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A peer-to-peer (P2P) network is group of computers, each of which acts as a node for sharing files within the group. Instead of having a central server to act as a shared drive, each computer acts as the server for the files stored upon it. When a P2P network is established over the Internet, a central server can be used to index files, or a distributed network can be established where the sharing of files is split between all the users in the network that are storing a given file.
In the most basic sense, a peer-to-peer network is a simple network where each computer doubles as a node and a server for the files it exclusively holds. These are the same as a home network or office network. However, when P2P networks are established over the internet, the size of the network and the files available allow huge amounts of data to be shared. Early P2P networks like Napster used client software and a central server, while later networks like Kazaa and BitTorrent did away with the central server and split up sharing duties between multiple nodes to free up bandwidth. Peer-to-peer networks are usually associated with Internet piracy and illegal file sharing.