Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The BitTorrent Effect

Bram Cohen

Wired has written an interesting piece on Bram Cohen and his baby (for those who don't know, it's bittorrent). An excerpt:


"That was a bad move," Bram Cohen tells me. We're huddled over a table in his Bellevue, Washington, house playing a board game called Amazons. Cohen picked it up two weeks ago and has already mastered it. The 29-year-old programmer consumes logic puzzles at the same rate most of us buy magazines. Behind his desk he keeps an enormous plastic bin filled with dozens of Rubik's Cube-style twisting gewgaws that he periodically scrambles and solves throughout the day. Cohen says he loves Amazons, a cross between chess and the Japanese game Go, because it is pure strategy. Players take turns dropping more and more tokens on a grid, trying to box in their opponent. As I ponder my next move, Cohen studies the board, his jet-black hair hanging in front of his face, and tells me his philosophy of the perfect game."The best strategy games are the ones where you put a piece down and it stays there for the whole game," he explains. "You say, OK, I'm staking out this area. But you can't always figure out if that's going to work for you or against you. You just have to wait and see. You might be right, might be wrong." It's only later, when I look over these words in my notes, that I realize he could just as easily be talking about his life.

Bram Cohen is the creator of BitTorrent, one of the most successful peer-to-peer programs ever. BitTorrent lets users quickly upload and download enormous amounts of data, files that are hundreds or thousands of times bigger than a single MP3. Analysts at CacheLogic, an Internet-traffic analysis firm in Cambridge, England, report that BitTorrent traffic accounts for more than one-third of all data sent across the Internet. Cohen showed his code to the world at a hacker conference in 2002, as a free, open source project aimed at geeks who need a cheap way to swap Linux software online. But the real audience turns out to be TV and movie fanatics. It takes hours to download a ripped episode of Alias or Monk off Kazaa, but BitTorrent can do it in minutes. As a result, more than 20 million people have downloaded the BitTorrent application. If any one of them misses their favorite TV show, no worries. Surely someone has posted it as a "torrent." As for movies, if you can find it at Blockbuster, you can probably find it online somewhere - and use BitTorrent to suck it down.

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