A torrent is a file used for file sharing in BitTorrent networking; these days torrents are the backbone of online media sharing. BitTorrent was first created in 2001, and began to become popular with the public around 2005, in the years since then the torrenting community has grown to millions. Whilst torrents are often used for piracy, it can also be a very valuable tool for legitimate downloads and legal file sharing.
BitTorrent is a distributed P2P system, and as such it works by downloading small pieces of files from users who have already downloaded the file, or even those who are still in the process of downloading it. To download a video, users must first download a “.torrent” file, and open it with a programme called a BitTorrent Client. The torrent file does not contain the actual data, but instead acts more as a gateway to allow the pieces of that file to be downloaded by the BitTorrent client.
In torrenting terms, sharing a file you have downloaded is known as “seeding”, whilst downloading a file without sharing in turn is called “leeching”. Within torrent communities, leeching is highly discouraged and unwelcome.