The Internet Archive has announced that it is using BitTorrent to encourage more efficient downloading of content from its servers. Over 1 million archival items are now available as torrents, including Librivox audio books, movies from the Prelinger Archive collection, old radio broadcasts, and hundreds of thousands of digital books.
This is an innovative use of BitTorrent technology, demonstrating that large digital libraries can foster accessibility of selected materials for broader access. As Brewster Kahle notes in his blog post:
BitTorrent is the now fastest way to download items from the Archive, because the BitTorrent client downloads simultaneously from two different Archive servers located in two different datacenters, and from other Archive users who have downloaded these Torrents already. The distributed nature of BitTorrent swarms and their ability to retrieve Torrents from local peers may be of particular value to patrons with slower access to the Archive, for example those outside the United States or inside institutions with slow connections.
John Gilmore, a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, notes in the same blog post that BitTorrent can be reliably used for a wide range of content, including “large files that are permanently available from libraries like the Internet Archive.”
The use of technologies such as BitTorrent can facilitate not only greater access but also increased opportunities for preservation of digital content.
(N.B.: Although employed at the Internet Archive, I was not part of this project).