The Sharing Protocol from Bram Cohen

Bram Cohen

"The mark of a mature programmer is willingness to throw out code you spent time on when you realize it's pointless."

- Bram Cohen

When ideas came, the best idea is the one that is solved or knows it can't be solved. Bram Cohen, a college drop out that learned the BASIC programming language at an early age, has made the earliest file sharing using the peer-to-peer (P2P) protocol.

Cohen's goals are political, even though his techniques are not. He carved his name with his view to achieve success is by changing the existing laws.

Early Life

Bram Cohen was born on October 12th, 1978, in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City. He is the son of a teacher and computer scientist. He claimed he learned the BASIC programming language at age 5 on his family's Timex Sinclair computer. Cohen qualified for the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) by passing the American Invitational Mathematics Examination while he was attending Stuyvesant High School in New York City.

In 1993, Cohen graduated from Stuyvesant and attended SUNY Buffalo in New York. He later dropped out of college to work for several dot com companies throughout the mid to late 1990s. Cohen once worked for MojoNation before the company ran out of money and laid off most of its employees.

While working for MojoNation, Cohen learned the concept of file sharing that breaks up confidential files into encrypted parts that are later distributed on other computers running the software. He concluded that this was the perfect file sharing program and designed BitTorrent as a file sharing protocol that uses multiple source (peer) to speed up download time.


After Cohen left MojoNation in April 2001, he began his work on BitTorrent. Cohen wrote the first BitTorrent client implementation in Python.

Cohen first unveiled his ideas at the first CodeCon conference, which he and his roommate Len Sassaman created as a showcase event for novel technology projects after becoming disillusioned with the state of technology conferences.

In 2002, Cohen collected free adult contents to lure users as BitTorrent's beta testers. BitTorrent gained its fame for its ability to quickly share large files, especially music and movie files online. Although Cohen has claimed that he has never violated copyright law using his software, he is outspoken in his belief that the current media business was doomed to being outmoded despite the RIAA and MPAA's legal or technical tactics, such as digital rights management.

In 2003, Cohen served a short career to work with Steam that introduced their digital distribution system for Half-Life 2, a first-person shooter video game and a signature title in the Half-Life series developed by Valve Corporation. By 2004, Cohen left Valve and formed BitTorrent, Inc. with his brother Ross Cohen and business partner Ashwin Navin, and served as the Chief Scientist.

In May 2005, Cohen released a trackerless beta version of BitTorrent. By mid 2005, BitTorrent, Inc. was funded by venture capitalist, and in late 2005 Cohen and his business partner Navin made a deal with the MPAA to remove links to illegal content on the official BitTorrent website. The deal was with the seven largest studios in America. The agreement means the site will comply with procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

In 2012 he announced a beta-version of Bit Torrent Live for TV broadcasting through internet.

Cohen is also the co-founder of CodeCon, organizer of the San Francisco Bay Area P2P-hackers meeting, and the co-author of Codeville, a distributed revision control system written in Python.


For his work on the BitTorrent sharing protocol, Bram Cohen has received a number of awards. These awards include:

  • 2004 Wired Rave Award.
  • 2005 MIT Technology Review TR35 as one of the top 35 innovators in the world under the age of 35.
  • 2005 Time's 100 Most Influential People.
  • 2006 USENIX STUG Award.
  • 2010 Internet Evolution 100.

Personal Life

Bram Cohen lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Jenna and their three children. Cohen who claims to have Asperger syndrome based on a self diagnosis, likes original origami, juggling and assembly puzzle.

He has also designed several puzzles including some in with Oskar van Deventer, including some gear-based puzzles such as Gear Shift and a multiple Rubik's Cube variant called Bram's Fortress.

Cohen has his main interest is in recreational mathematics. He maintains a blog where he discusses trust metrics with Raph Levien, as well as money systems, games of skill, and other math-related topics.