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Torrents have been around for a while. They are popular with both developers and customers, and for good reason too. They completely erase the need for expensive servers, since they crowd source downloads. Someone who has downloaded a file can join the hundreds of people who have downloaded the same file to help one more user download it. That user then joins the others, ready to help more downloaders if the opportunity presents itself.

Torrents are versatile, easy to use, and a good alternative to central servers. Yet they are still seen in a negative light. Why? Because most software and videogame piracy comes in the form of torrents. Again, this is because there is no need for a central server. It is cheaper and safer for a pirate to send a torrent out and hope it’ll catch downloads, instead of hosting the file on an expensive and unwieldy server, which can be taken down by law enforcement.

Companies would prefer to control the means of distribution, and avoid the bad PR that torrents bring. Because of this, torrents aren’t used by big companies. Instead, they are used by smaller, independent businesses. Many indie bands release their albums as free torrent downloads on their websites. Many independent videogame companies willingly release their games on The Pirate Bay as free downloads. One example of this is Mikolaj Kaminski, the creator of the somewhat-famous indie game McPixel, who released his game on The Pirate Bay as a torrent, in hopes that it would help actual sales of the game (which it did).

Torrents have revolutionized Open Source and Freeware projects, making a one-man team, as opposed to an expensive business, a viable option in development. This also makes life easier for the consumer, who now has a wider array of products to choose from, a lot of them free. Now there is no need for a server to host the files, or managing bandwidth.

However, (legitimate) torrent use it isn’t just limited to the Free Software movement. Many games and software use peer-to-peer connections to ease the load on the servers. These can be commercial as well as free. This use of the technology has proven to be very effective, as many companies can now introduce patches to their software without worrying about server crashes, and lets the users get back into the program faster, as download times are reduced thanks to the sharing of files from on client to another (meaning that the more a file is downloaded, more clients are available to share the file with you). Patching files is no longer the nightmare it used to be.

Torrents also bring ease of use. Torrent clients abound, the most famous ones being uTorrent and BitTorrent. These clients can be used in both Mac, Windows, and Linux. There is no need to make a downloader compatible with all three main Operating Systems. This brings the user the benefit of cross-compatibility depending on what computers he or she has. In case the customer’s Apple PC got sent over to a computer repair firm, whatever programs the user has can be downloaded easily with the use of torrents on his Windows or Linux secondary PC.

Torrents are used in a wide variety of settings. They have given small, web-based businesses a chance to compete with the more established companies. And, one could argue, torrents are the future of the Free Software movement.