Bram Cohen

For film buffs, it’s the land of milk and honey. It’s all there and it doesn’t cost a penny: the complete series of Lost, Battlestar Galactica and 24, as well as brand new blockbusters like Happy Feet, Casino Royale and Rocky Balboa. Add the huge amount of music, games and software available via BitTorrent and it’s no wonder that about 90 million people have downloaded a BitTorrent peer-to-peer client. Its users account for more than a third of all internet traffic. The only problem is, most of them pirate copyrighted material, which was never the aim.

Bram Cohen, a 31-year-old programmer who learnt BASIC on his father’s Timex Sinclair when he was five, initially just wanted to solve a simple problem: “I had experience of networking in general,” he explains, “and I had some interesting ideas about how to do swarming distribution. The big challenge there is that you want to make a huge file, like a gigabyte, available and have 100,000 people jump on it all at once and start downloading it. You don’t want the whole system to fall over when that happens.”

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