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Many people don’t realize, but the word BitTorrent is used in several contexts. It can mean 4 different things:

BitTorrent Protocol

What is BitTorrent?

This is the file exchange protocol, the technology that allows us to share files via torrent. It’s a peer to peer (P2P) protocol. Peers download and upload to other peers that are downloading the same file. This way, one single file supports many simultaneous downloads.

Imagine a file broken into many pieces. You, as a peer, download from many sources (other peers) at the same time, who have the pieces that you still don’t have. And you are uploading exactly the same way, sending the pieces to other peers who still don’t have the ones you have. That’s what makes it so efficient and fast. As soon as you have one piece of the file, you start sharing it, not having to wait for the whole file to download. Now imagine thousands of peers downloading and immediately uploading one file between them. The pieces are literally exchanged at a fast pace between all the peers.

BitTorrent Client

It’s the program that handles your torrent downloads. It initiates the file sharing, it gives you all the info about other peers, speeds, statistics, etc… It communicates with the tracker to find and connect you with other peers that are sharing the same file. There are many clients such as Vuze, uTorrent and Transmission. We actually wrote a blog post with our selection of the best BitTorrent clients.

A BitTorrent Client called BitTorrent

This is a specific client called BitTorrent, which was the first one.

BitTorrent Inc.

It’s a company, the guys that made it all possible. They created the P2P protocol and also the first client. Basically, if you are a proper torrent user, these are the guys whom you owe a big thank you.

To make things simple, BitTorrent Inc. created the BitTorrent protocol for people to share files. To do so, we need a BitTorrent client, such as… BitTorrent.

Note:

You probably heard about the legal issues that are connected with BitTorrent. We made a post where we discuss the legality of torrenting. Make sure you have a look.