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Sneak peak: BitTorrent expands live streaming tests

Written on:October 3, 2011
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BitTorrent Inc. has quietly been testing its upcoming live streaming platform, and now the company is ready to take the next step with a new round of scalability tests that could include the live streaming of indie concerts.

A new BitTorrent Live website built with these kinds of tests in mind launched a few days ago, but a company spokesperson cautioned that “a broad beta is still a couple of months away.”

BitTorrent has been testing its live streaming platform with a limited number of users at a no-frills website that hasn’t been publicized, but has nonetheless been publicly accessible for some time at live.bittorrent.com. At the end of last week, the site suddenly received a significant face lift, complete with installation instructions for the BitTorrent Live software and a brief explanation that reads:

“BitTorrent Live is a whole new P2P protocol to distribute live streamed data across the internet without the need for infrastructure, and with a minimum of latency.”

Users can download BitTorrent live clients for Windows, Mac OS and Linux. The client simply works in the background to facilitate data transfer and doesn’t allow any configuration. Video streams display in the browser via Flash, and a Facebook plugin allows users to chat with each other while watching a stream. An additional tab offers access to the audio and video bitrate and other debug data.

BitTorrent has been using prerecorded video to test its live streaming, but it plans to expand to live events for further tests.

Speaking of video: BitTorrent’s spokesperson told me that the tests have so far been restricted to “simple pre-recorded content loops to test latency and audio/visual sync.” I was able at one time to tap into a prerecorded stream of a winter sports event, but at other times simply didn’t get to see anything.

However, those P2P live streaming tests could get a lot more exciting soon: “One of the ideas is to invite a few of our favorite indie artists into our office to broadcast content and help us kick the tires with their fans,” said BitTorrent’s spokesperson. Still, don’t expect BitTorrent to stream Coachella any time soon. “The redesign isn’t intended to suggest we’re out of the R&D stage of designing, building and testing the product,” I was told.

BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen has worked on the live streaming platform for close to three years, and he told me at NewTeeVee Live last year that his efforts included writing a complete new P2P protocol from scratch. The BitTorrent protocol itself, he said, simply introduced too much latency to be a viable live streaming solution. Check out the entire interview below:



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