BitTorrent was first released by Bram Cohen back in 2001, long before streaming video sites such as YouTube existed. At the time, those who wanted to watch high quality video on their computers sometimes had to wait for hours or days until a download finished.
Now, at the end of the decade where BitTorrent has become a synonym for file-sharing, hundreds of millions of people have high speed broadband connections at their homes. Downloading a popular movie or TV-series often takes less than an hour nowadays, but for the demanding web users of today this delay can still prove quite annoying.
Spoiled by the many streaming video sites that have surged in popularity since YouTube’s launch in 2005, many people simply want to start watching instantly. To satiate this demand the popular BitTorrent client uTorrent has now added streaming support to the latest uTorrent beta release, which allows users to play video files while they are downloading.
“Our hope is to transform getting media using uTorrent from a ‘load-wait-watch-tomorrow’ to more of a ‘point-click-watch’ experience,” Simon Morris, BitTorrent’s VP of Product Management said in a comment.
uTorrent’s new streaming option
Although several other BitTorrent clients have already implemented similar streaming capabilities, uTorrent will finally make BitTorrent streaming possible for the majority of BitTorrent users.
In our tests the new feature worked flawlessly on well-seeded torrents. Users simply have to click on the play button next to the download, and after a few seconds or minutes it will turn green, ready to be streamed.
By default the latest uTorrent release is configured to use the DivX web player to stream video. This works well for most files but for us it caused problems with some video formats. Changing it to VLC or any other media player is relatively easy though, by nominating a different streaming player in uTorrent’s preferences.
Aside from streaming regular downloads, uTorrent’s parent company BitTorrent Inc. is also working on BitTorrent-powered live streams. BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen himself aims to develop a piece of code that is superior to all the other P2P-based streaming solutions on the market today.
“I think there’s a very large market for live [streaming] in general, and to date no-one has proven that a p2p solution can meet the real-world requirements for being an acceptable live solution. I intend on changing that,” Bram told TorrentFreak earlier this year.
For now, uTorrent users will have to settle for on-demand streaming. Those who do not intend to use the feature can be assured that the streaming implementation used by uTorrent is designed on the principles of tit-for tat sharing, meaning that it does not slow down regular downloads.