Dossier Tribler

The Tribler website explains what Tribler is: Tribler helps the user to Find, Consume and Share film, TV and music by means of a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. Tribler enables the user to find new video and audio content, view or listen to it, and share it with friends. In this dossier we explain what Tribler and P2P involve.



Peer-to-peer technology?

Wikipedia: ‘ A pure peer-to-peer network does not have the notion of clients or servers, but only equal peer nodes that simultaneously function as both "clients" and "servers" to the other nodes on the network.’

The Tribler application is based on peer-to-peer technology. Using peer-to-peer, users share their bandwidth and files. The BitTorrent protocol on which Tribler is based enables two users who download a file to help each other. User A downloads part 1 of the file and user B downloads part 2. They then exchange the two parts without burdening the server, thus increasing efficiency. Peer-to-peer means the network maintains itself without the need for central servers. This is not only efficient – no large central servers are needed – but it also prevents the entire system from being affected by the failure of a single server.


This mechanism is based on game theory. The prisoner's dilemma, a well-known phenomenon in game theory, demonstrates that in this case it is better for individuals to cooperate continually rather than act selfishly. This was already a familiar phenomenon in economics and evolution theory, but it is now also being applied in informatics. Bram Cohen, BitTorrent’s inventor, made use of the theory when designing BitTorrent.

Peer-to-peer and television

The structure of the Internet lends itself to communication between two parties. A typical example is between a home user and the server of a search engine. However, now the Internet is increasingly being used for television, this two-party structure isn't optimal. Television is generally broadcast from a central point to a large number of viewers. On the Internet this means that the television server has to set up image transmission separately to each user. Television pictures comprise so much data that only the very largest server systems can broadcast internet television to a large number of viewers.
With peer-to-peer technology, however, this limitation does not apply. Each viewer in a peer-to-peer television system takes over part of the server’s task and in turn serves another viewer.

What is Tribler?

Tribler originated from a research project on the application of peer-to-peer technology. It is an application that enables its users to find, view and share audio and video content. The social aspect of Tribler is very important. Within Tribler you can also meet your friends. You can see what they have viewed and then view it yourself.

Tribler’s opening screen immediately shows the available files in an accessible way with an example in thumbnail format. It is also possible to search according to keyword or category.

A new feature in Tribler is the possibility to view a file immediately. Whereas with other BitTorrent applications (on which Tribler is based) you first had to download a file before you could view it, Tribler can often start playing it in an instant. This is crucial to the positive experience on the part of the user.

Social network

Now television is being opened up all over the world via the Internet, the supply will increase enormously. This means that in future it will be hard to find the programmes you find interesting in the midst of all the content. Tribler’s unique characteristic is that it combines social aspects with peer-to-peer so people can help each other find the best programmes. The viewer is therefore no longer dependent on the schedule of a few broadcasters, but in principle all programmes can be found via a network of friends.

This also makes Tribler an interesting project from an ideological point of view. To an increasing extent, the Internet is a part of the media supply used by a mass public to learn about the world around them. This is possible via news sites, for example, or digital archives and encyclopaedias. At the same time, people also increasingly use multimedia on the Internet as their means of cultural orientation. The fact that the Internet is fulfilling this role is a positive development because in principal it is accessible worldwide and can also help in viewing issues from opposing standpoints.
The Internet is also attractive to news distributors. Anyone can express his or her opinion and make it available cheaply to anyone else who is interested. As mentioned earlier, this is not true of video content because an extremely expensive television server system is required.

Openness of Internet

On the other hand, another factor is that the Internet leaves open the possibility to limit the medium through censorship or capacity restrictions. In some countries, for example, all information labelled as ‘undesirable’ is blocked. Capacity restrictions for unwelcome data is seen as a breach of ‘Net Neutrality’ . Net Neutrality is currently the subject of extremely robust debate in Europe and the United States.

Peer-to-peer technology is an important aid to safeguard the openness of the Internet in future. With peer-to-peer technology, anyone interested in a piece of media content helps to distribute it. The availability of content for which demand is high therefore naturally increases. This has the democratising effect that content can reach its public even if it is not supported by an organisation with large resources. This would include the work of independent artists or journalists.

The Tribler project has set itself the objective of making peer-to-peer technology so user friendly that it becomes possible for anyone to exchange information via the medium. Tribler’s unique social components are aimed at converting the wisdom inherent in the preferences of all uses into a search system that cannot be influenced or censored. The underlying BitTorrent technology always makes sufficient capacity available for popular content.


The developers want Tribler to develop into an environment in which all media can be found, viewed, edited and supplemented with additional information. Tribler now supports all known video and audio formats and can deal with all Torrent sites on the Internet. The click-and-play functionality, which enables you to begin viewing immediately, will shortly be extended with the addition of a Live function for viewing live channels or webcams. It will then become very simple to begin your own TV station. Who will need YouTube?


Name author: M&C
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