UDP For BitTorrent: Internet Cries

Aron Schatz
December 1, 2008

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Many sites are crying over the development that uTorrent (from the company that made the BitTorrent protocol) is moving to UDP file transfers by default. The rationale is that while TCP can be congestion controlled, UDP transfers can't. Simply, they contend that this move will cause a collapse of the network and basically will throw us back into the dark ages. Well, we'll see.


Gamers, VoIP and video conference users beware. The leading BitTorrent software authors have declared war on you - and any users wanting to wring high performance out of their networks. A key design change in the P2P application promises to make the headaches faced by ISPs so far look like a party game. So what's happened, and why does it matter?

Upset about Bell Canada’s system for allocating bandwidth fairly among internet users, the developers of the uTorrent P2P application have decided to make the UDP protocol the default transport protocol for file transfers. BitTorrent implementations have long used UDP to exchange tracker information – the addresses of the computers where files could be found – but the new release uses it in preference to TCP for the actual transfer of files. The implications of this change are enormous.


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