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BitTorrent’s Reign Over Internet Traffic Ends

ByHuey Yee Ong

Mar 25, 2024
BitTorrent's Reign Over Internet Traffic Ends

BitTorrent, once the undisputed leader in upstream internet traffic has seen its dominance erode. This decline is confirmed by the latest findings from Sandvine, a Canadian broadband management company. The era when BitTorrent accounted for a significant portion of internet bandwidth, making up about a third of all web traffic around 20 years ago, is now firmly in the past. Now, other things like cloud storage, YouTube, and different apps are taking over as the main sources of data traffic.

The journey of internet traffic over the past two decades has been characterized by an exponential growth in data transfer. Despite this consistent trend, the nature of the data being transferred has undergone substantial changes.

In 2004, before the widespread adoption of Web 2.0 technologies, BitTorrent accounted for an impressive 35% of all internet traffic. This was a time when peer-to-peer networks were the primary means of sharing files, as other bandwidth-consuming services had not yet become prevalent.

Streaming Takes Over

The surge of video streaming services like YouTube, Netflix, and TikTok has significantly altered the content consumption habits of internet users, relegating file-sharing to a minor role in the overall data traffic.

This transition towards streaming has also impacted the realm of piracy, where streaming services have largely replaced the need for downloading files, further diminishing BitTorrent’s relevance.

Despite the shift in consumer preferences, BitTorrent continued to be a significant player in the realm of upload traffic for some time. However, its share of global upstream internet traffic, which remained substantial two years ago, has been on a steady decline. In 2013, BitTorrent’s share of upload traffic was around a third, but by two years ago, it had fallen to just 10%.

The latest data from Sandvine’s Global Internet Phenomena Report conclusively states that BitTorrent no longer holds a leading position in any category of internet traffic.

The report reveals that the bulk of downstream traffic now comes from video and social media platforms, accounting for more than half of all data on both fixed access and mobile networks worldwide.

As for upstream traffic, BitTorrent’s contribution has fallen to 4% on fixed networks, surpassed by cloud storage solutions, FaceTime, Google, and YouTube. On mobile networks, BitTorrent doesn’t even rank in the top ten anymore.

The Future of BitTorrent

The report from Sandvine suggests that BitTorrent, while still relevant due to its use by a niche group of users, may see further declines in popularity as individuals increasingly turn to cloud services and the expansive content offerings of streaming platforms.

The challenge of accurately measuring BitTorrent traffic, especially with the widespread use of VPNs, complicates the picture, though the absence of VPN traffic from top upload categories underscores the broader trend of BitTorrent’s diminishing role in internet traffic.

It’s important to note that not all torrent traffic can be precisely measured, especially when users employ VPNs to hide their activities. Even though this may affect the accuracy of traffic statistics, VPN traffic itself does not feature among the top sources of upload traffic, supporting the conclusion that BitTorrent’s era of dominance has effectively ended.


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Featured image was created with the assistance of DALL·E by ChatGPT

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

One thought on “BitTorrent’s Reign Over Internet Traffic Ends”
  1. Torrenting still has its place on the internet, especially with Streaming becoming more and more like Cable last time.

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