The current economic situation is affecting everyone, and high technology companies are no exception. We’ve previously reported how BitTorrent Inc. had made layoffs and closed their Torrent Entertainment Network in recent months, in an attempt to cut costs and stay in business.
This February, the company went on to Google powered torrent search to the uTorrent website to make a few extra bucks, and they’re still looking for additional sources of revenue. This is where Ask.com comes in with their browser toolbar that is used to monetize other P2P clients as well.
Simon Morris, Vice President of product management at BitTorrent Inc. said that the toolbar will be included in new downloads of uTorrent 1.8.2. He assured people that it would be optional though, and that the executable will not have any size increase beyond the download option page. Also, we were told that those doing an upgrade will not be prompted about the bar.
Of course, this new ‘feature’ will fuel speculation by some that it carries on with the ‘MPAA spying’ which some have accused BitTorrent of doing since it bought the uTorrent client, and leads a small groups of people to continue using old versions. To date, we’ve yet to observe any ‘callhomes’ or similar that match any of those accusations.
Simon addressed these concerns telling TorrentFreak: “We are NOT on a path to do anything evil with the user community to make a quick profit. I know you only have our word on this, but it’s not hard to see that we have no chance of achieving our objectives if we alienate the very people on who the popularity of our software depends.”
While browser toolbars have sometimes gained a reputation as being a malware vector, this is usually due to 3rd party advertising. The toolbars generally make money though the search traffic that is generated by its users, and that is also the reason why most torrents sites – The Pirate Bay and Mininova included – now offer their own toolbars.
What BitTorrent inc. is aiming for is simply an extra influx of cash. What it is not looking to do is annoy their users, a point Simon is firm on. “To be very clear – uTorrent is very popular free BitTorrent software – the only thing we hope to change here is to make it even more popular. We hope the community will continue to support us in our efforts,” he told TorrentFreak.
If clients are to continue to develop, then with a growing shortage of venture capital there needs to be other ways to generate income. If the addition of one simple installer option about a browser toolbar means that uTP can be funded to completion (obsoleting many traditional throttling methods) is that really such a bad thing?