Bram Cohen: Wikis


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Bram Cohen
Born 1975 (age 34–35)
Residence United States San Francisco Bay Area, California
Occupation Chief Scientist, BitTorrent, Inc.
Known for BitTorrent

Bram Cohen (born 1975) is an American computer programmer, best known as the author of the peer-to-peer (P2P) BitTorrent protocol, as well as the first file sharing program to use the protocol, also known as BitTorrent. He is also the co-founder of CodeCon, organizer of the San Francisco Bay Area P2P-hackers meeting, and the co-author of Codeville.

He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Jenna and their three children.


Early life and career

Cohen grew up in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City, New York. He said he learned the BASIC programming language at age 15 on his family's Timex Sinclair computer. Cohen passed the American Invitational Mathematics Examination to qualify for the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) while he attended Stuyvesant High School in New York City. He graduated from Stuyvesant in 1993[1] and attended SUNY Buffalo. He later dropped out of college to work for several dot com companies throughout the mid to late 1990s, the last being MojoNation, an ambitious but ill-fated project he worked on with Jim McCoy.

MojoNation allows people to break up confidential files into encrypted chunks and distribute those pieces on computers also running the software. If someone wanted to download a copy of this encrypted file, he would have to download it simultaneously from many computers. This concept, Cohen thought, was perfect for a file sharing program, since programs like KaZaA take a long time to download a large file because the file is (usually) coming from one source (or "peer"). Cohen designed BitTorrent to be able to download files from many different sources, thus speeding up the download time, especially for users with faster download than upload speeds. Thus, the more popular a file is, the faster a user will be able to download it, since many people will be downloading it at the same time, and these people will also be uploading the data to other users.

Cohen claims he has Asperger syndrome[2][3] based on a self diagnosis.[4]


In April 2001, Cohen quit MojoNation and began work on BitTorrent. Cohen unveiled his novel 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. It remains an event for those seeking information about new directions in software, though BitTorrent continues to lay claim to the title of "most famous presentation".

Cohen wrote the first BitTorrent client implementation in Python, and several other programs have since implemented the protocol.

In the summer of 2002, Cohen collected free pornography to lure beta testers to use the program.[2] BitTorrent gained its fame for its ability to quickly share large music and movie files online. Cohen himself has claimed he has never violated copyright law using his software.[2] Regardless, 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 May 2005, Cohen released a trackerless beta version of BitTorrent.

In late 2003, Cohen served a short career at Valve Software to work on Steam, their digital distribution system introduced for Half-Life 2.

By 2004, he had left Valve and formed BitTorrent, Inc. with his brother Ross Cohen and business partner Ashwin Navin.

BitTorrent and the MPAA

By mid 2005, BitTorrent, Inc. was funded by venture capitalist David Chao from Doll Capital Management, and in late 2005 Cohen and 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.[5]

Other interests

Cohen's hobbies include original origami and juggling up to five balls, but his main interest is in recreational mathematics. Cohen maintains a blog where he frequently discusses trust metrics with Raph Levien, as well as money systems, games of skill, and other math-related topics. He types with the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout instead of the widespread QWERTY layout. He is also a twisty puzzle enthusiast.


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote


Bram Cohen (born 1975) is a computer programmer, best known as the author of BitTorrent.


  • I hated school, and dropped out of college. I got picked on a lot in school, and had a lot of trouble making friends.
  • One thing about school - I always had this attitude that I was in school to learn, and attempted to do whatever was involved in that process, while school had this attitude that I was there to earn grades, which I couldn't care less about. Unsurprisingly, my grades weren't very good.

Quotes about Cohen

  • He's very good at his strengths. When he gets an idea in his head, he works it over until he has it solved or knows it can't be solved. I've rarely seen him give up on problems.

External links

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