7 reasons Bittorrent.com could fail

Mikey 4 comments
7 reasons Bittorrent.com could fail

Don't let the title fool you. Bittorrent is a fantastic technology and is already paving the way of the future for massive online content distribution.

It's certainly the most popular method of 'acquiring' files through sites like Torrentspy and Mininova. But illegal content aside, Bram Cohen's technology has already been used to solve distribution problems for high profile companies like Valve for example, for video game distribution through the popular Steam application.

But the torrent method of file distribution is not without its well documented issues, and now that Bittorrent.com finally went live with its new service yesterday offering legal video, music and games downloads, there are some hurdles to overcome that may be beyond their control.

Bittorrent.comFor those unaware, torrents work in a simple way although the algorithms behind it are quite complex. As an example, I start downloading a file, and every bit of information I download becomes 'shareable', making me a 'seed', so anyone else who wants to download the same file will be receiving small portions of the file from me and anyone else who has it.

Essentially you are grabbing parts of the file from hundreds or thousands of sources, until you have the complete file assembled on your PC ready to go.

But the 'give and ye shall receive' philosophy does have some technical hurdles to overcome.

Bandwidth restrictions.
In some countries, like here in Australia, ISP's still charge a fortune compared to international broadband plans. And furthermore some even add outgoing traffic to your monthly usage quota. I pay $120/month for 25gb at speeds around half a megabyte per second. Some countries have plans for 1/20th of that price with 10x larger quotas and 10x faster speeds. So if I wanted to get a 200mb file using a torrent client, I will be downloading 200mb and uploading anything up to and possibly more than 200mb. My bandwidth will start to disappear quite fast.

ISP intervention.
As torrents are typically associated with illegal software downloads (warez), some ISP's have taken to blocking ports that torrents require. They do this to protect themselves and their clients from legal hot water and also to stop the network from getting bogged down.

Torrent clients are seldom that simple and will confuse newcomers.

Compared to the way most people already download files through HTTP, using one of the many Torrent clients (Bitlord, Azureus, Utorrent etc...) is a completely different affair. Downloading through your web browser is easy. Click on a link, the download eventually completes.

In addition, leaving your torrent client to download a file overnight while you sleep is a sure way to waste all your bandwidth and get a very large bill for excessive usage from your ISP. This is because by default torrent clients continue to share your file (upload) even when it has finished downloading.

DRM (Digital Rights Management).
DRM essentially limits the way you can use the file you have downloaded. For example, it may be limited to just your machine, or your machine and only one portable device. DRM can even put an expiry on a file, so you can't play it after a certain date or after a certain number of plays. It’s no surprise DRM is unpopular as it is.

Lack of content.
Sure it's early days, but right now the amount of legal Bittorrent content is at a minimum.

You have to pay.
Trying to convince someone to pay for the latest episode of LOST when he can easily download it for free (albeit illegally) in a high quality format is going to be somewhat of a near impossible mission.

File popularity.
Newer files, say the latest episode of a popular television show will typically have hundreds or thousands of seeds, making downloading relatively fast. But older less popular files that have not had as wide distribution (or have been deleted by users) will have fewer seeds, which translates into slow downloads. In some cases you may only have a few seeds or none at all.

There are probably more reasons so feel free to comment below. And there are a lot of reasons why the new Bittorrent might actually succeed. But there are some legitimate concerns and Cohen and Co will surely deal with them as best they can, if they can.


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Thursday 1st March 2007 | 09:00 AM

They are some good reasons but you will find they are aware of these problems and many more. With the right marketing anything is possible.

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Saturday 3rd March 2007 | 11:41 PM

Nice 1 but torrents still rule as far as amount of quantity of content is concerned. Your point about having to pay is probably the most valid

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Sunday 4th March 2007 | 03:20 AM

The new idea using Bittorrent.com to sell/rent movies/games will fail for all reason stated above. The downloads are slow, with feww seeders and its not free. also you can only keep it for 24 hours? huh? I seriously hope it fails

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Tuesday 20th March 2007 | 06:23 PM

Bram Cohen is so cool its surprising he took on this sinking ship endeavour. Torrent technology is good but I gotta agree with the author on this one. Why should I pay for TV shows that are already free-to-air?

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