Here comes BitTorrent 2.0. Researchers at the Delft University of Technology and De Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam recently unveiled the latest version of a new-age BitTorrent client known as Tribler, part of an effort to "move P2P to the next generation".
"In the past, P2P was all about file-sharing and key word search," Johan Pouwelse, an assistant professor at Delft University. "We're working towards true content sharing, a system that gives you the sort of visual browsing you have on YouTube and the community feeling you have on FaceBook or MySpace."
The new Tribler client recently received a "thumbs-up" from Ernesto, the man behind the P2P weblog TorrentFreak - though he admitted to being "a little biased". Like Tribler, Ernesto was "made in Holland". When pressed, he questions whether the community-based "Web 2.0" ethos makes sense with BitTorrent, whose users receive a fair amount of heat from the major movie studios over the sharing of copyrighted content.
"The traditional BitTorrent user doesn't need the whole social aspect," says Ernesto, who refuses to reveal his last name. "I'm pretty sure that most of the existing users don't want others to be able to see what they've downloaded. They tend to value their privacy."
Tapping into LiveLeak, as well as BitTorrent and YouTube, Tribler lets you browse for videos via thumbnail images as well as keywords. It offers a Last.fm-esque recommendation engine that suggests videos based on your download habits and shares your tastes with the Web at large. And thanks to a "video on demand" option, you can begin watching clips even as they're downloading. With some added code, you can also search additional video sites. "All you need to do is change a few logical expressions," Pouwelse explains.
According to Ernesto, the client is still a bit buggy. "Most functionalities are still in the experimental phase," he says. "If you're concerned about speed and memory use as well as features, I would recommend sticking with a client like utorrent."
As of this week, 20 researchers across the two universities are working on the project, and Version 4.1 is due later this summer. In the year since Tribler first hit the Web, according to Pouwelse, the client has been downloaded more than 130,000 times.
Tribler is funded in part by the Dutch Freeband Program, a research-centric project under the aegis of The Netherlands' Ministry of Economic Affairs, ®