Peer-to-peer protocols play an increasingly instrumental role in Internet content distribution. It is therefore important to gain a complete understanding of how these protocols behave in practice and how their operating parameters affect overall system performance. This paper presents the first detailed experimental investigation of the peer selection strategy in the popular BitTorrent protocol. By observing more than 40 nodes in instrumented private torrents, we validate three protocol properties that, though believed to hold, have not been previously demonstrated experimentally: the clustering of similar-bandwidth peers, the effectiveness of BitTorrent's sharing incentives, and the peers' high uplink utilization. In addition, we observe that BitTorrent's modified choking algorithmin seed state provides uniform service to all peers, and that an underprovisioned initial seed leads to absence of peer clustering and less effective sharing incentives. Based on our results, we provide guidelines for seed provisioning by content providers, and discuss a tracker protocol extension that addresses an identified limitation of the protocol. © Copyright 2007 ACM.