geoTorrent.org is a relatively new BitTorrent website that’s distributing, what it claims to be legal, Satellite images and geospatial data, something that would be impossible over HTTP considering file sizes can go up to 87 GB.
geoTorrent.org is just over a year old and currently has 35 live torrents. They can be filtered by continent and health (dead/alive). Apparently, 25 terabytes of data have been transferred via the site.
The torrents aren’t just made up of normal images, they’re either JPEG 2000 or ECW files. To read the data, you would need a GIS application like ER Viewer.
These files contain a lot of data and high resolution images, which makes them exceptionally large. The largest torrent on the site is just above 87 GB. Distributing them over standard web protocols like HTTP and FTP would border on the impossible, it would not be feasible. This is where BitTorrent comes in, and suddenly, the impossible becomes possible. The founder of geoTorrent.org, Richard Orchard writes in a forum post:
Using traditional means, electronic distribution of datasets this size is economically expensive and practically inefficient. If a single file is 5 GB in size, and 1000 people want to download it, 5 terabytes of information needs to be served. If there were 100 high demand files, this would equate to 500,000 gigabytes!”
Orchard says he sees his platform as proof that P2P technologies like BitTorrent aren’t just used to illegally transfer copyrighted content. “There is a lot of talk in the press about the evils of peer-to-peer technology. However, GeoTorrent demonstrates the benefits a practical, workable use of peer-to-peer technology. Without this technology the distribution of large datasets would not be viable.”
This isn’t the first time that BitTorrent has been used to distribute such data. NASA too uses BitTorrent for their ‘Visible Earth’ project, a massive library of high resolution images of the earth.