After the recent announcement by BitTorrent Inc that it has acquired the popular, lightweight Windows torrent client, uTorrent, there has been much speculation about the company making the source code of uTorrent public.
BitTorrent Inc’s official client is Open Source. Sadly, it is unpopular among users due to its bulky nature, and has lost market share to other, more lightweight and feature-full clients like uTorrent and Azureus. At one point, Azureus had many features that uTorrent could not boast of, but this has since changed and uTorrent is now a very feature-rich, and at the same time, small and lightweight program. People like it so much that they even go to great lengths to emulate it on Mac OS X and Linux.
Why would the company open source uTorrent?
There are many reasons for them to do so. One of the many advantages would be to get it quickly and easily ported to other platforms such as OS X and Linux, a task the company has promised to get done. “[uTorrent is] lacking an implementation for Mac and Linux. We will improve uTorrent in these arenas,” said Ludvig Strigeus, the developer of uTorrent in an interview that followed the announcement. Until now he has refused to release non-Windows versions of the client. Also, if uTorrent were made Open Source it would be a lot less likely for its development to stagnate or slow down, there would always be someone ready to maintain and improve upon it.
Reasons not to open source uTorrent
The motivation behind BitTorrent Inc’s acquisition of uTorrent could very well be to have a client that can be customised and morphed to integrate with the upcoming BitTorrent Video Store. If the company were to open source uTorrent, it would not be able to stop users from creating a “clean” version of it, ie. without any Video Store-specific features. This “enhancing” of uTorrent is something users of the client are dreading. A reader of TorrentFreak posted a comment in reaction to the acquisition announcement, “R.I.P. uTorrent!” In a discussion here at TorrentFreak, we came to the conclusion that adding a content store to the client won’t affect most users’ decision to use the program or not. iTunes is a good example of people using a program because of its features, not the openness of its source code. After all, even Azureus will soon have a bundled content store.
By acquiring uTorrent, BitTorrent Inc now has almost 50% of all BitTorrent users in its grasp. They’ve probably paid a hefty price for the client and it’s only fair if they choose not to make it Open Source. The company said in an IRC discussion that followed the announcement that the source code of uTorrent will remain closed for now, but gave no clues as to what their future plans might look like.