BitTorrent Inc. sells out
Aug 12, 2012
2 minute read

I used to think San Francisco-based company BitTorrent, Inc. was fighting the good fight. After all, they’re one of the few that took peer-to-peer from an academic research subject to a mainstream transmission protocol.

According to Wikipedia, BitTorrent had 150M active users in Jan. 2012, 200K of which have been sued for copyright infringement since 2010. So, success in terms of userbase at least.

What about the business itself? Well, BitTorrent Inc. has been up since 2004, and grew to be 60 employees big in 2011. They have worked out deals with artists and other companies to promote the legit usage of the BitTorrent protocol.

For example, the band Counting Crows has released its album Underwater Sunshine via BitTorrent (it was even featured on bittorrent.com). BT Inc. also has ties with movie distributor VODO, which touts about 15 petabytes of free - independant - movies shared via the BitTorrent protocol.

uTorrent

Enter uTorrent (mu for the pedantic - but I’ll stick to ASCII kthx). Born out of the frustration with Bloatware, uTorrent was first created by Ludvig Strigeus in an attempt to come up with a lean torrent client.

After a small flirt with PeerFactor (interestingly, founded by a former employee of a French anti-piracy organization), it was acquired just one and a half year after the 1.1 beta release.

Throughout its lifetime at BT Inc., uTorrent grew from a mere 154KB to a whopping 875KB - along with its users discontent with the bloat added version after version.

Recently though, BT Inc. announced that it was going one step further: uTorrent is now going to be ad-supported. Sponsored torrents, in-client ads, the whole shebang.

Does this mean surrender?

And to think things were looking so bright! BitTorrent live - although closed, was an ambitious project which should have disrupted live broadcasting. What happened instead? Almost no press post-release, it seems they are playing quiet… and now this announcement.

I’ve criticized ad-based models in the past, and I intend to keep criticizing it until I die trying to come up with something else. Partnering up with artists and doing high-profile releases was really promising, and I hate to see BT Inc. taking this direction.

If even the mothership loses its way, who’s going to fight the good fight?