The history of torrents, which saved millions of Belarusians


Illustrative photo

The author of the revolutionary technology taught the basic five.

Some things have always existed — sometimes the impression is created, when I remember something familiar that entered the life long and well. Cell phones, for example. In Belarus they nurtured several generations, and the world without these “friends” they don’t know. Computers, televisions, washing machines — the list is long. But it has intangible manifestations of technology.

In the material about the founding of Netflix one of the readers Onliner planted an interesting idea: to write about the creators of torrents. “They helped to save billions of dollars all users,” said Igarrrrr. Why not? It will be about Bram Cohen, who developed BitTorrent.

Taught the basic five

Once many years ago, the notion of peer-to-peer, which is slowly but surely penetrated to the masses. It is believed that Tim Berners-Leeinventing what later became “the web”, seen her in such P2P networks (peringuey or peer-to-peer) — when each individual user is a member and the element. At the dawn of the “Internet for the masses” about how it was.

In the definition of P2P network there are a lot of buzzwords which we omit, leaving only the important: in such a network, each computer (or device connected to the “Internet”) is a full part of it, node. That is the “most important” servers are usually not, everyone communicates with everyone else directly. Therefore, the lack of a single node will not affect the operation of such a network (of course, with proper number of nodes).

Studied the basic five

And now does not smoothly move to the P2P-Protocol BitTorrent, which is so loved by many Belarusians familiar with the Internet. And which was coined almost 20 years ago an American computer programmer Bram Cohen. It will be discussed below.

Bram became interested in computers not just. He was born in new York in 1975, grew up in one of the districts of Manhattan. His father was a science teacher and densely studied IT at the time. True or not, is not the test, but according to Bram, the basic he began to study at the age of five. According to others, the future engineer was a little older when I started to be actively interested in programming.

“My father taught me basic and rudimentary C, the rest I studied by myself, including the theory of computational complexity,” said Bram later.

Classmates, the future Creator of the Protocol and BitTorrent client shipped with his knowledge, and started a debate on the topic, what is better, Commodore 64 or Timex Sinclair computers. And to 10 years Bram was able to outdo the older programmers. Parents supported the son, sending him to a special school with mathematical bias — Stuyvesant High School.

Studied, but was bored. Became a programmer

Then the guy continued his studies at the state University of new York at Buffalo, but, as usually happens with passionate people, it quickly became boring. It was in 1995. Then there was the heyday of the Internet, which soon transformirovalsya in the economic bubble.

The unwillingness to keep learning and trying to find work in software companies is sometimes associated with Bram diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. In this state, an adult violated the mechanisms responsible for the interaction in society, from the outside it can be perceived as “weird”, “uncomfortable”. But this is only the outer shell.

At the same time, people in this state are able to fully concentrate on the details, they quickly notice the patterns in the puzzles, they have a better idea of the different complex models and patterns.

In an interview in 2005, Bram, answering the question, did the Asperger’s syndrome on his professional activities, said: “I don’t know. I tend to dive into the technical aspects of the problems, very long keeping attention on something specific. This is generally considered a trait of a good programmer, but a feature of the character of a person with Asperger’s syndrome”. Did the presence of the syndrome positively or negatively on programming skills, to say, according to him, it is difficult — “I can’t compare different”.

In 1997, Bram moved to San Francisco, where from across the country massed American programmers. The work of Bram to find was easy with his knowledge and experience. Especially here like mushrooms after a rain grow “urban” startups. Yes, as a rule, they did not survive, but at some time they lacked. Although some difficulties were: Bram did not recognize a clear work schedule (“to be at work from 8 to 5”), and the presence of the dress code took up in arms. Given these traits and other character traits to get along in the team, he was not too easy.

Invented BitTorrent. Promoted the project with the help of porn and Linux distribution

The last refuge of a Cohen before beginning a “new era” was the company MojoNation. Here Bram came a salaried employee, and probably here he formed the idea of creating a BitTorrent. The fact that the firm engaged in the development of platforms, algorithms and protocols to transfer files in encrypted form. Files are broken into fragments and stored on different computers, and downloaded simultaneously from everywhere.

Yes, in part idea was in the air, so in that period at different times came Napster, KaZaA and similar P2P services. However, they were organized differently, and therefore their effectiveness from the point of view of data availability and speed of transmission arranged not all. And Cohen in particular. Say a special “mental anguish” he has caused thoughts about using FTP clients, without which at that time was neither here nor there.

So around 2001 starts something that changed the Internet. And this is no exaggeration: after a few years the share of BitTorrent accounting for half of global Internet traffic. In April of this year, Bram out of MojoNation, implements the BitTorrent Protocol and wrote the first Python client to work with him.

He invented the idea voiced at the conference for hackers, CodeCon — it was conceived as a place for exchange of experience, presentation of new technologies and software, but not produce. The organizers and initiators of CodeCon, by the way, became Bram Cohen and Sassaman (the latter was known as “cyberpunk” and an expert on cryptography, he worked for PGP).

Cohen, to assert themselves and move the project used a “forbidden” technique — pornography. I gathered a collection of free adult content, Bram lured so the first beta testers — early versions of BitTorrent, it started to spread in the summer of 2001.

However, the driver of growth in the popularity of the new Protocol was not porn, and Linux (although someone can say that special is no difference). In 2003 Red Hat Linux 9 was released, demand was so high that the servers of the company “fell”. It is believed that “patient zero” was a German student Eike frost. He was worth a fresh the distribution has been installed BitTorrent client and had Internet access.

The link appeared on the website Slashdot, where surged the crowd of users. For three days, they generated more than 21 terabytes of traffic at peak times, the data were distributed and accepted 4,5 thousand computers General speed of 1.4 GB/s. As you, Elon Musk?

Yes, today such indicators more difficult to surprise, but remember, it was 2003. According to frost, if he used the home Internet, the distribution would have cost him $20-60 thousand. And so the $99 is the price for the server from which the passed data.

Worked in Valve. Helped with Steam and Half-life 2

The name Bram sounded louder, found out about it , Gabe Newell, who was going to present to the world a new product — Steam. Why? And make it easier to distribute Half-Life 2. The programmer hired — presumably in October 2003. No details, but we know that Cohen was working on an effective distribution system (THE Steam client and HL2, respectively). Newell then publicly praised Bram for his achievements with BitTorrent.

However, at Valve, he didn’t stay long, leaving the company in early 2004 to found his own firm — BitTorrent, Inc. He was supported by brother Ross Cohen and Ashwin the Avin. Avin, by the way, in 2006 bought the popular client uTorrent, and began to take steps to improve the commercial attractiveness BitTorrent. In the same 2006 Ross, who held the position of CTO, was kicked out of BitTorrent, Inc. Why? Something went wrong, I guess.

After the founding of the startup company began to develop and attract investment, Bram had negotiations with the rights holders, arguing that piracy is not its element, and BitTorrent invented to make the Internet more comfortable. Perhaps, users overall, as in 2005, half the Internet traffic generated by users of the known Protocol. “Pitching” rocked, Internet service providers have complained about them and resisted.

The problem is not far-fetched: high load revealed some weaknesses of carrier infrastructure, and user equipment. Gradually all “ustakanilos”, although it is often perceived as something not really related with legal software. So you can often hear: “I’m going to buy something with a discount on a torrent”. That is, in this case, we can say that the Protocol devised by Graham Cohen, helped the Belarusians to “save” millions of… Bram later dryly answered questions about piracy. Not because avoided, and because the subject is just uninteresting to him.

Sold BitTorrent, went to the cryptocurrency


Bram Cohen in 2013. Photo: BBC

The main achievement of Bram Cohen was that he changed the Internet. Even if these changes will not please everyone. In 2018, a year after the sale of BitTorrent, Inc. (Rainberry, Inc. at the time) CryptoStream TRON Cohen left the company. According to others, the developer of the BitTorrent Protocol left his brainchild in 2017, becoming the co-founder of the platform Chia.Network.

Bonus: remembered Torrents.by

Today torrents, though experiencing pressure from copyright holders and law continued good health. However, there are exceptions. Remember the “sack”? In early April 2016, the oldest and at the time the largest “live” torrent tracker in Belarus Torrents.by stopped working. Remained afloat for about ten years.

We decided to povoroshit past and talked to Sergey, who at the time was the administrator Torrents.by in the development, design, implementation of new features, bug fixes and similar work. He recalled why the tracker was closed down and what had. Although the reasons for the closure are known, they are banal and obvious: first of all, this change in legislation.

“Especially given the Russian owners. The first official closure (2015 or 2016, I do not remember exactly) did Denis, founder of the resource, that’s why. Then all the rights he gave me.

I tried several times to revive the resource, but to the main reason, added to other. This small demand — many have a high-speed bezlimita, “guest” has gone down in history, there was a decline in interest — fewer relizerov, since it takes time (and who wants to leave the computer to distribute, easier to download and go), and financial problems.

Initially, the project (according to Denis) has paid off. Enough for rent, and even snow cones remained. But after the first closure, when the project was handed to me, was only minus. He’s always been for me project “for the soul”, and I gave him a lot of time and effort, therefore, continued to support him. Even though it was for me expensive”, — says Sergey.

On the site existed, though not too much more distribution. “It was quite a lot relizerov that handing out your unique content. For example, I really liked the build from TimON, he specially made them for Torrents.by” — said Sergey. But over time they disappeared.

After a series of discoveries-closings, claims from Russian and Belarusian right holders had to leave the only forum that attendance collapsed. Sergey tried to transform the tracker in the online theater, but the niche was too saturated with competitors.

“A waste of time and money. So I decided to close. Not yet invented, in that it can’t even “reformat”,” — Sergey puts an end to the era of the Belarusian torrents. And the BitTorrent Protocol continues to evolve.