directly to it and begins to request pieces.

Clients incorporate mechanisms to optimize their download and upload rates; for example they download pieces in a random order to increase the opportunity to exchange data, which is only possible if two peers have different pieces of the file.

The effectiveness of this data exchange depends largely on the policies that clients use to determine to whom to send data. Clients may prefer to send data to peers that send data back to them (a tit for tat scheme), which encourages fair trading. But strict policies often result in suboptimal situations, such as when newly joined peers are unable to receive any data because they don't have any pieces yet to trade themselves or when two peers with a good connection between them do not exchange data simply because neither of them takes the initiative. To counter these effects, the official BitTorrent client program uses a mechanism called “optimistic unchoking”, whereby the client reserves a portion of its available bandwidth for sending pieces to random peers (not necessarily known good partners, so called preferred peers) in hopes of discovering even better partners and to ensure that newcomers get a chance to join the swarm.[8]

The community of BitTorrent users frowns upon the practice of disconnecting from the network immediately upon success of a file download, and encourages remaining as another seed for as long as practical, which may be days - especially when there are a lot of downloading peers and when the ratio of seeders to downloading peers is low.

Adoption[edit]

A growing number of individuals and organizations are using BitTorrent to distribute their own or licensed material. Independent adopters report[9] 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[edit]

  • BitTorrent Inc. has amassed a number of licenses from Hollywood studios for distributing popular content from their websites.
  • Sub Pop Records releases tracks and videos via BitTorrent Inc.[10] to distribute its 1000+ albums. The band Ween uses the website Browntracker.net[11] to distribute free audio and video recordings of live shows. Furthermore, Babyshambles and The Libertines (both bands associated with Pete Doherty) have extensively used torrents to distribute hundreds of demos and live videos. US industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails frequently distributes albums 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.
  • DGM Live! purchases are provided via BitTorrent.[12]

Broadcasters[edit]

  • 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.[13]
  • The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) has since March 2008 experimented with bittorrent distribution, available here. Only selected material in which NRK owns all royalties are published. Responses have been very positive, and NRK is planning to offer more content.
  • The Dutch VPRO broadcasting organization released three documentaries under a Creative Commons license using the content distribution feature of the Mininova tracker.

Personal material[edit]

  • 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.[14] This is similar to the concept of a self-extracting archive.

Software[edit]

  • Blizzard Entertainment uses BitTorrent (via a proprietary client called the "Blizzard Downloader") to distribute most content for World of Warcraft, including the game itself.[15]
  • 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 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.[16]
  • Entropia Universe also begun distributing the client file(s) through BitTorrent.

Network impact[edit]

CableLabs, the research organization of the North American cable industry, estimates that BitTorrent represents 18% of all broadband traffic.[17] In 2004, CacheLogic put that number at roughly 35% of all traffic on the Internet.[18] The discrepancies in these numbers are caused by differences in the method used to measure P2P traffic on the Internet.[19]

Routers that use NAT, Network address translation, must maintain tables of source and destination IP addresses and ports. Typical home routers are limited to about 2000 table entries while some more expensive routers have larger table capacities. BitTorrent frequently contacts 300-500 servers per second rapidly filling the NAT tables. This is a common cause of home routers locking up.[20]

Indexing[edit]

The BitTorrent protocol provides no way to index torrent files. As a result, a comparatively small number of websites have hosted a large majority of torrents, many linking to copyrighted material, rendering those sites especially vulnerable to lawsuits.[21] Several types of websites support the discovery and distribution of data on the BitTorrent network.

Public torrent hosting sites such as The Pirate Bay allow users to search and download from their collection of torrent files. Users can typically also upload torrent files for content they wish to distribute. Often, these sites also run BitTorrent trackers for their hosted torrent files, but these two functions are not mutually dependent: a torrent file could be hosted on one site and tracked by another, unrelated site.

Private host/tracker sites operate like public ones except that they restrict access to registered users and keep track of the amount of data each user uploads and downloads, in an attempt to reduce leeching.

Search engines allow the discovery of torrent files that are hosted and tracked on other sites; examples include Mininova, BTJunkie, Torrentz, The Pirate Bay, Eztorrent and isoHunt. These sites allow the user to ask for content meeting specific criteria (such as containing a given word or phrase) and retrieve a list of links to torrent files matching those criteria. This list can often be sorted with respect to several criteria, being relevance (seeders-leechers ratio) one of the most popular and useful (due to the way the protocol behaves, the download bandwidth achievable is very sensitive to this value). Bram Cohen launched a BitTorrent search engine on http://search.bittorrent.com that co-mingles licensed content with search results.[22] Metasearch engines allow one to search several BitTorrent indices and search engines at once.

Limitations[edit]

Content unavailability[edit]

Although swarming scales well to tolerate flash crowds for popular content, it is less useful for unpopular content. Peers arriving after the initial rush might find the content unavailable and need to wait for the arrival of a seed in order to complete their downloads. The seed arrival, in turn, may take long to happen, since maintaining seeds for unpopular content entails high bandwidth and administrative costs, which runs counter to the goals of publishers that value BitTorrent as a cheap alternative to a client-server approach. A strategy adopted by many publishers which significantly increases availability of unpopular content consists of bundling multiple files in a single swarm. [23]

Lack of anonymity[edit]

BitTorrent does not offer its users anonymity. It is possible to obtain the IP addresses of all current, and possibly previous, participants in a swarm from the tracker. This may expose users with insecure systems to attacks.[8] It may also expose users to the risk of being sued, if they are distributing files without permission from the copyright holder(s). However, there are ways to promote anonymity; for example, the OneSwarm project layers privacy-preserving sharing mechanisms on top of the original BitTorrent protocol.

The leech problem[edit]

A BitTorrent user may often choose to leave the swarm as soon as they have a complete copy of the file they are downloading, freeing up their outbound bandwidth for other uses. If enough users follow this pattern, torrent swarms gradually die out, meaning a lower possibility of obtaining older torrents (see content unavailability above). Some BitTorrent websites have attempted to address this by recording each user's download and upload ratio for all or just the user to see, as well as the provision of access to newer torrent files to people with better ratios. Users who have low upload ratios may see slower download speeds until they upload more. This prevents (statistical) leeching, since after a while they become unable to download at even a fraction of the theoretical bandwidth of their connection. Some trackers exempt dial-up users from this policy, because their uploading capabilities are limited. The BitTorrent protocol also attempts to minimize the damages of leeches by using only a portion of their bandwidth for one-directional trades and using the majority for two-directional trades that tend to help the swarm as a whole.

The cheater problem[edit]

There are "cheating" clients like BitThief which claim to be able to download without uploading. Such exploitation negatively affects the cooperative nature of the BitTorrent protocol, although it might prove useful for people in countries where uploading copyrighted material is illegal, but downloading is not.

Speed[edit]

Average BitTorrent download speed is usually the sum of that peer's upload speed and a fair share of the total upload of all the "seeders in the swarm" (peers logged with the tracker that have a complete copy of the file). The 'tit-for-tat' style file sharing of downloading peers is responsible for the portion of the available download that's the same as the peer's upload. The seeders attempt to provide fair shares by scattering pieces to a wide selection of the best performing peers.

ISPs often provide asymmetrical Internet connections, with much higher download than upload speeds. Since a peer can only download data that's been uploaded by another peer this asymmetry is suboptimal for the bittorrent protocol. This performance issue is most obvious during the early life of a swarm when there is only one peer that is seeding (has a complete copy of the file) and all the other peers have exactly the same portion of the file as each other. When you initially join such a swarm you will get very high download speeds as every other peer optimistically sends you pieces in the hope that you have something to send them. This will probably continue until the time your peer catches up with the rest of the swarm when your average download speed drops to exactly the same as the upload speed of the seeder. The data is uploaded by the seeder to one peer and that peer passes it on down the line to the next in the swarm and so forth to everyone in the swarm.

If all peers in the swarm have symmetrical connections the swarm becomes far more stable. During the initial startup the swarm will be less able to draw new arrivals to the current maximum level of the swarm so the "everybody becomes a seeder" threshold is much less of an instant switch and more of a controlled cascade. The balance between the upload and the download also means that the majority of a peer's download is as a result of the 'tit-for-tat' file sharing which reduces the cost of seeding to a swarm by forcing the natural ratio of a peer closer to the overall 1:1 requirement of the swarm as a whole. If this reduction in 'seeder cost' were to happen in the wild it would probably result in much longer lived swarms too.

As symmetrical connections are uncommon swarms are normally in the "seeder starved" state where there is very little seeder upload bandwidth available and each peer gets about the same download as its upload. Additional upload bandwidth can be made available to a swarm through the use of "seed boxes" and "http seeds" but this is quite rare with public torrents.

Technologies built on BitTorrent[edit]

The BitTorrent protocol is still under development and therefore may still acquire new features and other enhancements such as improved efficiency.

Distributed trackers[edit]

On May 2, 2005, Azureus 2.3.0.0 (now known as Vuze) was released,[24] introducing support for "trackerless" torrents through a system called the "distributed database." This system is a DHT implementation which allows the client to use torrents that do not have a working BitTorrent tracker. The following month, BitTorrent, Inc. released version 4.2.0 of the Mainline BitTorrent client, which supported an alternative DHT implementation (popularly known as "Mainline DHT") that is incompatible with that of Azureus. Current versions of the official BitTorrent client, µTorrent, BitComet, and BitSpirit all share compatibility with Mainline DHT. Both DHT implementations are based on Kademlia.[25] As of version 3.0.5.0, Azureus also supports Mainline DHT in addition to its own distributed database through use of an optional application plugin.[26] This potentially allows the Azureus client to reach a bigger swarm.

Another idea that has surfaced in Vuze is that of virtual torrents. This idea is based on the distributed tracker approach and is used to describe some web resource. Currently, it is used for instant messaging. It is implemented using a special messaging protocol and requires an appropriate plugin. Anatomic P2P is another approach, which uses a decentralized network of nodes that route traffic to dynamic trackers.

Most BitTorrent clients also use Peer exchange (PEX) to gather peers in addition to trackers and DHT. Peer exchange checks with known peers to see if they know of any other peers. With the 3.0.5.0 release of Vuze, all major BitTorrent clients now have compatible peer exchange.

Web seeding[edit]

Web seeding was implemented in 2006 as the ability of BitTorrent clients to download torrent pieces from an HTTP source in addition to the swarm. The advantage of this feature is that a site may distribute a torrent for a particular file or batch of files and make those files available for download from that same web server; this can simplify long term seeding and load balancing through the use of existing, cheap, web hosting setups. In theory, this would make using BitTorrent almost as easy for a web publisher as creating a direct http download, in addition it would allow the 'web seed' to be disabled if the swarm becomes too popular while still allowing the file to be readily available.

This feature has two specifications.

The first was created by John "TheSHAD0W" Hoffman, who created BitTornado.[27] From version 5.0 onward the Mainline BitTorrent client also supports web seeds and the BitTorrent web site had[28] a simple publishing tool that creates web seeded torrents.[29] µTorrent added support for web seeds in version 1.7. BitComet added support for web seeds in version 1.14. This first specification requires running a web service that serves content by info-hash and piece number, rather than filename.

The other specification can rely on a basic HTTP download space [30].

RSS feeds[edit]

A technique called Broadcatching combines RSS with the BitTorrent protocol to create a content delivery system, further simplifying and automating content distribution. Steve Gillmor explained the concept in a column for Ziff-Davis in December, 2003.[31] The discussion spread quickly among bloggers (Ernest Miller,[32] Chris Pirillo, etc.). In an article entitled Broadcatching with BitTorrent, Scott Raymond explained:

I want RSS feeds of BitTorrent files. A script would periodically check the feed for new items, and use them to start the download. Then, I could find a trusted publisher of an Alias RSS feed, and 'subscribe' to all new episodes of the show, which would then start downloading automatically — like the 'season pass' feature of the TiVo.

—Scott Raymond,  scottraymond.net[33]

The RSS feed will track the content, while BitTorrent ensures content integrity with cryptographic hashing of all data, so feed subscribers will receive uncorrupted content.

One of the first and popular software clients (free and open source) for broadcatching is Miro. Other free software clients such as PenguinTV and KatchTV are also now supporting broadcatching.

The BitTorrent web-service MoveDigital has the ability to make torrents available to any web application capable of parsing XML through its standard REST-based interface.[34] Additionally, Torrenthut is developing a similar torrent API that will provide the same features, as well as further intuition to help bring the torrent community to Web 2.0 standards. Alongside this release is a first PHP application built using the API called PEP, which will parse any Really Simple Syndication (RSS 2.0) feed and automatically create and seed a torrent for each enclosure found in that feed.[35]

Throttling and encryption[edit]

Since BitTorrent makes up a large proportion of total traffic, some ISPs have chosen to throttle (slow down) BitTorrent transfers to ensure network capacity remains available for other uses. For this reason, methods have been developed to disguise BitTorrent traffic in an attempt to thwart these efforts.[36]

Protocol header encrypt (PHE) and Message stream encryption/Protocol encryption (MSE/PE) are features of some BitTorrent clients that attempt to make BitTorrent hard to detect and throttle. At the moment Vuze, Bitcomet, KTorrent, Transmission, Deluge, µTorrent, MooPolice, Halite, rTorrent and the latest official BitTorrent client (v6) support MSE/PE encryption.

In September 2006 it was reported that some software could detect and throttle BitTorrent traffic masquerading as HTTP traffic.[37]

Reports in August 2007 indicated that Comcast was preventing BitTorrent seeding by monitoring and interfering with the communication between peers. Protection against these efforts is provided by proxying the client-tracker traffic via an encrypted tunnel to a point outside of the Comcast network.[38] Comcast has more recently called a 'truce' with BitTorrent, Inc. with the intention of shaping traffic in a protocol-agnostic manner.[39] Questions about the ethics and legality of Comcast's behavior have led to renewed debate about Net neutrality in the United States.[40]

In general, although encryption can make it difficult to determine what is being shared, BitTorrent is vulnerable to traffic analysis. Thus even with MSE/PE, it may be possible for an ISP to recognize BitTorrent and also to determine that a system is no longer downloading but only uploading data, and terminate its connection by injecting TCP RST (reset flag) packets.

Multitracker[edit]

Another unofficial feature is an extension to the BitTorrent metadata format proposed by John Hoffman[41] and implemented by several indexing websites. It allows the use of multiple trackers per file, so if one tracker fails, others can continue supporting file transfer. It is implemented in several clients, such as BitComet, BitTornado, BitTorrent, KTorrent, Transmission, Deluge, µTorrent, rtorrent and Vuze. Trackers are placed in groups, or tiers, with a tracker randomly chosen from the top tier and tried, moving to the next tier if all the trackers in the top tier fail.

Torrents with multiple trackers[42] can decrease the time it takes to download a file, but also has a few consequences:

  • Poorly implemented[43] clients may contact multiple trackers, leading to more overhead-traffic.
  • Torrents from closed trackers suddenly become downloadable by non-members, as they can connect to a seed via an open tracker.

Decentralized keyword search[edit]

Even with distributed trackers, a third party is still required to find a specific torrent. This is usually done in the form of a hyperlink from the website of the content owner or through indexing websites like The Pirate Bay or Torrentz.

The Tribler BitTorrent client is the first to incorporate decentralized search capabilities. With Tribler, users can find .torrent files that are hosted among other peers, instead of on a centralized index sites. It adds such an ability to the BitTorrent protocol using a gossip protocol, somewhat similar to the eXeem network which was shut down in 2005. The software includes the ability to recommend content as well. After a dozen downloads the Tribler software can roughly estimate the download taste of the user and recommend additional content.[44]

In May 2007 Cornell University published a paper proposing a new approach to searching a peer-to-peer network for inexact strings,[45] which could replace the functionality of a central indexing site. A year later, the same team implemented the system as a plugin for Vuze called Cubit[46] and published a follow-up paper reporting its success.[47]

A somewhat similar facility but with a slightly different approach is provided by the BitComet client through its "Torrent Exchange"[48] feature. Whenever two peers using BitComet (with Torrent Exchange enabled) connect to each other they exchange lists of all the torrents (name and info-hash) they have in the Torrent Share storage (torrent files which were previously downloaded and for which the user chose to enable sharing by Torrent Exchange).

Thus each client builds up a list of all the torrents shared by the peers it connected to in the current session (or it can even maintain the list between sessions if instructed). At any time the user can search into that Torrent Collection list for a certain torrent and sort the list by categories. When the user chooses to download a torrent from that list, the .torrent file is automatically searched for (by info-hash value) in the DHT Network and when found it is downloaded by the querying client which can after that create and initiate a downloading task.

GitTorrent[edit]

The GitTorrent Protocol (GTP)[49] is, as of 2008, an alpha-version of a protocol designed for collaborative git repository distribution across the Internet.

Implementations[edit]

  • Servers: Some BitTorrent implementations such as MLDonkey and Torrentflux are designed to run as servers. For example, this can be used to centralize file sharing on a single dedicated server which users share access to on the network. [50]
  • Hosted: Server-oriented BitTorrent implementations can also be hosted by hosting providers at co-located facilities with high bandwidth Internet connectivity (e.g., a datacenter) which can provide dramatic speed benefits over using BitTorrent from a regular home broadband connection.
  • Web services: Services such as ImageShack can download files on BitTorrent for the user, allowing them to download the entire file by HTTP once it is finished.
  • Hardware devices: An increasing number of hardware devices are being made to support BitTorrent. These include routers and NAS devices that use BitTorrent-capable firmware like OpenWrt.
  • Proprietary versions: Proprietary versions of the protocol which implement DRM, encryption, and authentication are found within managed clients such as Pando.

Development[edit]

An as-yet (2 February 2008) unimplemented unofficial feature is Similarity Enhanced Transfer (SET), a technique for improving the speed at which peer-to-peer file sharing and content distribution systems can share data. SET, proposed by researchers Pucha, Andersen, and Kaminsky, works by spotting chunks of identical data in files that are an exact or near match to the one needed and transferring these data to the client if the 'exact' data are not present. Their experiments suggested that SET will help greatly with less popular files, but not as much for popular data, where many peers are already downloading it.[52] Andersen believes that this technique could be immediately used by developers with the BitTorrent file sharing system.[53]

As of December 2008, BitTorrent, Inc. is working with Oversi on new Policy Discover Protocols that query the ISP for capabilities and network architecture information. Oversi's ISP hosted NetEnhancer box is designed to "improve peer selection" by helping peers find local nodes, improving download speeds while reducing the loads into and out of the ISP's network.[54]

Legal issues[edit]

There has been much controversy over the use of BitTorrent trackers. BitTorrent metafiles themselves do not store copyrighted data. Whether the publishers of BitTorrent metafiles violate copyrights by linking to copyrighted material is controversial.

Various jurisdictions have pursued legal action against websites that host BitTorrent trackers. High-profile examples include the closing of Suprnova.org, Torrentspy, LokiTorrent, Mininova and OiNK.cd. The Pirate Bay torrent website, formed by a Swedish group, is noted for the "legal" section of its website in which letters and replies on the subject of alleged copyright infringements are publicly displayed. On 31 May 2006, The Pirate Bay's servers in Sweden were raided by Swedish police on allegations by the MPAA of copyright infringement;[55] however, the tracker was up and running again three days later.

HBO, in an effort to combat the distribution of its programming on BitTorrent networks, has sent cease and desist letters to the Internet Service Providers of BitTorrent users. Many users have reported receiving letters from their ISPs that threatened to cut off their Internet service if the alleged infringement continues.[56] HBO, unlike the RIAA, has not been reported to have filed suit against anyone for sharing files as of April 2007. In 2005 HBO began "poisoning" torrents of its show Rome, by providing bad chunks of data to clients.[57] BitTorrent clients will eventually realize that the data is corrupted, but this does make it take longer to download.

On 23 November 2005, the movie industry and BitTorrent Inc. CEO Bram Cohen, signed a deal they hoped would reduce the number of unlicensed copies available through bittorrent.com's search engine, run by BitTorrent, Inc. It meant BitTorrent.com had to remove any links to unlicensed copies of films made by seven of Hollywood's major movie studios.

More recently, the BitTorrent network has been subject to scrutiny by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). There are suggestions that they are using the network to obtain the IP addresses of those currently connected to the tracker. The information is then used to contact the ISP of each downloader so that notifications can be made (this was given sizeable coverage in the UK press with regard to Virgin Media sending letters out to customers suspected of using P2P networks).

There are two major differences between BitTorrent and many other peer-to-peer file-trading systems, which advocates suggest make it less useful to those sharing copyrighted material without authorization. First, BitTorrent itself does not offer a search facility to find files by name. A user must find the initial torrent file by other means, such as a web search. Second, BitTorrent makes no attempt to conceal the host ultimately responsible for facilitating the sharing: a person who wishes to make a file available must run a tracker on a specific host or hosts and distribute the tracker address(es) in the .torrent file. Because it is possible to operate a tracker on a server that is located in a jurisdiction where the copyright holder cannot take legal action, the protocol does offer some vulnerability that other protocols lack. It is far easier to request that the server's ISP shut down the site than it is to find and identify every user sharing a file on a peer-to-peer network. However, with the use of a distributed hash table (DHT), trackers are no longer required, though often used for client software that does not support DHT to connect to the stream.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Presenting.. Anomos! Censorship-Resistant, Anonymous BitTorrent". Anomos Liberty Enhancements. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  2. ^ Urvoy-Keller (December 2006). "Rarest First and Choke Algorithms Are Enough" (PDF). imconf.net. Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  3. ^ Theory.org
  4. ^ a b Cohen, Bram (October 2002). "BitTorrent Protocol 1.0". BitTorrent.org. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  5. ^ "Unofficial BitTorrent Protocol Specification v1.0". Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  6. ^ "Private Torrents". Bittorrent.org. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  7. ^ "BitComet Banned From Growing Number of Private Trackers". Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  8. ^ a b Tamilmani, Karthik (2003-10-25). "Studying and enhancing the BitTorrent protocol" (DOC). Stony Brook University. Retrieved 2006-05-06. 
  9. ^ See, for example, Why Bit Torrent at tasvideos.org
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  40. ^ Is Comcast's BitTorrent filtering violating the law?
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  42. ^ Called MultiTorrents by indexing website myBittorrent.com
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  50. ^ Torrent Server combines a file server with P2P file sharing
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  52. ^ Himabindu Pucha, David G. Andersen, Michael Kaminsky (April 2007). "Exploiting Similarity for Multi-Source Downloads Using File Handprints". Purdue University, Carnegie Mellon University, Intel Research Pittsburgh. Retrieved 2007-04-15. 
  53. ^ "Speed boost plan for file-sharing". BBC News. 12 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  54. ^ Arstechnica.com
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  56. ^ Henderson, Maryanne (21 March 2006). "Safenet (for HBO) Letter to Charter Communications - Part 2.jpg". Tallinn Wordpress. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  57. ^ Torkington, Nat (4 October 2005). "HBO Attacking BitTorrent". O'Reilly.com. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Pouwelse, Johan; et al. (2005). "The Bittorrent P2P File-Sharing System: Measurements and Analysis". Peer-to-Peer Systems IV. Berlin: Springer. pp. 205–216. doi:10.1007/11558989_19. ISBN 9783540290681. 

External links[edit]