My experiences regarding the bencode systems which all .torrent files use

As part of my current main project which is an extremely compact BitTorrent implementation, I have developed a standalone implementation of bencode, the byte-first protocol all .torrent files use.

This was an interesting side-track for me on the aforementioned main project to learn some more about custom parsers. Previously, I have only implemented simple character-based parsers but this bencode parser is a full top-down parser, fit for a full programming language (bar it containing a lexer, instead it consumes direct byte-based).

Here is an example of bencode:

d8:some keyl11:first valuei64ei-2302eee

This would translate into the following JSON-like markup:

    "some key": [
        "first value",

As you can see, it contains a heavy reliance on recursion but also is an interesting format as i01e isn’t valid. This is because bencode is extremely determenistic and you can only have one way of representing a value (python users must hate it!)

Another quirk of this rule that doesn’t just apply to i-0e, i023e or i--20e is dictionaries, the d3:key3:vale that is equivalent to a JSON object like {"key": "value"}.

Dictionaries in bencode must be in lexographic order (Wikipedia), this essentially means that all keys must be in alphabetical order, so no {"xyz": 0, "abc": 0} or you’ll get an “invalid bencode” error message!

That’s all for now, see below for the links to my implementation of bencode in Rust 😄

This bencoding module is just a small part of my effort to learn network programming and parsing, here are some links: