I’m quite sure everyone reading this already knows what a torrent is. If you don’t, a quick search on Google for “What is a torrent” will give you the answer, and if you are in a hurry, here’s the short version: a torrent is basically an improved version of Peer-to-Peer, where you copy and share files directly from other users’ computers, instead of a central location like a web or ftp server. There has to be at least one computer dedicated to managing the transfers, called a tracker.
When you want to copy a file from a torrent, the tracker gives you the addresses of all other people that have that file, and manages your upload and download speeds (for example, those who upload at a higher speed, can also download faster, and downloading from the same country is usually also faster). So, you must give/upload as much as possible to get the highest download speed.
For a long time, torrents have been associated with illegal activity and cyber piracy, as the first ones to use them were people who shared movies, music, programs and other copyrighted files. Even now, most of the torrent users are doing this (whether that is good or bad for the copyright holders is another question).
But that is not the only way torrents can be used. Big and small companies are starting to realize that it is much more effective and cheaper to let their users host what they share, instead of keeping it on their servers, which can always go down due to overload or other technical problems (take for example Microsoft’s servers when they released the free test version of Windows Vista and 7, or CrunchyRoll’s frequently-inaccessible online-TV streams).
A few TV companies already started streaming their shows via torrents (although in a bit more complicated setup, which uses advanced copyright protection techniques). The Open Source community has been doing this for a few years now (users download software & operating systems like Ubuntu and OpenSuse via torrents), as they simply don’t have the money for the insane bandwidth they’re using.
So, as you can see, there is a future for torrents, and it’s most probably not going to fade away like P2P. If you are using or planning to use them, here are a few simple but powerful tips to help you get the highest download speed possible. They are a bit technical, so I assume you know your way around a computer (plus, the images should help a lot).