Peer-to-peer or rather most commonly known for its short abbreviation, P2P, is a type of network communication between users or peers. A P2P network is most commonly used to download torrents or other P2P files. Data and files are directly available to other networks as a P2P network does not require a centralized server or a host. A P2P software allows users to connect with each other instead of the need to connect to server or host when searching and downloading a content.
Typically, internet users are connected to website servers when they are surfing around or plan to download content. This creates a one way connection to each website they visit. Since a particular website can have many visitors at one given time, file transfers can be extremely slow.
In a P2P network, a P2P software can locate copies of a particular file within that network. It then allows a user to have multiple connections to a number of sources or peers who possesses that file. Once the user receives that file, it is then automatically uploaded for other users who are also searching for it. This enables a faster data and file transfers between peers, especially for large files. Below are some common terms used in a P2P network:
- Seeders– Users who have a complete file and are sharing it to others
- Leechers – Users who are searching for a file to download
- Swarm – A network of seeders and leechers making a particular file available
- Torrent – A pointer file that has information of a file to be distributed and its location
In 1999, a file sharing system called Napster made the development of P2P networks more popular. Napster emphasized on sharing music or audio files encoded in MP3 format. Despite being known throughout the world as a place to obtain free MP3 files, Napster ran into legal difficulties for copyright issues by music artist and recording labels. Although they have been shut down, the concept of a file sharing network has inspired the growth of many new developments over the internet.