BitTorrent is responsible for more than half of the file sharing traffic now, according to a recent study.

Threats by the record companies against Kazaa users were effective at scaring off people with the most interesting libraries, leaving a lot of rap and heavy metal on Kazaa but not very much classic rock and jazz. Kazaa also shot itself in the foot with its bundled adware and crap.

Another similar application named eDonkey had 2.2 million users last month, almost as many as Kazaa. Say what? How does the word get out about these things? Never heard of it before, never used it, no idea what it’s like or what kind of material is available or whether the recording industry is able to disrupt it with the same heavy-handed tactics it used against Kazaa.

BitTorrent works differently than anything you’ve ever used before. Here’s an FAQ with lots of information. You don’t start a program and search for something; instead you react to something you see listed on a web site. There are several BitTorrent sites with concert recordings listed on my Favorites page under Music / Archives. Do a Google search for “bittorrent” and you’ll be overwhelmed.

When you click on a link to a “torrent,” the program opens up and asks where files will be saved, then begins downloading. You minimize the window and leave it running until it’s done. It will likely take hours, it can take days – and because of the way BitTorrent works, you can’t do anything with the files until they have been completely downloaded. If you quit at 98%, nothing that you downloaded will be usable.

You can only download a torrent if there are other people online with windows open that can upload it to you; while you’re downloading, you’re also uploading the same file to other people.  At some point during the process there must be a “seed” with a complete version of the files.  You might see a torrent listed on a web site that’s no longer available because no one else has an open window, or none of the other people retrieving it has a complete copy – just like a file listed on Kazaa that can’t be retrieved because a user goes offline. BitTorrent etiquette suggests that you leave your BitTorrent window open after your download has finished, as a seed for other people looking for the same files.

It’s interesting, a bit tricky to get used to, but worth the effort – I’ve seen it used recently for distributing software as well as for trading concerts, TV shows, movies, and the like. I chose the BitTornado version of the program to install. Good luck!

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