A backlash among Reddit users has seen BitTorrent Inc. criticized over the way revenue-generating addons were presented in parallel with uTorrent client downloads. The company informs TorrentFreak that it always considers feedback, aims to provide a good customer experience, and will introduce changes soon. But whatever they are, is it really possible to please all of the people all of the time, especially ones whose requirements are “no-strings free” at all times?
Apparently everything is available for free on the web these days. Music, movies, TV shows, games – you name it – it’s all just a click away.
New business models must be found, the tide is way too strong to hold back, the genie is out of the bottle. It’s reportedly get real or get out time, or so the sound bites go.
BitTorrent users, in one form or another, have been held to blame for much of the above scenario, along with their main weapon of choice, uTorrent. But market forces are interesting beasts and ones that don’t exist in a vacuum.
BitTorrent Inc., the company behind the completely legal uTorrent, has worked hard to develop both itself and its software, but as it grows so do its costs. Somehow revenue has to be generated and these days, when you’re a company employing around 80 staff, that has to be a significant amount.
So, just like the entertainment companies who struggle to make money against free, BitTorrent Inc. has to employ techniques to give away their free product, in this instance uTorrent, and bring in the bucks at the same time.
In part this is achieved by selling uTorrent Plus, which is essentially the regular uTorrent with anti-virus, media playing and conversion functions built in. Revenue is also generated by bundling optional addons, such as a toolbar, with the free uTorrent, but a new method of offering these extras has managed to irritate a bunch of Reddit users.
The complaint centers around a single but very important button on the uTorrent site – the “Free Download” button, as illustrated below.
The problem is that the button isn’t a simple one-click download. Once a user hovers over it ready to click, the button and surrounding areas quickly change to include extra information.
The very eager user will simply see “Download” directly under their mouse pointer and will just click away, but the more cautious will notice that there are three options – all preselected – which relate to extra features and bundled revenue-generating software. You can test for yourself here.
Obviously BitTorrent Inc. need to make money, but the main complaints seem to center around the way this download page has been configured to encourage a skipping over the details (and therefore the installation of potentially unwanted software) in order to obtain a quick download.
While critics might argue that people should read what they’re agreeing to before clicking, BitTorrent Inc. say that the changes are recent and were implemented to streamline the uTorrent installation experience.
“We’ve been offering the toolbar for years as a way to support the development of our software so users can get it free,” a spokesman told TorrentFreak.
“We recently moved the toolbar to the download page so we could have more flexibility in how we describe the toolbar’s torrent-specific features and also shorten and clean up our installer, an ongoing process.”
But what is clear from the posts on Reddit and elsewhere is that the changes aren’t popular. With that in mind, BitTorrent Inc., which has a record of listening to its users, says it will do some restructuring.
“We have read feedback including the Reddit posts, and are planning adjustments to improve the experience,” their spokesperson concludes.
While we wait for the changes to be confirmed (they will apparently arrive tomorrow), what is interesting to observe is how relatively easily some BitTorrent users, despite getting a free product in return, are upset by tactics they perceive as being less than upfront.
The Reddit thread is full of threats to switch to different clients and as always there is a tendency to suggest clients with less intrusive revenue generating mechanisms, fewer adverts, then ultimately ones that offer a plain client with nothing added at all.
It seems that having to compete with free is a reality even for BitTorrent clients these days. How times change.