Why legal BitTorrent downloads might just work

I don't think it's any secret the vast majority of BitTorrent users use the software to obtain pirated material. But a large addition of content in the future from the legal BitTorrent store may steadily grow in its appeal to downloaders

Nate Lanxon Special to CNET News
3 min read

Om Malik of GigaOm.com has published a list of five reasons why he foresees trouble with the new legit media download service from BitTorrent. Although I back his general opinion -- that this new service is not likely to take off -- I do have some issues with his five points. And here they are:

Internet Service Providers dislike BitTorrent
"ISPs can disable or hinder the BitTorrent technology"

True, but this is primarily done using the blocking of popular P2P ports. These port numbers are easily changeable from within a BitTorrent client. Since many apps use obscure ports, ISPs are unable to block all ports. They simply block the ones most commonly used by programs such as Azureus, BearShare and LimeWire.

BitTorrents not easy, especially for novices
"BitTorrent is still pretty tough to use for mainstream, less sophisticated users, and can leave novices pretty confused. Little things can ruin the experience"

Very true. However, BitTorrent's new legal service is not being promoted as the new easy way to obtain movies and media legally. This new service seems aimed towards existing users of BitTorrent or at least those in the world with enough computer know-how to install and use a BitTorrent client. If you can use an FTP client, you can use a BitTorrent client.

The main advantage to using BitTorrent as your legal download source, is that it takes the strain off the corporate servers providing the download bandwidth, which results in faster downloads, and therefore faster access to the media you want.

There are a lot of people out there who can use BitTorrent and those people are seen as wallets of cash worth reaching out for.

Content on BitTorrent Store ain't all that
"BitTorrent needs to offer content that is far superior either in quality (hi-def for example) or in variety for users to switch from the click-and-download ease of the iTunes store, or similar such services"

Like all new services, you have to start somewhere. The iTunes Store wasn't all that when it launched, but a few years on and several huge deals later, it's one hell of a marketplace. BitTorrent will grow soon enough since any extra revenue for content creators is vastly desirable.

Who uses the official BitTorrent client?
"BitTorrent's official client has lost out to alternative clients including Azureus and BitComet"

If you want to use a new service, most people expect to use a new piece of software. It's not a huge ball-ache, but I can't reasonably think any huge number of BitTorrent users are going to complain hugely, since using the official client isn't as bad as having to use Sony's SonicStage software instead of, say, iTunes. It's a solid app, just not as comprehensive or advanced as Azureus, for example.

Why pay to play?
"How do you convince people to pay for something they are used to downloading for free by using BitTorrent?"

This is the question posed to all legal download services and is not relevent solely to this new BitTorrent service.

I don't think it's any secret that the vast majority of BitTorrent users use the software to obtain pirated material. However, faster download speeds and (presumably) a large addition of content in the future from the legal BitTorrent store, may steadily grow in its appeal to downloaders.

Sadly, BitTorrent is plagued by the consensus of many media industry professionals that the software is just used to obtain pirated content. This is wrong. The 'software' -- BitTorrent -- is actually a revolutionary piece of technology that simply takes the pressure off central servers by spreading out the data distribution over hundreds, even thousands, of peers and networks.

It is the content-delivery system of the future and the only way to realistically distribute media, such as high-def video content, without crippling dedicated central servers and bandwidth providers by trying to accommodate the phenomenally large amount of bandwidth required to transfer movies around the Internet.

Personally I don't see this service taking off any more than all the others have done. This isn't due to the method of acquiring media, or even the range of media available, but simply because of the coating of all the media in yet more DRM. Get rid of the DRM on this service and you'd see profits soar into the millions upon millions, especially since most people who understand and use BitTorrent probably understand and rebel against DRM.

You can read Om Malik's original post here.