BitTorrent Web Browser Aims To Ease Net Congestion

Could BitTorrent turn out to be an Internet service provider's best friend? Half a dozen years ago, the popular file-sharing protocol was nothing but a headache for ISPs as broadband users filled their connections with torrent files (most often, movies and songs that were being shared illegally). Things got so bad that one ISP, Comcast, surreptitiously sabotaged BitTorrent sessions, leading the Federal Communications Commission to penalize the company for violating the FCC's net neutrality principles.

The dispute between the FCC and Comcast set off a battle over net neutrality rules that continues to this day. Meanwhile, however, BitTorrent Inc. -- the San Francisco company responsible for the technology -- made an important change to the way the software transmits data. When it senses congestion, it pulls back on the throttle to make room for more time-sensitive data packets, such as audio and video streams. That change has significantly reduced the amount of torrent traffic in peak Internet usage times, to the benefit of ISPs and broadband users alike.

Now the company is trying to take its technology deeper into the Web. On Wednesday it unveiled Project Maelstrom, a browser that's built to surf the Web through the BitTorrent protocol. An ordinary browser draws content from websites directly, communicating with their servers to download Web pages, image files and the like. The Project Maelstrom browser, by contrast, draws content from the closest computer that has a copy available.

The point is to spread out the task of distributing content to avoid bottlenecks. With the BitTorrent protocol, those who download a file can then redistribute all or part of it to other BitTorrent users. This is particularly helpful for content that's in great demand. The more popular a file becomes, the more likely BitTorrent users are to download it from others in their IPS's network....

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