BitTorrent, or simply “torrent”, may now be more easily associated with piracy, but the technology originated from a desire to distribute files, especially large ones, more efficiently, without being beholden to a single server or its limited bandwidth. That need is greater today with the rise of live streaming, which has practically democratized news and event coverage away from media giants. In a similar vein, BitTorrent, the company behind the technology, is announcing BitTorrent Live, a “multichannel, live and linear video streaming platform”. In other words, a peer-to-peer live streaming platform.
Normally, files that are distributed or downloaded from the Internet reside wholly on a single server, whether it be a central one or mirrors, and practically get downloaded as a whole, more or less. While perfectly fine for normal situations and smaller files, it because problematic when larger files or more downloaders, or even both, are involved. That’s because the process relies on the reliability of that single server and its available bandwidth. P2P or peer-to-peer solves that problem by spreading the burden around everyone downloading the same file. In a nutshell, a file is split into chunks and those who are done downloading those chunks start uploading it to others connected on the network.
Video streaming can work with either method. Streaming already recorded content, like TV shows or movies, is better suited for the traditional approach. Live streaming events, however, usually involves dozens if not hundreds of viewers simultaneously tapping in. As such, it is the perfect opportunity for P2P, which is exactly what BitTorrent Live is trying to offer.
More like Twitch.tv than YouTube or Netflix, BitTorrent Live focuses on live streaming particular events, specifically news, sports, music, tech, and youth culture. It has already over a dozen channels ready to take advantage of the promise of a more reliable and efficient live streaming platform. That includes channels like Clubbing TV, Fightbox, Heroes TV, Newsmax, and TWiT, just to name a few.
For viewers, the end experience should probably be no different from other live streaming platforms like Twitch.tv. Under the hood, however, each viewer also becomes a broadcaster, providing some of the network resources to enable others to enjoy quality streaming as well. Much of the details, including subscription fees, are still under wraps. When BitTorrent Live does go live, it will be available on Apple TV, iOS, Android, and Mac. Curiously, no mention of Windows.