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When it comes to torrent clients, it seems as if they just keep getting better and better by the week. We are a far cry away from the days of torrenting when BitTorrent ruled the world. In the past 5 or 10 years, there has been more innovation to the torrenting field than there has been since its advent. It would seem as if torrenting has reached its tipping point, and new, more advanced ways to file share are being developed and repurposed all the time. This is, of course, wonderful news for all of us who love P2P file sharing. But it makes things a little more complicated, too.
At least back in the day when the only viable option for a torrent client was BitTorrent, the decision was easy. You want to download torrent files? Well, obviously, you have to download BitTorrent first. It wasn’t long after BitTorrent rose to prominence, though, that other coders began to look for ways to solve some of this germinal torrent client’s main issues. uTorrent, for instance, looked to solve the way clunky and overly robust nature of BitTorrent.
The developers of uTorrent, in other words, wanted to bring the world a torrent client that was much more lightweight and did not require so much computer memory and hard drive space to provide equally speedy file downloads. This was the next revolution in torrent client coding … the age of the lightweight client. In some ways, this age of torrent client development is still in effect – ages of tech development, of course, do not eradicate those that came before, they simply innovate on top of them.
Currently, though, we are living through the next age of development in the world of torrent clients. And that is the web-based torrent client. This is about as lightweight as it gets, as most of these clients live only in your internet browser and, thus, take up no computer space whatsoever. The idea here is to cut out the middleman, as it were. Instead of doing things the old-fashioned way where a user would access a file from another peer and going through a centralized server in order to do so, browser torrent clients get rid of the server altogether, resulting in a much more direct peer to peer exchange of files via the browser.
This is, I think, the future of P2P file sharing. Why bother going through a server when it is unnecessary? Not only does this often result in faster, more readily available torrent downloads, but there is also a case to be made for browser-based torrent clients being an agent of internet re-decentralization. In fact, there is a whole movement of coders and developers who are working towards making the internet entirely decentralized again; web-based torrent clients are one cog in that movement’s machinery. And at the forefront of this movement is the web-based, open-sourced, freeware torrent client known as Web Torrent
In the FAQ section of Web Torrent’s site can be found a quote from Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. It reads, “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.” This is the ethos that powers Web Torrent, and it is something that I believe in full-heartedly.
The initial idea behind the Web Torrent client was to somehow make BitTorrent work on its own, within the internet browser. Any browser, so the theory went, should be capable of connecting to P2P swarms, fetching content, and verifying files to display the content directly to the user – all without relying on centralized servers in order to do so. Instead, the idea was to rely on an interconnected network of people’s browsers to act as a collective, living server of sorts. And in August of 2018, a stable release of Web Torrent was released for the world to enjoy.
Today, Web Torrent has expanded remarkably. The developers’ vision of a browser-based network of P2P file sharing has become a reality. Furthermore, the browser-based torrent client has also issued a desktop app, which bridges the gap between the web-based torrenting model and the more traditional UDP BitTorrent protocol. The desktop app uses Electron, which allows desktop programs to communicate via Java Script, with access to APIs from Node and Chrome. This is how the web and desktop torrenting chasm was bridged.
Unfortunately, Web Torrent’s in-browser client is not for the technologically challenged. In order to use the original Web Torrent client, you have to have some basic knowledge of html. This is because, well, instead of offering a browser extension or add-on, you have to actually access your browser’s script page and add in Web Torrent’s script. It’s not that this is extremely difficult to do, but if you are looking to simply click a few buttons and get downloading instantaneously, the in-browser version of Web Torrent may not be for you.
However, you are not out of luck entirely. You can still use Web Torrent outside of your browser, if you so desire, by downloading Web Torrent Desktop. And, let me tell you, when it comes to torrent client design, Web Torrent Desktop might be my favorite torrent client in existence. It is sleek, minimalist, and stylish while also being extremely user-friendly and functionally sound. This is a very difficult line to toe, but Web Torrent Desktop makes it look easy.
I have never seen a torrent client with such a streamlined look and feel to it. This program is perfect for people who love to torrent free indie movies and TV shows. Not just in its design, but in its features as well (more on that in a moment). All you have to do is drag and drop a torrent file or paste a magnet link into the torrent client’s interface and it automatically begins executing the file for you. And when it’s done, your free indie movie or TV shows will stack, as in a DVD collection, with a screenshot of the media representing the file. It’s a really beautiful design.
Content and Features
Yet another area in which Web Torrent shines is its unique features. Due to the fact that Web Torrent is entirely web based, it has unprecedented access to web archives. This allows for high-quality streaming of torrents before they are downloaded. Once you begin downloading your torrent file, you can stream it immediately.
So, if you are, say, downloading a full season of a free indie series, you can start binging right away, you don’t have to wait for what is sometimes an hours-long downloading process. This feature applies for all video and audio torrents. Oh, and you can even stream videos to ChromeCast, DLNA, and AirPlay.
In addition to that, Web Torrent Desktop offers a 100% free and ad-free user experience.
Mobile and Desktop Experience
Unfortunately, Web Torrent does not have an app version of their torrent client. At least not as of yet. However, it appears as if the next version of iOS will support the WebRTC and data channels that make Web Torrent possible. However, there have been rumors that this will ask for use of the phone’s camera for some unknown reason. So, this is probably not going to be the best bet for those of you who prefer to torrent on the go, straight to your phone or tablet.
That being said, I would not be surprised, given the innovative and pioneering nature of this organization, if Web Torrent was currently working on a way to make their torrent client more mobile friendly as we speak.
Suggestions that I have for Web Torrent
While we are on the topic, obviously an app would be ideal. It can be such a hassle to have to download torrents on your desktop computer, only to have to go through the process of transferring those files to your smartphone or tablet later on. But, hey, it’s nothing worth losing any sleep over. There are other torrent clients for that.
It would also be nice if Web Torrent could integrate some sort of social features. Especially considering the fact that, as they advertise, Web Torrent enables users to share more directly amongst themselves, true Peer 2 Peer file sharing. It seems to follow, then, that you would be able to communicate in some way with those peers.