uTorrent Makes Ads Optional Following User ‘Revolt’

BitTorrent Inc, the parent company of uTorrent, is backpedaling on its decision to force advertisements on users of the popular file-sharing client. While the upcoming uTorrent release will still include "sponsored torrents", users will have the option to turn these off if they don't wish to see them. In a statement the company stresses that they will continue to experiment with new revenue models to support the development and innovation of file-sharing software.

Last weekend we broke the news that uTorrent will soon become ad-supported.

The ads will come in the form of sponsored torrents through which advertisers can reach uTorrent’s user base of 125 million active users worldwide.

Along with the announcement BitTorrent Inc. asked users to voice their opinions on the decision, and in the days that followed dozens did just that. While these commenters represent a minuscule fraction of the total number of uTorrent users, their feedback was both negative and fairly unanimous.

“An absolute disgrace. uTorrent used to be an excellent lightweight client with some great features, now its just a bloated and buggy piece of crap which is now going to be bundled with adware,” one user said.

“You were great until a short time ago. Now you are just turning into a bloated mess like all the others. Whoever the genius was to think including ads in your pretty GUI would be a good idea should be gently hung with barbed wire,” another added.

Although these sentiments might not necessarily represent those of the majority, it did motivate BitTorrent Inc. to rethink its decision to force ads onto users.

Today, the company announced that they will give users the ability to opt-out of the sponsored torrents when the initial version is released.

“We’ve long contemplated an opt-out mechanism for the new offers and advertisements we will be experimenting with. Given all that’s been said here, we’ve decided to release the initial version with an opt-out mechanism. Users should have the choice to opt-out, and we will provide them with ways to do so,” said BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker.

According to Klinker it was never their intention to merely cash in on ads. The extra revenue will be used to improve current and future file-sharing technology.

“Opt-in offer experiences also help us bring new levels of investment; not just to the uTorrent client, but also to future iterations of peer-to-peer technology. In other words: experiments like this can help prove to the world that there is a legitimate third way in digital distribution.”

“Experiments like this help us give the distributed technology that we all believe in a fighting chance,” Klinker adds.

BitTorrent Inc has grown explosively in recent years, both in terms of revenue and employees. Current annual revenue is estimated at somewhere between $15 and $20 million and the company is backed by millions in venture capital. By adding sponsored torrents the company will be able to expand even further in the years to come.

This is not the first time that a group of uTorrent users has lashed out against BitTorrent Inc for changes the company made to their flagship software. As is the case for all software, there will always be people who reject change. However, this hasn’t stopped new users from adopting the company’s products.

With its uTorrent and BitTorrent clients the San Francisco company currently has a dominating market share of over 75%, which translates into more than 150 million active users a month. uTorrent has experienced the most spectacular growth by multiplying its active monthly users fivefold to 125 million in less than 4 years.

Update: In a separate forum post BitTorrent responds to accusations that uTorrent has become bloatware. The company is also considering a lighter version of uTorrent, but these plans are not concrete yet.

“We will be removing Apps in a near-future release because they’ve not been a success among our user base worldwide. Similarly, we will evaluate other existing features. We know that not every one of our features is a success, and our goal is to ship a slim base product with only those features users like and use.”

“Beyond this, we hear the calls among many of you for a µ that is smaller and meaner than the current µ. Something like 1.6, 2.0 or similar. Over the past year, we’ve discussed various paths to getting there and are taking this request seriously.”

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