BitTorrent is being revamped by Tron, with a token added to the popular open source file sharing protocol in an attempt to prolong the life-times of swarms: the network of peers interested in a specific set of files.
Bram Cohen originally released the BitTorrent protocol in 2001 as a free and open-source peer-to-peer file-sharing technology. One of the most popular implementations of the protocol is uTorrent, which allows peers to share video and music content – much of which without any associated licenses being transferred concurrently. In 2013, BitTorrent accounted for 3.5% of all internet bandwidth. Bram Cohen has publicly distanced himself from BitTorrent and has never been associated with Tron or Justin Sun, in addition to pursuing another digital currency initiative. Instantiating a token incentive structure for the BitTorrent protocol is intended to encourage sustainable seeding of files to the network and enable various business models interfacing with the protocol around reliable economic returns. The tokenization of the BitTorrent protocol via Tron strives to enhance efficiency and reliability, in addition to user autonomy, whilst reducing the risk posed by single-points-of-failure in file storage and distribution technology.
The BitTorrent protocol involves user’s connecting via a peer-to-peer network to send and receive files in segments. A distributed network of user computing devices forms a swarm, which both uploads and downloads files to and from the network. A server acts as a tracker, managing communications between the peers/users via the TCP protocol and enables IP address sharing between components of a swarm such that data can move between them. As files are downloaded in segments, users can upload these segments to the swarm such that the network reduces downstream bandwidth demands. A Distributed Hash Table is used to manage distribution of content. Peers opting to upload files after a complete download are known as ‘seeders’, which they have conventionally done in the absence of a tokenized incentive – though not reliably or sustainably so. Those that fail to provide upload bandwidth (having enjoyed download bandwidth) are referred to as ‘leeches’, since they are not contributing to the community which has benefited them. The BitTorrent Token will impose an economic penalty on those who close a torrent before their download has finished without providing corresponding upload bandwidth.
Whether the cause for the decline in BitTorrent’s once practically iconic significance for global internet traffic is the result of mal-aligned incentives for users, or myriad other factors concurrently is somewhat of an open question. (Other factors potentially contributing to Bitorrent’s decline include improved enforcement towards anti-proliferation of illegal content and the rise of more legitimate alternatives taking market share for much of the content types that were driving BitTorrent’s peek usage.) The extent to which BitTorrent (and other P2P protocols) exactly declined in usage is challenging to discern due to an element of difficulty in distinguishing their usage from that of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which have become significantly more popular in recent years and rely on similar patterns of information movement between nodes in a network.
BitTorrent’s tokensale occurred on Binance’s launchpad on January 28th 2019, with one sale for those using Binance Coin (BNB) to purchase TRON’s TRC-10 BitTorrent (BTT) token, and another for those using TRX. The BitTorrent token will be used to compensate users for providing computational resources to the network (storage hardware and bandwidth) and for payment from those utilizing such resources. All of the available 59.4 billion BTT (of a total supply of 990 billion) were sold in under 15 minutes. At a token price of 0.00012 USD this implies a raise of ~7.1 million USD, which in turn implies a valuation of the BTT supply of ~118.8 million USD. As of Feb 2019, the TRON Foundation team members hold 20% of the total BTT supply. An airdrop (supported by Binance) will be occurring over the next 6 years benefits those holding Tron’s TRX token; starting with 1.1% of the of the total supply on Feb 11th 2019 and increasing annually by 0.1% until reaching 1.7% in 2025.