Team Member - Kevin Jung
Users browse the web to find a torrent of interest, download it, and open it with a BitTorrent client. The client connects to the tracker(s) specified in the torrent file, from which it receives a list of peers currently transferring pieces of the file(s) specified in the torrent. The client connects to those peers to obtain the various pieces. Such a group of peers connected to each other to share a torrent is called a swarm. If the swarm contains only the initial seeder, the client connects directly to it and begins to request pieces. As peers enter the swarm, they begin to trade pieces with one another, instead of downloading directly from the seeder.
Clients incorporate mechanisms to optimize their download and upload rates; for example they download pieces in a random order to increase the opportunity to exchange data, which is only possible if two peers have different pieces of the file.
The effectiveness of this data exchange depends largely on the policies that clients use to determine to whom to send data. Clients may prefer to send data to peers who send data back to them (a tit for tat scheme), which encourages fair trading. But strict policies often result in suboptimal situations, such as when newly joined peers are unable to receive any data because they don't have any pieces yet to trade themselves or when two peers with a good connection between them do not exchange data simply because neither of them wants to take the initiative. To counter these effects, the official BitTorrent client program uses a mechanism called “optimistic unchoking,” where the client reserves a portion of its available bandwidth for sending pieces to random peers (not necessarily known-good partners, so called preferred peers), in hopes of discovering even better partners and to ensure that newcomers get a chance to join the swarm.