What are Seeders, Peers and Leechers?

If you’ve recently delved into the world of torrenting, there are probably three words you see repetitively. “Seeder”, “Leecher”, and “Peer” refer to how a P2P user is behaving. We’ll look at what these terms mean and explore their implications in the context of P2P communities.

Seeders

Seeders are the bread and butter of torrents. When users seed a torrent, they upload small chunks of the file to one or more fellow users. Of course, to seed a torrent, you first need to have obtained the torrent’s contents yourself.

If you create a torrent, you will need to initially seed it. This means you’ll need to allow at least one other user to download the content as you upload it. From that point on, the number of seeds can exponentially grow as more people grab the torrent.

Once there are many seeds for a torrent, each one doesn’t need to upload too much. This is when the beauty of decentralized P2P architecture shines. Torrents with thousands of seeds can hit speeds that standard downloads wouldn’t come near.

A Note on Torrent Etiquette

Although it may seem tempting to download a torrent and not seed it, this is considered poor etiquette in the P2P world. Keep in mind that torrent trackers note the volume you download and upload; ideally, you should try to upload at least as much as you download. And that’s when the ratio comes in.

Flags showing support for seeding torrents

What does Ratio mean in Torrenting?

Torrent sites often use the term “ratio”. It simply refers to the ratio of data uploaded to data downloaded. Generally, higher ratios are better to have. For example, a ratio of 1.000 means that you gave as much as you took.

Whether it’s necessary to have a good ratio depends on the type of P2P server you’re on. Ratios on public trackers typically don’t matter over time. On the other hand, your ratio on private trackers does matter. If you don’t seed according to their rules, moderators of that community will likely terminate your account.

Is it Legal to Seed a Torrent?

Depending on where you live, copyright laws can drastically vary. In most countries, distributing is often seen as worse than downloading without authorization.

In some cases, it could even be legal to download content but illegal to upload it. Remember that even if you don’t intend to upload anything, your BitTorrent client will likely share a small amount of data. That’s just one of many reasons why many people use a secure VPN while torrenting.

Use a VPN for Torrenting

Leechers

A leecher downloading a torrent

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are typically so-called leechers on torrents. The term sounds derogatory, intending to look down at users who don’t contribute to a healthy file-sharing ecosystem. Just as a seeder only uploads files, a leecher only downloads from torrents.

The nature of P2P technology makes it so that everyone is considered a leecher at some point. When a popular torrent has just been released, you’ll often see one or two seeders and hundreds or thousands of leechers.

Peers

We’ve covered the polar opposites of leechers and seeders. Most users actively torrenting are not considered leechers or seeders solely. To be considered a peer on a torrent, a user has to be both seeding and leeching.

Peers seeding and leeching at the same time

Trackers decide what peers download and upload

A peer does both jobs; downloading and seeding. And, considering a torrent file is divided into many pieces, how does your BitTorrent client know exactly which pieces to send and receive?

As a peer downloads a chunk, it’s verified with the torrent tracker. As leechers enter the “swarm” of users, the tracker knows which pieces the peer has to send. That way, the peer can upload all the chunks they’ve received while they download new ones.

In other words, the tracker knows what each user already has and what is lacking. Its job is to establish a connection between users to exchange torrent pieces.

Upload and Download Speeds As a Peer

Especially if your Internet connection isn’t the fastest, you might be thinking that being a peer is out of your range. After all, many connections have much slower upload than download speeds. This is one reason many novice users remain leechers rather than peers on torrents.

It may seem paradoxical, but your download speed will likely be faster if you also seed. Trackers give preference to users who are open to seeding. The only scenario where you would only seed would be if nobody else online has the rest of the torrent.

Wrapping Up

What separates a leecher from a peer and a seeder is what the user does once they have downloaded enough to begin seeding. A user remains counted as a leecher if they download a torrent’s files but fail to share them with other users.

Remember that torrenting communities are built around sharing media and knowledge.

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