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Blogosphere goes wild for Firefox P2P extension

The software isn't ready yet, but the promise of file-swapping inside a Web browser is raising eyebrows online.

An as-yet-unreleased Firefox extension that aims to turn the popular Web browser into a file-sharing tool is building considerable buzz in the blogosphere.

AllPeers, a company based in the U.K., is in the midst of developing a peer-to-peer tool for the open-source browser, which it claims is "the best thing to happen to Firefox...since Firefox." The software has yet to be released, but the company says it will allow Web surfers to browse each other's hard drives and download files.

"AllPeers is a free extension which combines the strength of Firefox and the efficiency of BitTorrent to transform your favorite browser into a media sharing powerhouse," states the company's Web site.

The extension will be available "soon", according to the company, which has posted screenshots on its Web site to show the tool's interface.

Over the last few weeks, interest in the extension has been building fast, with scores of blog postings about the AllPeers extension, according to blog search engine Technorati.

Web browser developers have been working for months to add BitTorrent support into their products, noting that it has become a standard way to transfer large files such as open-source software packages. The file-sharing protocol is also extraordinarily popular, however, among surfers seeking free movies, games and movies.

Norwegian software company Opera already has released a test version of its browser with the P2P tool installed, and an independent open-source project called MozTorrent is working on its own Firefox plug-in.

With the explicit abilities of browsing other people's drives and sharing files directly from the browser, the AllPeers extension goes farther than previous projects.

U.S. blogger "B.D." was excited about the new extension, claiming that at the expense of its main rival, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, the extension could increase the number of people using Firefox,

"This is exciting news as it really moves Firefox into a realm that IE can only dream of at the moment," the blogger said in a posting last week.

"By using a peer network of some sort, Firefox will exploit the publicity surrounding this functionality which has the potential to multiply the number of people exposed to the Firefox application tremendously. This could be huge," he said.

Other bloggers agreed that this could increase Firefox market share. "It sounds like AllPeers gives us yet another reason to use Firefox," wrote blogger "JonnyGuru".

Some bloggers were more skeptical about the new extension. Mike Linksvayer said he was reluctant to write about a software that was not yet available, as it "could be vaporware." Another blogger warned that being associated with peer-to-peer file sharing could damage the open-source browser's reputation.

"I'm afraid the 'peers' or 'P2P' moniker will end up sullying Firefox's name to those out there not in the know," said the blogger, who describes himself as a golfing tech-geek.

It's not just English-speaking bloggers that are interested in the new Firefox extension. Blogs in a number of other languages, including Chinese, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish, also have mentioned the AllPeers extension.

Ingrid Marson reported for ZDNet UK. CNET staff writer John Borland also contributed to this report.