BiglyBT is a relatively new BitTorrent client that first entered the scene during the summer of 2017.
The open-source software is created by ‘Parg’ and ‘TuxPaper’ who previously worked as the main developers of Azureus and Vuze. After that project stalled, they left to create their own spinoff instead.
People who try BiglyBT will immediately notice that it has been created by veteran BitTorrent coders. The user interface is old-school and packed full of nifty features, just like the client it was based on. However, BiglyBT is much more than just a copy.
First Client to Support BitTorrent v2
The developers continued improving the software over the years and they have just released a new version with several updates. This latest release includes BitTorrent v2 support, which makes it the first torrent client to support the new specification.
BitTorrent v2 isn’t well known to the public at large but developers see it as a potential game-changer. In basic terms, it’s a new and improved BitTorrent specification that includes several technical changes. It was first proposed by Bram Cohen in 2008 and updated and improved along the way.
A few weeks ago, v2 support was officially added to the Libtorrent library, which is used by popular clients including uTorrent Web, Deluge, and qBittorrent. These clients have yet to implement the functionality and were beaten to the chase by BiglyBT.
Two Types of Torrents
One of the main differences users may notice from BitTorrent v2 is that it creates a new type of torrent format. The v2 torrent format creates a different, stronger torrent hash for a given set of files which will result in a separate swarm from a v1 torrent containing the same files.
To aid migration, there are ‘hybrid’ torrent files that contain information to construct both v1 and v2 swarms for a set of files. BiglyBT supports these, allowing files to be downloaded via both the v1 and v2 swarms. Older clients may be able to access the v1 swarm without change, but this is not guaranteed.
“We support both hybrid and v2 only torrents for downloading, magnet metadata downloads and with all our existing features such as swarm discoveries and I2P,” Parg from BiglyBT informs us.
Different torrent formats may sound like a step backward, but it’s a prerequisite for many added benefits that make BitTorrent ready for the decades to come. We have discussed these benefits in detail before, including the ‘swarm merging’ possibilities.
With swarm merging, someone can download the same file from different torrents that are discovered on request. BiglyBT already has this option where new files are matched based on file sizes. This is a pretty basic approach that involves some guesswork, which makes it error-prone.
Per-File Hashes Opens Doors
BitTorrent v2 changes this, as each file within a torrent has its own hash. This makes it possible to perfectly match files, which could even be done automatically. Right now the feature isn’t implemented yet, but it’s an idea that’s being considered.
“With v2 torrents we have explicit file hashes for each file. Therefore we can switch from using file size as the proxy and take the guesswork out of the matching process,” Parg tells us.
Torrent users can already reap the benefits from v2’a fine-grained block hashes. This makes it possible to verify much smaller chunks of a file as it is downloaded.
The benefit to users of this is that, when bad data is received, either due to corruption during download or perhaps from deliberate pollution by bad actors, only a small amount of data needs to be discarded and the culprit is readily identifiable.
Change Will be Slow
For now, however, not much is going to change. While users can create and download v2 torrents with the latest release, they are not backed by any torrent sites or publishers yet. Until that changes, things will remain the same.
The BiglyBT team does want to be ready for when that time comes and they see the latest release as a conversation shifter.
“I see the BiglyBT support more as a conversation shifter away from the ‘what’s the point of v2, nobody supports it so why should I even think about it’ towards a discussion about realizing the benefits of a transition,” Parg notes.
Thus far there has been surprisingly little talk about BitTorrent v2, even from insiders. BitTorrent’s parent company TRON, which usually doesn’t shy away from making big statements, hasn’t even mentioned it yet, as far as we know.
BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen did bring it up recently, in a discussion about a Verge article covering the controversial persona of Tron’s Justin Sun. Cohen, who added insult to injury., said that he finalized the v2 plans before abandoning the ship.
“I made sure that the plans for BitTorrent v2 were in place before I left and am happy that it’s now launched. Protocols can develop a lot of cruft after more than a decade,” Cohen wrote last week.
Perhaps it’s a sign of the times that personal stories about the antics of a ‘technology’ entrepreneur get more press than a potential revolution in the technology itself. In any case, those who are interested in new technology can create and share their own v2 torrents with BiglyBT today.