BitComet – A Bittorrent Client Stuck Behind a Language Barrier

For more than 7 years BitComet has been one of the most used BitTorrent clients, but also a piece of software with a doubtful reputation among users of competing clients. Many wild claims have been made against BitComet, with nearly no official response in English from the Chinese development team. Today we play catch up and find out how BitComet came about, what went wrong, and where the client is heading in the future.

bitcometWith 2.5 million daily users, BitComet is without doubt one of the most used BitTorrent clients. Although most of its users come from Asia, the client is also well represented in the West, with more than 100,000 daily users in both the US and UK.

In recent years BitComet has been adding many features that have taken it way beyond being a regular BitTorrent client. It now has a full featured HTTP/FTP download manager, a VIP downloading feature, and its own proprietary file sharing protocol which the developers call long-term seeding.

Despite the wide range of features that have been implemented, BitComet has remained largely undiscussed in the English speaking part of the Internet. One of the main reasons for this is that none of the 20-people strong development team speaks English. So today, after working with a team of translators, we aim to bridge this gap and unravel a few mysteries by presenting our discussions with BitComet founder RnySmile.

“In the beginning I was using another BitTorrent client developed in Python,” RnySmile says, commenting on his motivation to start developing BitComet.

“After running a torrent all night long I noticed my harddrive was running like crazy, grinding away as the torrent progressed and I wondered why the developers didn’t use a disc cache to prevent the constant need for repeated read/writes. This client also didn’t have the ability to download more than one torrent at a time.”

“So, being a C++ programmer, I began development on a new client initially called “SimpleBT”, which was originally designed to simply run torrents and introduced a disc cache as well as the ability to download multiple torrents. This project eventually grew to be much more than a simple BitTorrent client so we eventually changed the name to BitComet,” he added.

Today, BitComet has grown far beyond being a one man operation. The current BitComet development team consists of approximately 20 people, who are all from China. These developers are obviously skilled in what they do, but the inherent language barrier also has some downsides.

During the early years there were quite a few controversies surrounding BitComet, which resulted in a bad reputation among many English speaking BitTorrent users. Although RnySmile acknowledges that some errors were made in the past, he believes that many of the reported issues were the result of a lack of communication.

“The criticism and rumors about BitComet that circulated through the English-speaking torrent community were largely unknown to us, at least not to the extent they were known in the English communities,” he says. “Being that BitComet is a free software product we haven’t had the resources to operate a public relations department to service our international users, issue press releases and communicate with the media.”

Although BitComet now has English volunteers who help out users in their native language, this type of support was mostly missing in the early years. In China, on the other hand, it was easier for the BitComet team to address and respond to concerns. “We have always operated a forum in China where we post updates and users can communicate with members of the development team,” RnySmile says.

For many in the English speaking BitTorrent community, the lack of communication resulted in a bad reputation. It all started in 2005 when BitComet was banned from several private BitTorrent trackers for ignoring the “private flag” – a feature that keeps private torrents, private. Even though this issue was resolved relatively quickly, the image of BitComet was permanently damaged.

In the years to come, more and more horror stories popped up, from spreading junk data, to disobeying BitTorrent rules. In 2007, BitTornado developer Shad0w even went as far as banning all BitComet users, because the client allegedly exploited super-seeds.

Around the same time, however, Robb Topolski, a networking and protocol expert with more than 25 years experience, researched most of the claims against BitComet. He concluded that the client was not best suited for initial seeding tasks but at the same time refuted all other claims.

“BitComet is a worthy download client, providing some advantageous features not found in any other current BitTorrent client. Some of these features are confusing and are poorly implemented, but they are not detrimental to a BitTorrent swarm, nor do they take unfair advantage,” Topolski wrote.

“None of the typical accusations against BitComet, those that are provided as reasons for trackers or users to ‘Ban BitComet’ have held true. It is my professional opinion that the bans of BitComet are based on misunderstandings and falsehoods, and not on good data,” he added.

BitComet founder RnySmile agrees with this assessment, and in his full response (linked below) he addresses several of the rumors and misunderstandings in detail. Although the bad press was unpleasant, the BitComet team wanted to look ahead and create an universal download application that goes beyond BitTorrent.

“One thing we wanted to do was make BitComet into more than just a BitTorrent client. We wanted our users to be able to use one program to do all their downloading, no matter what the source of the files was, or the protocol used to get them,’ RnySmile said.

Among other things BitComet has introduced a feature called VIP-downloading which enabled user to download torrent that are accelerated by BitComet’s servers. It’s basically a private connection to a hight speed seedbox which speeds up the downloading process.

Another unique feature to BitComet is the proprietary file sharing protocol which the developers call long-term seeding (LT-seeding). With LT-seeding BitComet users can choose to keep on sharing files with other LT-seeders when their regular download is stopped. However, normal BitTorrent swarms will always have priority over LT-seeding.

Finally, BitComet is also planning to introduce an anonymity feature in the near future, but this is still a work in progress. The above, and integrating many other features that have been implemented over the years, is BitComet’s greatest accomplishment according to RnySmile. “It was a long, hard, and ongoing task to get these new features to all work together and develop a stable product.”

One thing’s for certain, BitComet is here to stay. Although it’s steering in a slightly different direction than most other clients, with some pretty unusual features, we feel that the BitComet team deserves more credit than it generally gets.

The full response from the BitComet team was too long to publish in its entirety but can be read here (pdf). We want to thank everyone who helped in getting this interview ready for publication, including RnySmile, The UnUsual Suspect, the BitComet development team, Lucy26, Kluelos, Cassie, GreyWizard and Vasy.

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