uTorrent’s New Altruistic Mode Baffles Enthusiastic File-Sharers

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This week BitTorrent Inc. announced a brand new feature for its uTorrent and BitTorrent clients. By enforcing a 2:1 sharing ratio, Altruistic Mode appears to be designed for the file-sharer who really wants to give back to the community. However, even among the real sharing enthusiasts, we can't find a single user who wants to use it.

In general terms, torrent clients haven’t undergone much development in the past several years. They essentially do what they did a decade ago, albeit with a number of additional bells and whistles.

So, this week, when BitTorrent Inc announced a new feature for its uTorrent and BitTorrent clients, it was time to sit up and take notice. Especially since the news was delivered by none other than the inventor of BitTorrent, Bram Cohen.

The announcement centered around Altruistic Mode, an option buried away in the clients’ preferences that ensures that the downloader who enables it always maintains a share ratio of 2:1. In other words, if they download 1GB, their upload will be perfectly synced to have uploaded 2GB when that point is reached.

For those who take the time to read it, Cohen’s explanation of how it works is crystal clear. However, despite the good intentions, we can’t find a single person who thinks it’s a good idea.

“What is the point of this ‘innovation’?” one reader asked TorrentFreak. “If I want to share 2:1 I just seed for that long. I’m always seeding 6:1 or more anyway so i’ll never use it.”

Another offered a settings solution.

“About the ‘Altruistic Mode’ in µTorrent: Right-click the torrent you want seeded to a 2:1 ratio > Properties > Seeding Goal: Override Default Settings: 200 (%) > OK. Takes less than 10 seconds,” he wrote.

“What might have been useful is an overall setting ‘Seed every torrent to nnn%’ in Options > Preferences > Bandwidth, a setting that could be overridden in the Properties of a particular torrent for a different ratio.”

However, as Cohen explains in his piece, seeding for longer isn’t always the answer to achieving a perfect 2:1 ratio. That being said, people simply can’t see why they need the feature, with others pointing out how it could even be self-defeating

“Ironically, for this ‘mode’ to work it requires leeches. Seems like a bad idea to me,” says TF reader Salem Lowe.

“If everyone successfully seeded 2:1, wouldn’t everyone would need to download [the torrent] twice?” questioned Zoflo.

“Correct,” Gentox replied.

Of course, this situation would only arise if everyone in a swarm had the feature switched on, which given the reception so far seems ridiculously unlikely, particularly given Cohen’s warning that those with the feature enabled may find that their torrents never complete.

And here’s the problem. The only torrent users that are likely to want to be as altruistic as this feature envisions are those that seed heavily anyway. However, it seems that this mode only encourages people to sit in a torrent while being restricted by what they can upload, potentially without even having the whole file.

Without the whole file, true seeding can’t take place and to the hardcore sharer, that’s a bizarre concept. It’s also why Altruistic Mode probably won’t be a success, particularly when torrent etiquette can already achieve the end goals – plenty of well-seeded content.

“The only thing [the mode] will produce are a bunch of smug people bragging about how they are altruistic seeders,” says TF reader Nighter3D.

“Just download the file as fast as possible and then keep seeding for as long as possible. You will still get a good ratio and because you got the entire file you reduce the risk of it becoming incomplete-able for others.”

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