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 are the bread and butter of torrents. When a user “seeds” a torrent, they are uploading small chunks of the torrent at a time to one or more fellow users. Of course, in order 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 lots of seeds for a torrent, each seed 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.
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. Most of the time, if you don't seed according to their rules, your account will be terminated.
Is it Legal to Seed a Torrent?
Depending on where you live, copyright laws can drastically vary. One commonality in most countries’ copyright infringement laws is that “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, it’s likely at least a small amount of data will be shared. That’s just one of many reasons that it’s always prudent to use a secure VPN while torrenting.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are typically so-called “leechers” on torrents. The term may sound derogatory, but being a leecher isn’t always a bad thing. Just as a “seeder” only uploads files, a “leecher” only downloads from torrents.
The nature of P2P technology makes it so that everyone other than the creator 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.
What separates a “leecher” from a “peer” is what the user does once they have downloaded enough files 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.
Trackers and Leechers
Every torrent community uses a “tracker”. Trackers are servers that keep tallies of the volume of data each member of the community uploads and downloads. While the general expectation is that you seed the amount that you leech, this is not per torrent.
For example, say you seed 10 GB of “Video A” for a torrent community. Later, a user uploads Video B that is 8 GB. You can safely download “Video B” without seeding if you wish. This is because the tracker will remember that you seeded that 10 GB earlier.
We’ve covered the polar opposites of leechers and seeders. Most users actively torrenting are not considered solely leechers or seeders. In order to be considered a “peer” on a torrent, a user has to be both seeding and leeching.
You can be an active member of a P2P community without knowing many technical details. However, you should generally know how torrents work, which is quite simple. Since there’s no size limit on torrents, they’re downloaded in “chunks”. These chunks are small bits of data, but they all add up to the full size of the torrent.
As a peer downloads a chunk, it’s verified with the tracker. This is a security measure to make sure someone isn’t sneaking something malicious into the download. Once it’s verified, the peer continues to download files. As leechers enter the “swarm” of users, the peer is able to upload all the chunks they’ve received while they download new chunks.
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.
If you still have questions about what all of this means, that’s a good sign! It means that you’re probably a great fit for the P2P world. Remember that torrenting communities are built around sharing media and knowledge.
Many users on P2P forums are well-versed in torrenting and would be happy to answer your questions. Browsing and participating in these is a great way to dive deeper and perhaps make some new online friends!