Peer-to-peer content delivery system BitTorrent has signed on two new partners, Aeria and IAHGames, who will use the company’s DNA network to deliver content for their massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs).
It’s good to finally see some news out of BitTorrent. The company went quiet after confirming a rumour early in August that it was laying off 12 employees, or about 20 percent of its work force. Afterward, it denied suggestions that it was refocusing its business, but wasn’t forthcoming on how things were going.
BitTorrent got its start as an innovative way to share large files between swarms of users, rather than sending them directly from centralized servers. Since it was officially formed into a company, its plan has been to sell its file sharing service for delivery of content like game files and video, the latter being its primary target.
However, despite some early deals in 2006 and promises of more this year, the company has had trouble breaking into the video market. Co-founder Ashwin Navin told me that while the game business is a “natural fit” for the company, and will provide enough business to keep it growing, their highest hopes still ride on breaking into video down the road.
One of the problems BitTorrent ran into is the same one that has foiled competitor Joost’s big plans: Sending video to users via P2P requires them to download a desktop client, or at the very least a browser plug-in. That turns users off, a fact that the big TV and movie studios have not failed to notice.
That problem has knocked P2P video delivery out of the race, at least in the short term. Navin is hoping that as the demand for high-quality video rises, a new market for the attractive economics P2P can offer will arise. That could result in P2P clients on your computer, but you’d be even more likely to see them on set-top boxes, Internet-connected DVDs and other dedicated devices.
BitTorrent also has its own distribution platform with 40 million active users, which it hopes to grow over time, so that it will become a more attractive platform for companies like NBC or HBO to distribute their video across.
Still, it’s clear that BitTorrent is far from having the traction it wants. The company certainly has more promise than Joost and other online TV startups, which now have to not only overcome a false start, but also vie with strong industry offerings like Hulu. But there’s also competition in the delivery market, with prices for content delivery dropping and new startups like Conviva threatening a leap ahead in technology.
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