Torrenting. You’ve heard about it, talked about it, and probably even enjoyed something that came from it without you knowing. But, you’ve probably misunderstood it.
What is Torrenting?
Simply put, Torrenting is a highly efficient way to transfer files through the Internet. This is usually done through a client like BitTorrent.
To torrent, you first download a torrent file from a torrent site. These files come straight from other users (seeders) who are willingly sharing their file to other peers. Once you download the torrent file, you feed it to a client. The client tells you what file you’ve downloaded and where it can be found.
A person looking to download a certain file can directly download it from another person (peer). The more peers that are seeding (sharing the file), the quicker a file can be downloaded and the less burden it will be to the seeders. It’s because of this method of file sharing that makes torrenting such a great way to share files to millions of users across the Internet in so little time.
Herein lies the problem with torrenting. Because people are downloading files directly from other users and not from a single source (official website for the media being downloaded), it makes pirating those files really easy and quick.
This is why, as you may have already heard, torrenting is looked upon with disdain especially by businesses losing profits from potential sales of pirated files.
But, torrenting isn’t all bad. In fact, it has actually helped A LOT of businesses already- even bigger ones like Facebook!
How torrents can benefit businesses
1. You can give your customers JUST what they want
On-demand access has always been a big hit with consumers but the broadcasting industry always seemed to miss this point. They’d only show reruns of popular shows 10 years later.
In 2005, David Poltrack, Executive Vice President at CBS, has said:
"In our research with consumers, content-on-demand is the killer app. They like the idea of paying only for what they watch. Currently, the television industry seems to be interested in the potential of this protocol, as their revenues are derived from advertising which can still be employed in internet-based variations, rather than consumer supported content sales. Based on reports from January 26, 2005, almost 10% of traffic on the Internet 2 academic network was carried on the BitTorrent protocol. A recent report announced that due to delays by broadcasters in airing new content, TV program pirating in Australia is rampant, accounting for 15.6% of all torrent traffic."
This line of thinking gained some traction with other broadcasting companies in the following years. In 2008, the CBC became the first North American public broadcaster to make a full show (Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister) available for download using BitTorrent.
In 2013, Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, had this to say about pirating (torrenting):
“Yes, Bewkes said, "I have to admit it, I think you're right." The much-discussed fantasy series is HBO's most popular, and "if you go to people who are watching it without subs, it's a tremendous word-of-mouth thing," the exec told investors. "We've been dealing with this for 20, 30 years—people sharing subs, running wires down the backs of apartment buildings. Our experience is that it leads to more paying subs. I think you're right that Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world," he said. "That's better than an Emmy."
“People often pirate because there’s just no supply for what they demand” is a fact embraced by Warner Bros. already. They’ve even gone on to say that piracy tells them what consumers want:
“Generally speaking, we view piracy as a proxy of consumer demand...Accordingly, enforcement related efforts are balanced with looking at ways to adjust or develop business models to take advantage of that demand by offering fans what they are looking for when they are looking for it.”
2. A quick way to get exposure
If you create creative content like music, films, or videos, but you lack the proper exposure to get your career going, sharing your work on torrent sites is a sure way to get noticed by millions of people quickly.
You might think that “Exposure from pirated work won’t get you anywhere” but you’d be wrong.
In fact, Mystery Science Theater 3000, a TV show that aired from the late 80s to the late 90s remained on the air due to the exposure it had with fans. The fans had taped and shared episodes of the first season as they held true to the show’s credits that said: “keep circulating the tapes”.
This exposure even causes the show’s revival in 2015 when it became the Internet’s most crowdfunded video project.
3. Distributing large amounts of data
This is actually what torrenting was made for. Extremely useful if your company is looking to distribute large quantities of data like Business files, Educational material, Government resources, Massive OS installs, Photograph collections, or Scientific evidence.
By using torrents, your company isn’t only distributing data quickly, you’re also saving a ton of bandwidth.
This form of sharing is so efficient that even Facebook and Twitter use it internally to update their servers.
4. Updating or downloading software
Game companies like Blizzard Entertainment have used BitTorrent to distribute content, patches, and updates for their most popular games like World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and StarCraft.
Torrenting is also a great way to download Linux ISOs which are offered for free and are often 1 GB or more.
Other major open source and free software also encourage BitTorrent as an alternative means to download their products. This is mainly to improve availability and reduce the stress on their own servers.
A word of warning
Downloading files directly from other users comes with its own dangers as well. These dangers come in the form of malware that hackers insert into the files they seed.
Another problem is that your ISP may throttle your connection. This is because ISPs commonly disapprove of torrenting for its relation to pirating- even if you’ve gotten permission from the original source of the file.