If BitTorrent has its way, you'll be paying for some torrented content before the end of the year thanks to the integration of BitTorrent Bundle technology into its desktop apps on Wednesday.
The updates to uTorrent version 3.4 available today, and BitTorrent version 7.9, available next week, include the Bundle technology support and a rapid-release cycle of around two weeks between updates.
To say that BitTorrent is bullish on the success of Bundle since it launched the gated content distribution program would be a gross understatement.
"I think it is as important as uTorrent Protocol," said Matt Mason, BitTorrent's vice president of marketing, referring to the bandwidth managing protocol that BitTorrent created to keep torrents from overwhelming the Internet. "The Bundle is the first or only significant change to the [torrent] format since the torrent was created."
He described the Bundle as a different format of torrent called a "mutable torrent," which allows the torrent creator to create a "gate" that the user must pass before receiving access to all of the torrent's content. Up until now, the Bundle has been two torrents: one with content available before the gate, and one after, but linked together in an apparently seamless manner.
However, the mutable torrent file format will not appear any different than a normal torrent.
So far, the gate has been limited to users entering their e-mail address in a Web page, which often has led to a mailing list subscription. You get free content, and the creator gets to know your e-mail for further marketing and distribution purposes.
The "mutable torrent" support allows for the process to be contained in a single torrent file, and within the torrent client itself. This means that users will no longer be booted to a Web page -- they'll be able to interact with the gate without leaving uTorrent or BitTorrent.
It also means, Mason said, that in the coming months creators will be able to change the gate. Before the end of the year, BitTorrent Bundle will include an option for a pay gate. And just as BitTorrent was able to encourage other torrent software makers to incorporate uTorrent Protocol into their apps, Mason said that he'd like to see Bundle support in competitors.
"We want the rest of the torrent community on board with Bundles," he said.
Even in its early stages, the Bundle format has grown beyond BitTorrent.
"You're seeing a lot of Bundles published now that have nothing to do with us," Mason said. "Often we'll find out about a Bundle from a press release."
BitTorrent's updated Android app includes a refreshed interface, selectable downloads within a torrent, and the ability to choose download locations. The app has hit 50 million users, of the 180 million or so people who use BitTorrent and uTorrent.
For a beta version of a program barely a year old, the Bundle program did well in 2013. It had more than 8,000 content creators registered to use the tool, with 60 million Bundle downloads over 448 published Bundles, and content from Academy Award nominated and winning actors, directors, Grammy-nominated musicians, and best-selling authors. Supporting creators included Moby, Madonna, Public Enemy, Tim Ferriss, and Marc Ecko.
Moby's Bundle stats were the most impressive, with his latest album having been downloaded 8.9 million times -- 419,000 of those who downloaded it joined Moby's e-mail list, followed by 130,000 who went onto the album on iTunes.
Editor's note: Using P2P and file-sharing software to distribute copyrighted material without authorization is illegal in the United States and many other countries. CBS Interactive does not encourage or condone the illegal duplication or distribution of copyrighted content.