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Legit BitTorrent faces uphill struggle

BitTorrent, the king of all that is illegal on the Internet, has decided to go down the straight and narrow, but what are its prospects?

What's going on with the world? The faceless corporate monster that is Dell has taken a step closer to embracing Linux, Sony says PS3 games will cost a miserly £40 and, shock of all horrors, BitTorrent is going legit.

Will we still get to watch future episodes of Lost? Does this signal the death-knell of all that is illegal in the world of file sharing? Is it in anyone's benefit for BitTorrent to go down the same route as Napster or Kazaa?

We think it's fairly obvious that most of BitTorrent's existing 135 million users will flee in droves. The vast majority were only using the service to steal movies so the fact they're now being asked to pay $2.99 (£2) for each download, and can only keep movies for 30 days, is a pretty good incentive to use an alternative (read: free and illegal) service.

BitTorrent's fate can arguably be predicted if we look at what happened to Kazaa -- since going legal its user base dropped from millions to hundreds in the blink of a gnat's eye. Then there's Napster, which had 26.4 million verified users in 2001, but now has 566,000 subscribers since going on the straight and narrow. £2 per movie or 79p per song isn't a lot to ask, but it's not as cheap as 'free'.

We're guessing the head boys at BitTorrent had no choice but to go straight. We'd choose heavy subscriber losses over picking up the jail soap any day of the week. We also applaud the fact consumers are being given more choice about where and how they can legally download digital content.

Just don't expect the dark side of P2P to go away any time soon, or for BitTorrent and its newly legal peers to have an easy ride. -RR