Mininova, the web's most popular torrent site, has just broken through the three billion downloads barrier.

The site launched in January 2005 after replacing the legally troubled suprnova.org, and has since then served up an average of 34 torrent files every second for the last 34 months. What's more, the site now claims that its visitors download a total of 10 million torrent files every day, which works out at 115 files per second.

In the time you've been reading this story so far, over 1,000 files have been downloaded from Mininova. Popular files include US TV shows like Smallville and Scrubs, plus ripped movies, software, games and even books.

According to Mininova's stats, the site currently hosts 538,678 torrents and the most popular download is episode 17 of Heroes (Series 1).

Bittorrent boom

Bittorrent is an efficient method of peer-to-peer file sharing over the internet. It's incredibly quick because it involves separating the desired files into tiny little pieces and acquiring different pieces from different sources, simultaneously. As each packet of data arrives at your PC, a Bittorrent client reconstructs the files a bit like building a wall or putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

All the while, the parts you've already downloaded are being automatically uploaded to other people who are after the same file. It's an efficient system.

Bittorrent has come under fire in the past, mainly because millions of people use it to distribute copyrighted material in the form of books, movies and music.

Read: Internet traffic set for global slowdown due to Bittorrent

ISPs are opposed to Bittorrent technology, because it enables people to max out their internet connections, causing a general network slowdown. While an average internet browser might use up only a few megabytes per day, Bittorrent clients can download many gigabytes in the same period.