Interview: Limewire & BitTorrent

Limewire is including BitTorrent support in the future. This can be a huge step forward for the most popular non-BitTorrent filesharing application. But how are they going to pull this off?

The limewire blog interviewed Zlatin who’s handling the BitTorrent integration

What prompted the decision to integrate BT into the next version of the LW client?

We had been interested in supporting BT for a very long time but it wasn’t until the recent redesign of the LimeWire core that we were able to do so. We believe that supporting BT will benefit our users as well as the general BT community. It also enables us to do other novel features in the future.

What will this look like to the average LimeWire user, i.e. how will their basic experience on the client change?

It will remain almost the same. Major part of the effort was making sure that torrents blend seamlessly in the experience users have grown to expect from LimeWire. If you compare any Gnutella client with any BT client you’ll see their usage patterns differ in the same way; LimeWire however will look and feel the way it did before, and torrents will look like any other download. All they need to do is double-click on a .torrent file and the download will begin. No wizards, no queues to worry about, no advanced options to tweak, no overwhelming stats – it just works.

LimeWire has proudly flown the Gnutella banner for a while now, and to adopt BT is to adopt a network structure it has avoided in the past. Was there any resistance to this shift or do you see it as necessary evolution?

BT is not a rival network structure; it’s orthogonal to gnutella so there is no conflict on the network level. The main conflicts were the user experience (mentioned above) and the increased competition for upload bandwidth. Since the latter affects other BT clients, I’m sure it will be a point that will come up again and again in the future.

Writing a solid BT program is surely as difficult as writing an equivalent Gnutella-based program, how significant a push to both create and eventually maintain this new aspect is occurring? Are there any existing BT programs that you are using as models?

We’re using the existing BT clients as a model what not to do as far as the user interface is concerned! Network-wise there are some clever ideas we’ve snatched from Azureus and the mainline client.
At first we’ll release a “vanilla” implementation of the basic BT protocol and over time we’ll be adding the various extensions that were developed over the years. We can’t be more specific at this time because some of them are rather intrusive and/or controversial (like encryption). Furthermore, Bram’s vision of BT’s future appears to be different from that of other developers, and for the moment we’d like to stay out of any potential conflict.

What are the advantages of mixing the torrents and Gnutella downloads as opposed to keeping them separate?

The advantage to the user is obvious – they don’t need to run a separate program to download the torrent and can manage their downloads in a consistent and unified manner from a single place. Keeping them separate enables advanced management and the fine-tuning of various aspects of the torrent download. Power users will probably prefer that.

What does this mean for BT sites?

This is very difficult to speculate on because there are a lot of factors and dynamic involved, and torrent sites are a very diverse bunch. I imagine the most authoritarian ones will not be very happy because LimeWire may take away some of the centralized control they enjoy now. But then again how many of the users of such sites will choose to switch to LimeWire or how many new BT users (those LW has brought in the picture) will go to such sites is unknown. This will be another hot topic in the future, I’m sure.

A question from Daniel from thewebdesignjournal.com: “Great that LimeWire will support BitTorrent file transfers. BUT will LimeWire include a new way to actually find the .torrent files?”

We have a lot of exciting features in the pipeline so stay tuned…

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