Trivia Tuesday: Some facts about BitTorrent

Torrenting (using the BitTorrent protocol) is perhaps one of the favourite ways for internet users to download copyrighted material for free. It involves downloading a .torrent file and loading it into a torrent program, which then finds users around the internet (thanks to “trackers”) who have the necessary files stored on their computers . These “peers” then serve the files to the downloaders without a middle-man server, hence the peer-to-peer networking.

While they can be used legitimately, they are largely used for piracy. As of the time of writing, popular torrent search engine IsoHunt has indexed 8.25 million torrents with a combined size of 13,635 TB (or 13.6 petabytes). With 33.58 million connected peers, this gives a rough average of 4 peers per torrent. This also means the average size of a torrent indexed on IsoHunt is 1.64 GB.

Note: When talking about torrent file sizes, I’m not referring to the actual .torrent file size (which is usually a few kilobytes); I’m actually referring to the size of the files the torrent enables you do download from peers.

Here’s where it starts to get interesting. Public torrent aggregator Torrentz is currently indexing a larger 11.70 million torrents (without duplicates) across 33 domains, which provides for a good statistical base. Assuming the average torrent size is 1.64 GB, this means 19,188 TB of content is available through public torrents. If 99.86% of that is pirated, you have 19,161 TB of illegal content available compared to just 27 TB of legitimate material; this roughly means that for every 1 legit torrent, there are 700 containing pirated material.

Oh, and my assumption that 99.86% of torrents contain pirated material is based from the legit-only torrent search engine Mininova, which indexes a measly 16,686 torrents.

If we bring back the average of 4 connected peers per torrent and assume that 3 of these have full copies of the material tracked in the torrent, this means that stored across the globe is roughly 57,483,000 GB (57.5 petabytes) of pirated material that is accessible to anyone.

Of course this is not a complete representation of what pirated material is freely accessible to people: I haven’t counted private torrent trackers, newsgroups, file sharing sites and more, and the statistics I have are only rough estimates. It still shows though just how much content can be accessed through torrents.

On the more legitimate side of torrent usage, apparently both Facebook and Twitter use BitTorrent to transfer updates to their servers, and many games including World of Warcraft deliver patches and updates using the protocol.

Also, BitTorrent is used by some legal content distributors such as BitTorrent Inc. (for movies/music/TV) and Linux operating system developers (such as for Ubuntu and Fedora). Despite this, it's still highly dominated by illegitimate usage unfortunately, and many torrent indexers have had legal action taken against them for hosting torrents that could be used for piracy.

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18 Comments

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If it wasn't for FrostWire, I never would have seen or heard of, what is now my favourite movies: Zenith and Pioneer One.

I saw FrostWire advertise atleast two artists, its a great medium.

While I use Torrents to download Linux Distros I have been saying for years that when people mention Torrents it is safe to assume they are pirates. However, Even though the logic is sound I do not think that the Percentage can be accurate. Through my own view of the situation (no math just observation) I would put it closer at 96%

99.86% pirated? If you're a young musician and wanting to give away your music for free to get noticed, would you put it on mininova? Hell, I don't think many people have used that site since it changed, no, you'd put it on the-pirate-bay like a lot have done before, or jamendo (which allows torrent downloads).
Your 99.86% statistic is absolute ****ing cack. Almost like saying only 2% of people buy tea from a great coffeeshop in london, so therefore 98% of the UK drinks coffee...

n_K said,
99.86% pirated? If you're a young musician and wanting to give away your music for free to get noticed, would you put it on mininova? Hell, I don't think many people have used that site since it changed, no, you'd put it on the-pirate-bay like a lot have done before, or jamendo (which allows torrent downloads).
Your 99.86% statistic is absolute ****ing cack. Almost like saying only 2% of people buy tea from a great coffeeshop in london, so therefore 98% of the UK drinks coffee...

I thought that 99.86% was a bit high as well, but when you think about the fact that it means 1 legit torrent for every 700 pirated ones, it seems about right. How many legitimate torrents do you seriously believe there are, because they are HUGELY outnumbered by illegitimate ones.

For every "young musician" that uploads their album for free via torrents, I guarantee you there are hundreds, maybe thousands of other artists having their albums uploaded (pirated) via a torrent

n_K said,
99.86% pirated? If you're a young musician and wanting to give away your music for free to get noticed, would you put it on mininova? Hell, I don't think many people have used that site since it changed, no, you'd put it on the-pirate-bay like a lot have done before, or jamendo (which allows torrent downloads).
Your 99.86% statistic is absolute ****ing cack. Almost like saying only 2% of people buy tea from a great coffeeshop in london, so therefore 98% of the UK drinks coffee...

The hundreds of millions of young musicians pumping out albums.

I jest; but torrents really aren't that common from musicians, they mostly use soundcloud/mediafire/bandcamp.

"Assuming the average torrent size is 1.64 GB" ... "my assumption that 99.86% of torrents contain pirated material" ... "average of 4 connected peers per torrent and assume that 3 of these have full copies of the material tracked in the torrent"

Hmmm... this isn't really "trivia" when most of the figures given in this article is based on assumption rather than fact!! I've been enjoying the "Trivia Tuesday" series, but I have to say, this is the weakest one yet!!

No offense buddy, but this is so fail, like beyond the freaking scale of failures.
The only thing I enjoyed reading is the FB Twitter bit, which says something..

Well I enjoyed it. If its so 'fail' write something else to amuse us then please so we can see how the jobs done?

SK[ said,]Well I enjoyed it. If its so 'fail' write something else to amuse us then please so we can see how the jobs done?

It's inaccurate. I'm not saying the point is wrong, BT is mainly used for piracy.

Inclined said,

It's inaccurate. I'm not saying the point is wrong, BT is mainly used for piracy.

Source to prove its inaccurate or are you just trolling?

If I was to be really catty about the whole thing, 18.8% of this article is about the legitimate use of BT, where the other 81.2% is used to give stats on how BT users can get pirated material.

yeoo_andy_ni said,
If I was to be really catty about the whole thing, 18.8% of this article is about the legitimate use of BT, where the other 81.2% is used to give stats on how BT users can get pirated material.

sure, but everyone knows about torrents nowadays (especially most of the people using neowin) as it's pretty much the most commonly used thing for piracy so it's not like it's a secret here and like the article is telling everyone about it especially since around here (Neowin) it's a pretty safe bet most of us are well aware of the ways to obtain 'stuff' (which is basically damn near anything besides torrents as those are to much on the radar vs the alternatives)

I'm all for Trivia, but is this not just an attack on the BT protocol by stating that X amount of data can be acquired illegally?
I would have throught that trivia was going to be "did you know that 1 million users connect to trackers every minute" or "the most commonly used BT application is uTorrent". That's trivia, this is an article saying that BT is 99.86% of the time used for piracy.

(I love Tuesdays! )

On the more legitimate side of torrent usage, apparently both Facebook and Twitter use BitTorrent to transfer updates to their servers.

I did not know this. Do you have a source?

htcz said,
(I love Tuesdays! )


I did not know this. Do you have a source?

Yeah just click the links I placed on "Facebook" and "Twitter"