Bittorrent Live, Efficient P2P Video Streaming

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 14, 2012
Updated • Dec 22, 2012
File Sharing, Internet

When you look at today's TV streaming offerings on the Internet, you will always see contents being served by the hosting site to all connecting users. Companies need the necessary infrastructure to make sure the contents can be streamed to all of their users in good quality (with good quality meaning an uninterrupted viewing experience and a good visual quality).

Bittorrent Live could change that distribution model for the better, at least for content publishers. The idea is simple but effective: Instead of streaming content from one site to all connected users, the users' PCs are used to stream the contents as well to one another. The effect? A 99% data transfer offload for site operators that allows millions of users to watch the stream at the same time with a latency in the five seconds range.

This opens up new possibilities, as it allows smaller publishers to stream their contents to a larger audience without going broke on the bandwidth and hardware costs. Existing publishers who already stream to millions could significantly reduce their bandwidth bill if they'd utilize the technology.

The only catch? Users need to install and run Bittorrent Live on their system before they can start viewing content that is streamed that way. The operators recommend an upload speed of at least 2Mb to watch the streams, which could be a issue for some users who do not have that much upload bandwidth available. These issues could very well keep the technology from ever taking off. BitTorrent could however mitigate the distribution factor by distributing BitTorrent Live with popular clients such as uTorrent.

Bittorrent Live will be made available for free for publishers who want to stream their contents. Publishers who want to show ads in the streams are asked to pay licensing fees to do so.

Bittorrent Live is available as a beta version for Windows, Mac and Linux.

For now, it is just a beta version. You can access a few sample streams here on the official site. Keep in mind though that most are off air most of the time. The beta client comes without preferences to change ports or connection speeds. It is likely that the final version will offer those features.

Will Bittorrent Live kill television? It is highly unlikely that it will. The technology certainly has its appeal, but the software requirements make it a hard sale.


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  1. Tixati User said on February 19, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Matt said:
    “If bit-torrent becomes more widely used for unquestionably legitimate things like this, internet providers will presumably have a harder time getting by with throttling BT users.”
    I totally agree with ya and hope you are right.

    This sounds interesting but I hate utorrent and will never use their software. Hopefully the client I do use, Tixati, will implement something like this. Tixati already has decentralized sharing channels where you can chat, search and share with others. Maybe they will add streaming.

  2. Matt said on February 15, 2012 at 2:48 am

    While I wouldn’t be able to use this (neither my up- nor download speeds reach the recommended minimum), it sounds like a good idea. If bit-torrent becomes more widely used for unquestionably legitimate things like this, internet providers will presumably have a harder time getting by with throttling BT users.

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