When the BitTorrent protocol was first made public almost two decades ago, it was only supported by desktop apps.
As time went by, people started to do more from their web browsers, including downloading and streaming, but support for web-based torrenting was still lacking.
This is one of the reasons why Stanford University graduate Feross Aboukhadijeh invented WebTorrent. The technology, which relies on WebRTC, is supported by most modern browsers and allows users to seamlessly stream or download torrent files using the web.
Over the past few years, several tools and services have been built on WebTorrent’s technology. These include Instant.io, βTorrent, as well as the popular Brave browser, which comes with a built-in torrent client based on WebTorrent.
These apps and services all work as advertised. However, WebTorrent-based implementations typically come with a major drawback. Since communication between WebTorrent peers relies on WebRTC, it can’t share files with standard torrent clients by default.
LibTorrent add Support for WebTorrent
This rift between WebTorrent and traditional torrent clients is now starting to close. Libtorrent has just created a bridge between the two ‘worlds’ by implementing official WebTorrent support.
Libtorrent is a popular implementation of the BitTorrent protocol, used by clients including Deluge, qBittorrent, Tribler and others. By implementing the WebTorrent extensions, these clients will become compatible with browser peers and vice-versa.
“I am very excited to see libtorrent adding support for the WebTorrent protocol,” Feross tells TorrentFreak, commenting on the news.
“This opens the door for many more torrent clients to support connecting to WebTorrent peers. Browser peers will now be able to access a huge trove of content currently only available to TCP/UDP peers,” he adds.
WebTorrent’s vision always was to make all torrents available in the browser. While that was technically possible, downloading torrents could often be a challenge in reality, simply because not enough people were sharing them.
More Peers For WebTorrent Users
Right now, WebTorrent and traditional torrent clients can’t talk to each other. However, the libtorrent peers will soon act as a hybrid, bridging the gap between these two ecosystems.
With libtorrent adding WebTorrent support, the pool of available ‘hybrid’ peers will expand massively. This will render browser-based clients more usable and therefore a good alternative for casual torrenters.
“While desktop torrent clients aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, now the web browser will become a viable alternative to an installed torrent client,” Feross says.
“This is huge for less-technical users, users who can’t install native apps, or users who just feel safer using a website. WebTorrent offers more options and more ways to connect,” he adds.
While WebTorrent is now officially supported by libtorrent, it may take more time for individual clients to update to the latest version. But when that happens, WebTorrent will broaden its reach.