Opera has today launched a ‘technical preview’ version of its browser that includes support for BitTorrent, the protocol for distributing files via peer-to-peer that utilises both downstream and upstream bandwidth and spreads the load among different servers. As far as I know this is the first mainstream program that offers inbuilt support for what could become an increasingly controversial medium (please correct me if I’m wrong, but I know of no Firefox plugin for BitTorrent files).
The press release explains as follows:
Oslo, Norway – July 7, 2005: Opera Software today launched a technical preview (TP) of the Opera browser for Windows, Linux and Mac that includes support for BitTorrent. Integrating this popular file-downloading technology in the Opera browser offers the end user a faster download process by utilizing full bandwidth and reducing the chance of in-transfer delay when multiple users download the same file.
Its BitTorrent Resource page explains that Opera treats BitTorrent as just another protocol, like FTP and HTTP. This is not Opera turning browser users into BitTorrent hosts:
By offering BitTorrent in a technical preview of its browser, Opera seeks to broaden the appeal of downloading legal torrent files. Opera does not encourage the use of BitTorrent, FTP and HTTP protocols for downloading illegal, copyright infringing material.
I must confess I haven’t used BitTorrent a lot, but it clearly is popular and has huge potential. Part of the reason I haven’t used it too much is that the software I’ve used, tho simple, isn’t quite as intuitive as one would like, so the idea that the browser might make it as easy as downloading an ordinary file might propel usage into the mainstream.