Someone was looking for a missed episode of a TV show, and called and asked if I had recorded it. I hadn’t, but I suggested they look online and see if they could find it. I told them to look at The Pirate Bay.
They confessed they had no clue what I was talking about – so I started to explain how torrents work, and they just got more confused. So I simplified it – dramatically. But to you, the “end customer” it’s really about this easy:
Think about having a jigsaw puzzle box, but none of the pieces to the puzzle. You do have a piece of software though, called a torrent client – it’s smart enough to go look around the world and find the pieces of the puzzle you need. It may find ten or twenty or more pieces at a time, and it asks for them.
Somewhere on the Internet, someone else is also looking for the pieces to the same puzzle. There are thousands of people doing this (depending on how popular the puzzle pieces are).
So all of these clients are talking to each other, both asking for pieces to the puzzle they don’t have, and sharing the ones they do. People closer to you can get you the pieces faster, so your client downloads from them when it can.
Eventually you’ve asked enough people for enough pieces that you now have all 1,000 puzzle pieces you need – and your software not only finds the pieces, it actually puts the puzzle together for you – it takes those many, many pieces downloaded from all over the world and it puts them together, in the right order. In the end you have shared hundreds if not thousands of puzzle pieces yourself, in your quest to get all the parts you need.
This is what makes the network effective, and relatively fast – many people both looking for, and sharing pieces of the same puzzle.
There is a lot of piracy going on within torrents, but there are also a ton of legal applications, files, videos, and music files out there waiting to be “put together”.
Here’s the link to the Torrent Client I use, uTorrent. I don’t know if it’s the best – it’s just the one I like. So to get started, download it, install it, and go search The Pirate Bay for that missed TV episode you “have to have”.