Exeem opens new file-swapping doors

BitTorrent gains new face as developers turn it into part Kazaa, part TiVo--and a grassroots media platform.

Underground programmers hoping to capitalize on the BitTorrent file-swapping community on Friday unveiled highly anticipated software that some peer-to-peer advocates believe could blunt recent legal attacks from Hollywood.

Called Exeem, the software aims to merge the speedy downloads of BitTorrent with the powerful global search capabilities of Kazaa or eDonkey. The first public version of the program was released by a company called Swarm Systems but has been associated with SuprNova, a Web site that, until recently, drew millions of people seeking free content online through the popular BitTorrent software.

BitTorrent has been the focus of an aggressive legal attack by movie studio attorneys and their allies in recent weeks, leading to the disappearance of several of the most critical hubs for online file swapping around the world.

Some of the software's advocates have looked to the release of Exeem to bolster a community that had temporarily contributed to more Net traffic than any other application online. The developers may have more muted, short-term ambitions, however.

"We have not created BitTorrent, but a totally new P2P, which is a lot different from BitTorrent," said Andrej "Sloncek" Preston, who represents Swarm Systems and operated the now-defunct SuprNova site. "I think it's a fresh approach. Only time will tell if it's going to work."

The software's release is part of a broader maturation of one of the Net's most popular file-swapping communities. Once focused solely on fast downloads, with little capacity for searching or more advanced features, BitTorrent is being reborn as an updated version of Kazaa, as a rival to TiVo and as a grassroots media tool.

Written by independent developer Bram Cohen, BitTorrent has been an extraordinarily popular tool because it allows large files such as movies, TV shows or software to be downloaded relatively quickly. The technology downloads bits of a file at a time, and each downloader then makes those pieces available to other people trying to find the file.

The result, called "swarming," is the opposite of traditional Web traffic jams; more people trying to find the file typically means easier downloads, not long waits. Some software companies, including Linux developers, have used the software to distribute their products, lessening the load on their own download Web sites.

However, BitTorrent has required links to files to be posted on Web sites or distributed through chat networks like Internet Relay Chat. A

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