BitTorrent was the first widely adopted technology that made it possible to download large videos online in a timely fashion. It’s needless to say that BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen unleashed a small revolution here, even though he never envisioned the technology being used to swap video.
However, a key characteristic of the young Internet is that it constantly evolves, and in 2005 video streaming was brought to the mainstream thanks to YouTube. This online video streaming revolution has hugely increased the use of bandwidth by individual consumers. At the same time it’s also resulting in huge bandwidth bills for streaming sites.
So as we near the 10th anniversary of BitTorrent its inventor Bram Cohen is finalizing a new protocol, this time aimed at P2P-live streaming. Although P2P-live streaming is not something new per se, Cohen thinks that his implementation will set itself apart from competitors with both its efficiency and extremely low latency.
“Doing live properly is a hard problem, and while I could have a working thing relatively quickly, I’m doing everything the ‘right’ way,” Bram Cohen told TorrentFreak last year when he announced his plans. He further explained that the BitTorrent protocol had to be redone to make it compatible with live streams, “including ditching TCP and using congestion control algorithms different from the ones we’ve made for UTP”
In the months that followed Cohen figured out most of this complex puzzle and the technology is now mature enough to show to the public. Although there’s still a lot of secrecy around the technical details, the BitTorrent team agreed to show TorrentFreak a demo in anticipation of the official release later this year.
Although it’s fascinating to see BitTorrent’s inventor waving at a computer, it is impossible to see how this compares to competing technologies without the option of testing a working version and having more technical details.
Over the years we’ve already seen a few working implementations and adaptations of the BitTorrent protocol that allow for P2P live streaming. Most notable is the SwarmPlayer, which has proven to work well with low latencies in real live tests, but usually supported by high bandwidth ‘fall-back peers’.
“The main areas of innovation relate to techniques he is using to manage latency at an unprecedented low while controlling network congestion,” BitTorrent’s VP of Product Management Simon Morris told TorrentFreak in our quest for more information.
“As outlined in the academic literature on live P2P content delivery, the management of live p2p streaming on the open internet requires split second reconfigurations to reroute content delivery in the fewest possible round trips between peers in the event of network hiccups.”
“Bram’s methods to manage network reconfiguration wrap rerouting together with a novel approach to congestion control. Obviously we’ll be happy to share more technical details in due course, but only once the technology reaches a level of maturity that it makes sense to share.”
This means that the wait continues, and we were told that the official release will take at least a few more months. For some reason we think that it might take until July, which makes sense PR-wise because the BitTorrent protocol then officially celebrates its tenth anniversary.