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βTorrent

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Introduction

It is in the very nature of technology to constantly be improving and innovating upon that which has come before it. The torrent client industry, of course, is no exception to this rule. In fact, over the last few years, torrent clients have been progressing at unprecedented rates. Every few months, it seems, there is a new and novel way to upload or download torrent files. Torrent clients just keep getting faster, better, and more efficient. The early days of torrenting, when BitTorrent was alone ruling the P2P kingdom are far behind us.

Torrent clients are at a pivotal moment in their history. They are reaching new heights that their predecessors likely never saw coming. Never before have the been so many incredible and unique torrent clients to choose from, of all different types and processes. This is, of course, great news for P2P file sharers such as us. But it also makes things a little difficult at the same time. There are just so many torrent clients, it can be hard to decide on the right one!

As I alluded to a moment ago, there was a time when the only serious choice one could make when it came to torrent clients was to download BitTorrent. In fact, the very name BitTorrent has, over the years, become synonymous with torrenting itself. The very protocol by which torrent files are accessed has even come to be known as the BitTorrent protocol.

It did not take long, though, for developers to notice flaws with BitTorrent. This inspired coders to begin doing what they have always excelled at: innovating. In a few short years, more lightweight and quicker torrent clients, such as uTorrent, were developed. The goal was to pack the same powerful punch as BitTorrent, without delivering such a bloated and unnecessarily demanding program.

The developers of uTorrent ushered in the next great age in the development of torrent clients. No longer would a user’s computer have to suffer in performance in order to download torrent files. This was a huge step that would wind up influencing every subsequent step that torrent client developers would take moving forward. In fact, the primary goal of torrent clients these days seems to be to provide the user with a more streamlined torrenting process – breakneck download speeds with as little computer space and memory utilized as possible.

Which has led us to some of the most popular torrent clients in 2020. Torrent clients that maximize performance in a way that has figured out how to use none of your computer’s hard drive space, and much less memory. I am talking, of course, about web-based torrent clients. Since around 2018, in-browser torrent clients have become increasingly common. And they could even grow to become the norm if trends continue in an upward trajectory in the years to come.

The goal of a web-based torrent client is to cut out the middleman wherever possible. Traditional BitTorent protocols are relatively roundabout processes. Web-based torrent protocols (often using Java) are similar to streaming in how they collect and distribute torrent file bits. Which is cool and all, but the biggest innovation inherent in web-based torrent clients is the fact that they require no central server. We are brought, then, much closer to pure Peer 2 Peer file sharing that uses nothing but an internet connection and your web browser.

This is the epitome of torrenting’s future (and in some ways, the internet as a whole): eliminate all unnecessary processes and, in the process, third-party entities. Cutting out a centralized server for torrents does not only make for faster, more easily accessible torrents, but it makes for a more decentralized internet as well. There is a movement of developers, programmers, and coders who are looking to take the internet back from the corporatocracy under which it is currently a subject. They aim to free the internet – to make it open, free, and liberated. Once again, the internet shall be a democratic space that is made for the people, by the people.

Web-based torrent clients, however, are not the beginning and end of this movement. But they do represent a fair number of those coders who are on the frontlines of this movement. And the web-based torrent client that we will be taking a look at today, β Torrent, is just one of these sites in a network of web-based torrent clients that function in conjunction with Web Torrent.

β Torrent is a much more simplified and user-friendly way to use Web Torrent. Since Web Torrent is an example of freeware, there are several independent web-based torrent clients that are powered by Web Torrent. β Torrent is one of the most effective. To further understand the philosophy behind both β Torrent and Web Torrent, a quote found on Web Torrent’s FAQ page should shed some more light. Brewster Kahle (who founded the Internet Archive) says:

“The way we code the Web will determine the way we live online. So, we need to bake our values into our code. Freedom of expression needs to be baked into our code. Privacy should be baked into our code. Universal access to all knowledge. But right now, those values are not embedded in the Web.”

Personally, I find this quote to be quite inspiring. It is easy to look at the vapid social media frenzy that the internet has become and quietly drift into cynicism. Kahle’s words, however, give me hope for the future of the internet. As do sites like Web Torrent and β Torrent.

History

The makers of Web Torrent sought to figure out a way to make BitTorrent work independently of any core server, using nothing but an internet browser. Any and every browser, the developers theorized, should be capable of fetching content, connecting to P2P swarms, and verifying file data to display it directly to the user. The notion relied on the idea of an interconnected mega network of user’s browsers that would act in place of a central server, as traditional BitTorrent protocol did.

And in August of 2018, Web Torrent’s dream became a reality when a stable version of their web-based torrent client had been achieved.

Since then, Web Torrent has expanded exponentially. In addition to offering a desktop version of Web Torrent, there are also handfuls of independent sites, such as β Torrent that interact with, make use of, and build upon Web Torrent in fascinating and useful ways. Let’s look a little bit more closely at precisely what β Torrent enables users to do via Web Torrent, shall we?

Design

The look and layout of β Torrent is refreshingly simple. A lot of web-based torrent clients try to make their sites look a little too flashy, in my opinion. Perhaps they think that over-designing will lend their clients more a software feel? Personally, I love that β Torrent is minimalistic, sparse, and stripped down. It really lends to the utilitarian and user-friendly nature of the site.

When you arrive on β Torrent, you will be greeted by nothing but a simple logo, a space to paste your torrent link, a download button, an open torrent file button, and a seed button. Below that is a classic download manager. I like that β Torrent has included a download manager, as other Web Torrent expansion sites do not. That being said, the download manager does not seem to function within β Torrent itself. In order to track your download’s progress, you will still have to head over to webtorrent.io once you execute your download.

Content and Features

It doesn’t get much simpler than β Torrent. Download torrents and seed torrents. That’s all that is involved. Nothing more, nothing less. Oh, there is a tab that seems to indicate that users might be able to stream torrent file content, but I can’t seem to get it to work. Maybe this is a technical issue on my end? When I attempt to upload a torrent link to the Stream/View section of the site, I just get an infinitely spinning buffer circle. So, perhaps this is a bug that needs to be addressed.

Mobile and Desktop Experience

Web Torrent and, consequently, β Torrent are both extremely mobile friendly. This is one of my favorite aspects of web-based torrent clients, how easy they make torrenting no matter where you are, or on what device you happen to be. β Torrent will be a great choice for the file sharer on the go.

Likes & Hates:
Very simple and easy to use
Sparse and intuitive site design
Mobile friendly
Free/ad-free
Instructions could be clearer
Not many features