The Internet connects computers around the world together, which allows us to send all sorts of things across the globe, from emails to music and videos. BitTorrent uses the Internet to share things - like movies, TV shows, and music - faster by creating a network of BitTorrent users.
Let’ take the example of a movie. Before BitTorrent if you wanted to get a movie through the Internet and onto your computer you would need to connect to the one place where the movie was stored. How fast you could get your movie would depend on how strong the connection was. Lots of things can slow your connection down, like hundreds of other people trying to get at the same movie from the same place:
Now getting that movie doesn’t rely on just one connection but instead with BitTorrent you’ll connect to lots of places that have it. You’ll be able to get hold of your movie quicker because you’ll be grabbing different bits of it from several different places at the same time:
So how does it work in practice? First off you need to download a special programme onto your computer called a BitTorrent client. Then you need to give it a piece of information that is like a request for what you want, such as a movie. Lots of websites out there catalogue this information so you can search for what you’re looking for. Plug your request into your BitTorrent client and you’ll connect to anyone else around the globe who also has a BitTorrent client and the movie you’re looking for. Your BitTorrent client will start grabbing bits of the movie – usually not in order - until you’ve got the whole thing on your computer. It will then put it together in the right order so you can watch it.
Once you’ve got it on your computer, it’s time for a role reversal; you can now act a place for someone else to connect to if they want that movie too. In BitTorrent language, when you get something from someone else you’re a peer and when someone else gets something from you, you’re a seed. The BitTorrent way of sharing stuff is called peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing.