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The peer protocol refers to pieces of the file by index as described in the metainfo file, starting at zero.
When a peer finishes downloading a piece and checks that the hash matches, it announces that it has that piece to all of its peers.
The peer wire protocol consists of a handshake followed by a never-ending stream of length-prefixed messages.
The handshake starts with character ninteen (decimal) followed by the string 'Bit Torrent protocol'.
That's it for handshaking, next comes an alternating stream of length prefixes and messages.
Messages of length zero are keepalives, and ignored.
Implementing this properly is tricky, but makes it possible for downloaders to know which peers will start downloading immediately if unchoked. When data is being transferred, downloaders should keep several piece requests queued up at once in order to get good TCP performance (this is called 'pipelining'.) On the other side, requests which can't be written out to the TCP buffer immediately should be queued up in memory rather than kept in an application-level network buffer, so they can all be thrown out when a choke happens.
More commonly is that trackers return a compact representation of the peer list, see BEP 23.
If you want to make any extensions to metainfo files or tracker queries, please coordinate with Bram Cohen to make sure that all extensions are done compatibly.
After the fixed headers come eight reserved bytes, which are all zero in all current implementations.
If you wish to extend the protocol using these bytes, please coordinate with Bram Cohen to make sure all extensions are done compatibly.
They must not perform a decode-encode roundtrip on invalid data.