BitTorrent, which has been looking for ways to expand since it was acquired by blockchain startup Tron last year, today announced it is reviving one of its most ambitious services. The company is relaunching BitTorrent Live, a Sling TV-like service it first introduced in 2011 and shut down in 2017, as a social media app for Android and iOS platforms. Live is not ready for general availability yet, but the company is accepting applications from beta testers.
The veteran file-sharing company is positioning BitTorrent Live as a social media app akin to Snapchat and Bytedance’s TikTok that will enable users to create and share content and connect with people with similar tastes. This is a departure from the previous incarnation of BitTorrent Live, which offered access to a range of free and paid TV channels, including Bloomberg and CBC. A company spokesperson confirmed that the TV element won’t be part of the new BitTorrent Live.
The central idea behind BitTorrent Live remains largely unchanged, however. It is still built on top of a decentralized network, the same peer-to-peer technology that powers BitTorrent’s file-sharing client. This reduces the cost of content distribution and removes intermediaries that seek to charge a “finder’s fee,” the spokesperson told VentureBeat by email. “When you’re decentralized, you’re connecting consumers to consumers, businesses to consumers. That’s the vision we have for BitTorrent Live,” the spokesperson said. (The spokesperson added that during the beta testing period, BitTorrent Live won’t be fully decentralized. “Decentralization will be in full effect however, once open beta wraps up later this year.”)
BitTorrent Live will be available to beta testers in Q2 of this year and available to the general public by year-end, the spokesperson said. Additionally, those who wish to try the app now can apply as a beta tester starting today. The spokesperson declined to comment on whether the company has roped in any famous celebrities or content creators — as is common practice.
BitTorrent CEO Justin Sun took over the role last year after his blockchain startup Tron acquired the file-sharing company and long-time BitTorrent CEO Rogelio Choy departed. Sun said the company hopes to turn BitTorrent Live into a “boundary-free internet, but also be at the forefront of a new content experience.” Launching a social media app is a natural progression for Sun, who also founded Chinese social media app Peiwo. As of last August, Peiwo had 10 million registered users — a million of whom used the app every month.
BitTorrent Live will also leverage Tron’s expertise with cryptocurrency — using BTT token, a native cryptocurrency token launched this January — for transactions within the platform. That’s also how the company plans to generate revenue from its new service.
Before shutting down BitTorrent Live, the company explored the idea of spinning the platform out on its own. A spokesperson told VentureBeat that the company now sees “BitTorrent, BitTorrent Live, and BTT as one interoperable family of products and services,” but declined to comment on future plans.
The launch of BitTorrent Live comes as Tron expands use cases for its cryptocurrency network. In January, Tron announced that BitTorrent users will be able to pay with its cryptocurrency for faster downloads. But the 16-year-old file-sharing company hasn’t had the best of luck in expanding its business. In 2015, it launched an encrypted chat app called Bleep, which it quietly discontinued in 2017. Tron also tried making a Chromium-based web browser, but it too has faded away.