Search results for each torrent at The Pirate Bay include the size of the file, the current number of seeders and leechers, and skull-and-crossbone icons showing the trustworthiness of the original provider.

Screenshot by Stephanie Crawford

Using the Pirate Bay

Like most BitTorrent sites, the Pirate Bay requires no login to search for shared files, or to start downloading those files. From the Pirate Bay main page, just type in search criteria and click either "Pirate Search" or the Google-like option "I'm Feeling Lucky." To browse available torrents in some popular categories, use the links and checkboxes. If you're new to using BitTorrent, click "How do I download?" to link to helpful information about setting up a BitTorrent client on your home computer.

As described in How BitTorrent Works, your BitTorrent client connects to a tracker (in this case the Pirate Bay tracker) which contains torrent files. Those torrent files help you locate peers that have the file you're looking for. As you start downloading a file, you can watch how you interact with other peers in your swarm using features in your BitTorrent client. When the download is complete, you can continue to be a seeder (providing all parts of the file), or you can remain a leecher (downloading the file, but not providing the file to others after your download). To help you when selecting a torrent to download, The Pirate Bay shows the number of seeders and leechers that exist about the same time that you did your search.

What if your band wants to share its new single with Pirate Bay users, or you want to publish your book as a free download? You can do that, too, by becoming a member at the Pirate Bay. Click "Register" from the main page, complete the form, and confirm your registration from a link in your e-mail. Then, log in at the Pirate Bay, and click the "Upload torrent" link at the bottom of the page. You can add a torrent in two ways: Use this Web form directly, or use the Announce URL shown in an add torrent option in your BitTorrent client. When you add a torrent, the client uploads a torrent file to the tracker, and you can make yourself available as a seeder for that file.

Only registered Pirate Bay users have access to adult material (pornography). If the category is activated in a user's personal preferences, he or she will be able to access adult videos in his or her search results, and "Porn" becomes a searchable category from the main page. This material isn't censored, but some users report that child pornography isn't tolerated, and all material is subject to removal under the usage policy. If you're sensitive to adult material or other possible search results, be cautious when looking for downloads at the Pirate Bay.

The Pirate Bay has a large online community in its forum and its Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel. The SuprBay Forum, accessed from the "Forum" link on the main page, includes discussions on various file-sharing topics, news and announcements about the Pirate Bay, and tutorials to help new users and to answer frequently asked questions. The IRC channel (#thepiratebay.org) is hosted at irc.efnet.net, and offers you a real-time chat with playful, eager to help users who take a lot of pride in the Pirate Bay.