BitTorrent Apps Arrive, But What’s in Store?

Today, BitTorrent Inc. officially debuts the BitTorrent Apps platform in a non-Beta client. The company chose the smaller BitTorrent Mainline client over their leading brand uTorrent for the release, giving 14 million users access to their App platform. The question is, however, how big the demand for Apps among BitTorrent users will be.

After Vuze and uTorrent, the BitTorrent Mainline client is the third most-used BitTorrent client in the western world based on the number of active users. Those who use it will see that it looks much like a rebranded version of uTorrent. Although we can’t look under the hood, it is safe to assume that much of the code is exactly the same.

Due to its similarities with uTorrent, this smaller brother makes an ideal platform for testing new features in the wild – features that will eventually appear in uTorrent as well. Thus far this opportunity hasn’t really been put to use as most of the Mainline features have been lagging behind uTorrent. Today, however, this changes as BitTorrent Inc. has decided to first launch the ‘Apps’ platform in the release candidate of the Mainline 7.1 client.

BitTorrent Apps is a web-based extensions framework to add new functionality without compromising the lightness of the core BitTorrent client. Similar to other apps, addons and extensions in today’s web browsers and phones, the Javascript-based Apps will allow 3rd party developers to create applications that will integrate seamlessly with the client. They can be added to the client with a single click and are displayed using an embedded browser window.

Thus far the Apps have only been available to a relatively small group of uTorrent users, those who downloaded the experimental ‘Griffin‘ client. This means that today’s release will be the first real test for the platform, as it will open up to an audience of more than twelve million users. It is likely that BitTorrent Inc. chose Mainline for the initial release as a final test before the Apps are added to the regular uTorrent client which has over 50 million users.

The Apps ‘store’ launches with 11 Apps that are featured in the client, but developers can make their own apps available on external sites as well. While the platform is open, BitTorrent Inc. is curating the Apps that will be featured in the client. Most likely this means that Apps which promote copyright infringement will be barred from being featured.

The word ‘store’ might not be the best term to describe the Apps section today, but this might change. All the Apps promoted in the client are currently free, but BitTorrent Inc. isn’t ruling out the possibility of paid Apps.

“We can’t rule out someday creating an official commerce platform for developers to use if they choose, however, with many in-app payment systems available to developers today, it’s not the priority. The priority is to create a truly unique and integrated experience so our users can add awesome new functionality,” BitTorrent Inc. told TorrentFreak.

For BitTorrent Inc. the Apps platform opens up some interesting possibilities to generate additional revenue. Commercial affiliate deals and potentially paid Apps could become a significant revenue stream aside from the toolbar installs the company makes most of its income from now.

At this point, however, it is hard to see where the Apps platform will go. With only 11 available Apps there is not much value yet. The success of the platform will therefore depend on what developers come up with, and how useful these Apps will be to BitTorrent users. Time will tell.

Starting today the first release candidate of BitTorrent Mainline 7.1, including the Apps, is available for download on BitTorrent.com. The final version is expected to be released in a week or two.

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