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Analyzing the BitTorrent community

Analyzing the BitTorrent community

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Published by Ville Saalo
A paper I did for the Internetworking Seminar course at the Aalto University School of Science.

See also my presentation based on this paper: http://www.scribd.com/doc/55161822/Analyzing-the-Bit-Torrent-community-Presentation
A paper I did for the Internetworking Seminar course at the Aalto University School of Science.

See also my presentation based on this paper: http://www.scribd.com/doc/55161822/Analyzing-the-Bit-Torrent-community-Presentation

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Published by: Ville Saalo on May 11, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Analyzing the BitTorrent community
Ville SaaloAalto University School of Science
BitTorrent is a popular peer-to-peer file sharing protocol.The key idea with the protocol was that when all download-ers also upload it helps everyone to also download faster.It has later been shown that this claim does not necessarilyhold. This paper presents some measurements on the currentBitTorrent networks using client programs that have differ-ent concepts of fairness. We measure download speeds of two different files and also compare different torrent distri-bution sites, briefly touching their usability as well. We findthat testing in real BitTorrent swarms is difficult but our testsseem to support the previous observations.KEYWORDS: BitTorrent, tracker, swarm, distribution, P2P,distributed systems, selfishness, fairness
1 Introduction
BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol as well asthe first program that used the protocol. The protocol op-erates so that instead of linearly downloading each file thefiles are divided into several
and downloaded pieceby piece, effectively in a random order. Any peer that has anentire file, that is, all the pieces that belong a given file, iscalled a
. The peers who do not have all the pieces arecalled
. A peer can download any piece from eitherany seed or any other leecher that has the piece. The set of peers seeding and leeching a given file is called a
.A file is initially made available by creating a small
file that contains a cryptographic hash of each piece of the file and the addresses of one or more
services,i.e. the services that keep track of the peers belonging tothe swarm. Initially, when a file is made available, the onlypeer in the swarm is called the
initial seed 
. The tracker thenallows peers to find each other. In all other senses BitTor-rent is a decentralized service with no global coordinator,and even the tracker can be replaced with a distributed hashtable (DHT) based implementation. In addition, peers maylearn about other peers currently in the swarm by communi-cating using the peer exchange protocol (PEX).The original BitTorrent client used a tit-for-tat (TFT)heuristic for choosing which peers to upload to. This meansbasically that a peer will sort its neighbours in a descend-ing order of download rates and share its upload bandwidthequallywith the five or so neighboursthat providethe fastestdownload speed.[4]This subset of neighbours is then called the peer’s
active set 
. Addingand removingpeers to andfromthe active set is called
, respectively.At regular intervals a client performs
optimistic unchokes
torandompeers in order to find new peers with possibly higherupload rates than the current ones.To decide which pieces to download BitTorrent uses a
rarest first 
policy. It means that the client always requeststhose pieces of which the least copies exist in the swarm.This guarantees a rather even availability for all pieces.However, Bharambe et al.[2] note that the uploader shouldchoose to upload those pieces first that it has uploaded theleast amount of times. This improves the diversity of piecesand improves uplink utilization even further.Today, the most popular BitTorrent clients are Xunlei,µTorrent and Azureus, which together have got a marketshare of almost 80 %.[1]The rest of the paper is organized as follows. Sec-tion2discusses a few different BitTorrent clients. Section3 presents some statistical data on a few different torrent dis-tribution sites and Section4presents download speed mea-surementswithdifferentfiles andclients. Section5discussesthe findings of this paper further and highlights some otherresearch papers. Finally Section6concludes the paper.
2 Background
The BitTorrent protocol is similar to TCP in the sense thatmany different implementations exist but they are still fullyinteroperable. In BitTorrent the differences are related to thechoking and unchoking and reciprocation logic.
is a research software which changes the TFTheuristic a little: instead of sharing the upload bandwidthequally it shares it in proportion to the download and up-load speed ratios, choosing to upload to those peers fromwhom it gets the best download speeds for the lowest uploadspeeds.[9]The problem with these types of a heuristics, however,is that calculating the current download speed is a difficultproblem. First, it takes a long time to accurately estimate thedownload speeds from other peers. Second, a peer’s currentdownloadspeedis notareliablewaytopredictits futurecon-tribution, allowing
strategic peers
to exploitthe system.[10]A free-rider is a client that contributes little to no uploadbandwidth but consumes a lot of download bandwidth. Astrategic peer on the other hand usually contributes the sameamount of upload bandwidth as everyone else but tries toallocate it cleverly to boost its own download speed. Un-fortunately this may hurt the performance of non-strategicpeers, especially if the strategic peer is also
and triesto minimize its overall upload speed.[9]
Aalto University T-110.5190 Seminar on Internetworking Spring 2011The most selfish BitTorrent client around is called
. BitThief is a client that never uploads any payloaddata to other peers. Instead, it always appears to other peersas if it was a new peer that just started downloading. Com-pared to the normal, well-behaving client implementationsBitThief opens a larger amount of connectionsto other peersinordertobenefitfromtheiroptimisticunchokes. Toachievethat it also requests more peer addresses from the trackers.The rarest first policy is also changed: BitThief selects therequested pieces randomly, accepting anything it can get inorder to never miss the benefits of an optimistic unchoke bybeing too picky.[8]Liogkas et al.[7]also developed three exploits for the Bit- Torrent protocol. The first one was to only attempt to down-load from seeds, which typically have a high-bandwidth.While doing this, the client may still benefit from optimisticunchokesby other leechers even without uploadinganythingback. This is basically the same logic that BitThief is us-ing. The authors also tried two other exploits: actively try-ing to only download from the fastest peers instead of wait-ing for random optimistic unchokes to converge to the op-timal active set, and advertising false pieces. Advertisingfalse pieces should attract other peersoptimistic unchokesbut only garbage data would be uploaded back to them.These two exploits were, however, mitigated in live swarms.Firstly, downloadingonlyfromthe fastest peers didnot work out as apparently the internet is more dynamic and less pre-dictablethan theirsimulation environment. Secondly,clientsactually keep track on whether the data they receive fromother peers is valid. Peers that upload only garbage data willquickly get blacklisted by other peers.On the opposite end of the fairness spectrum is
. FairTorrent is simple yet has been described asachieving better download speeds than other clients. It doesnot have complicated download speed rate estimation algo-rithms. Instead,it alwayssimplyuploadstothepeertowhichit "owes" the most data. If the FairTorrent client does nothave any pieces that peer wants then data is uploaded to thesecond-most owed-to client, and so on.[10]
3 Torrent distribution site statistics
In order to gain understanding on the characteristics of dif-ferent torrent distibution sites we investigated five differentsites: The Pirate Bay
, Mininova
, Legit Torrents
, YouTor-rent
and Lailliset Torrentit
. The Pirate Bay is probably themost notorioustorrent distributionsite and is clearly focusedon pirated material. The other sites seem to contain mostlylegalmaterial, which is evenreflectedin some of their names(Legit Torrents and Lailliset Torrentit, which is Finnish for"Legal Torrents").From those five sites we picked the Movies categorywhich was found from all of them and from that category
Figure 1: Percentage of seed and leecher peers in differenttorrent distribution sites.we looked at the ten most leeched torrents. Their character-istics are summarized in Table1and the difference in theirseed/leech ratios is furthermore highlighted in Figure1.The Pirate Bay has many more peers downloading their torrentsthan any of the other sites. They also have the worst aver-age seeds/leechers -ratio, which means that more selfishnessis present in The Pirate Bay swarms than in the other sites.Selfish clients just download the files and do not stay to seedthe files as well. There is, however, a clear incentive on thepeers of The Pirate Bay to not to stay and seed the files afterthey have been completed: various anti-piracy organizationsare constantly tracking down and prosecuting those who areinvolvedin piracy. Thus the shortertime a client stays onlinedownloadingsomethingshould meanthat the less likely theyare to get caught for that.Some torrent distribution sites such as ClearBits
had tobe excluded from the comparison because they do not reportthe number of seeds and leechers in the listing of all torrentsand do not allow sorting by those figures. We consider thisa bad user interface design and believe that this may hinderfurther adoption of BitTorrent for content distribution. Fur-thermoreit was observedthat many torrent distribution sites,such as Linux Tracker
, do not update their statistics withthe torrent trackers often enough. As the newest torrents of-ten seem to be the most popularones it was surprisingto findthat the tracker statistics, i.e. the number of seeds and leech-ers in the swarm, were sometimes never updated. This mayseriously mislead potential new leechers. Finally, despite thegood intent we found a site called Public Domain Torrents
almost completely unusable due to the lack of all statisticsregarding the torrents.
4 Client statistics
In Section2three different BitTorrent client programs weredescribed: FairTorrent, BitTyrant and BitThief. In this sec-tion we compare the performance of FairTorrent and Bit-Thief against a reference client in actual, live BitTorrentswarms. The reference client that is used is µTorrent

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