Bram Cohen, Software Developer
I've accomplished more working on my own than I ever did as part of a team.
BitTorrent is not just a concept, but has an easy-to-use implementation capable of swarming downloads across unreliable networks. BitTorrent has been embraced by numerous publishers to distribute to millions of users. With BitTorrent free speech no longer has a high price.
"All hell's about to break loose," says Brad Burnham, a venture capitalist with Union Square Ventures in Manhattan, which studies the impact of new technology on traditional media. BitTorrent does not require the wires or airwaves that the cable and network giants have spent billions constructing and buying. And it pounds the final nail into the coffin of must-see, appointment television. BitTorrent transforms the Internet into the world's largest TiVo.
The numbers alone explain all the fuss. BitTorrent, which allows its users to retrieve video and other large files including, anime, porn and mp3s on the Internet, has been downloaded 30 million times. It is so popular that, by some estimates, it hogs a third of all traffic on the Internet. The program is nothing short of huge, and Cohen knows it. "I wasn't really expecting it to become that big," he said, "because that level of big is just ridiculous."
Cohen designed BitTorrent to be able to download files from many different sources, thus speeding up the download time, especially when the peers are on ADSL connections. Thus, the more popular a file is, the faster a user will be able to download it, since many people will be downloading it at the same time, and thus, also allowing other users from uploading the data from them as well.
You Know Him From BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer program that Cohen introduced in 2002, allows users to easily share large digital files such as movies and TV shows, and since it's just a content-distribution tool, it can't be shut down like Napster for piracy issues. "Hollywood could use this technology to set up something like iTunes, but they won't," says Cohen. "They fear change."
Cohen denies that he wrote BitTorrent with the intent to assist piracy and says he is the last guy you would ever find stealing digital content. Cohen supports his family (his wife and two kids) from donations on his site. He also gets his movies through Netflix, a legal; online rental service. He is quick to point out the legitimate uses for BitTorrent. Red Hat uses it to send out updates of its Linux products, lowering its bandwidth costs and non-profit sites like etree.org use it to distribute live concerts, with the blessings of musicians.
One thing about school - I always had this attitude that I was in school to learn, and attempted to do whatever was involved in that process, while school had this attitude that I was there to earn grades, which I couldn't care less about. Unsurprisingly, my grades weren't very good... I'm extremely bad at working on things which seem pointless (uninteresting I can mostly deal with).
Bram Cohen gave a technical talk on Bit Torrent yesterday at Stanford... Here are some notes.
Bram Cohen was an unusual kid. While other first-graders were outside playing, he was writing computer code. By junior high, he could solve Rubik's Cube in a few minutes. A college dropout, he went on to co-found a hacker's convention in San Francisco. " I was always really weird," he says
If life were as straightforward as a Rubik's Cube, Bram Cohen could unravel it in about 90 seconds. He can solve two Sudoko brainteasers during his 30-minute commute on the ferry between Marin and San Francisco. And he has earned a high score of 320 on Tringo, a combination of Tetris and Bingo. Other puzzles aren't so easy to crack.
We expect conformity and uniformity and deference to our tacit expectations. We need to learn to accept that human behavior is much more varied than we might expect, and variation does not equate to abnormality. Fleishman does not need to "track neurological impairments". He simply needs to be open to a broader definition of human nature. When presented with evidence that our understanding is incomplete, humility is a better response than defensiveness.
Ask Mr. Cohen any question and his response is endless, his segues seamless as he moves from the theory of ethnicity to eBay auctions to Russian history. After years of explaining the somewhat-impenetrable BitTorrent technology and ignoring potential charges of enabling online piracy, Mr. Cohen is happier to talk about anything else.
Creator of the widely popular BitTorrent, Bram Cohen gave us some time to briefly answer some questions about the future of its Peer-to-Peer network.
Q. You've been open about being diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. How has that affected you as a software author and as a CEO? A. It makes you less emotional when you're coding. It's like you don't take it personally when the computer doesn't work well. I'm still relatively new to the CEO thing, so ask me that question in a couple years.
BitTorrent is a client-based peer-to-peer file sharing tool which splits up a file into many pieces and seeds it across all peers. Even as the first site offering a file is connected to from a remote BitTorrent client and starts transferring data, that second client has started to advertise the availability of the pieces it already has to others.
Since the birth of the Net, programmers had been stumped by how to transfer massive files—movies, TV shows, games, software, whatever—without incurring astronomical bills or risking frequent failure. Cohen knew he could find a solution; all it would take was time, good code, and brute intellect. He had all three. The money would take care of itself. "I didn't have any clear plans when I first started," he says. "I wasn't worried, partially because what I was doing was really cool, and partially because I'm broken and can't feel anxiety."
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In other words: Sublime or ridiculous? You decide!
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This page was last updated on 5 November 2008, 3:48 pm
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