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Bram Cohen Finally Unveils BitTorrent Live
Patents Streaming Tech That 'Makes You a Broadcaster'
by Karl Bode 10:45AM Tuesday Mar 26 2013
BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen has been trying to monetize his creation for the better part of the decade, and while the man may have somewhat revolutionized file delivery, efforts to build a legal business model around the technology have seen mixed results (yet a seventeen year old this week sold a news reading app to Yahoo for $30 million). Cohen's initial efforts at monetization of his creation began with the now-defunct BitTorrent store, which floundered in 2007 due to a clunky GUI, DRM, and games that came with complimentary spyware.

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After admitting these efforts were "pretty bad," the company started focusing on a live streaming platform using P2P and some "very unorthodox techniques that I've come up with in order to take the latencies down," according to Cohen. Cohen has run demonstrations of the tech for several years, though technical specs have been scarce.

Cohen finally unveiled BitTorrent Live earlier this month, a platform he claims will help "eliminate barriers" for broadcasters by turning each viewer into "a miniature broadcaster." The service is now in beta, and after installing a small plugin users can try a selection of Live BitTorrent streams over at the company's website. Let us know how it worked for you in our comment section below -- I personally saw more than a little stuttering for such a "revolutionary" concept.

Alongside this month's beta launch of BitTorrent Live Cohen also filed a patent for the technology with some additional technical specifics. He also talked to TorrentFreak about the service's technical limitations, stating he patented it because it's a "tricky protocol" where "poorly behaved peers can impact everyone," so he wants to limit alternative implementations. Cohen continues to argue that all living streaming will eventually be done on the Internet and (making Mark Cuban surely angry) that the only thing traditional cable had done better was live TV -- until now.

Whether Cohen can do live BitTorrent TV correctly, and finally seriously profit off of his 2001 invention, remains to be seen.

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FFH5
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

Cohen may be technical genius; but is a bad businessman

quote:
Cohen finally unveiled BitTorrent Live earlier this month, a platform he claims will help "eliminate barriers" for broadcasters by turning each viewer into "a miniature broadcaster."
And with all the ISPs putting caps on wired and wireless connections, why should a user subscribe to his service. All their caps can be eaten up by the upload bandwidth sucked up by his product.

Unless he can get wired and wireless providers to turn off caps for his product(net neutrality anyone?), his product is dead.

Guspaz
Guspaz
Premium,MVM
join:2001-11-05
Montreal, QC
kudos:23

Iffy

Tried it on launch day. Kept stopping and starting, and the idea is supposed to be that heavier load improves performance. The client app is set to run when Windows starts, and there is no option to disable that behaviour. I uninstalled it.

As attractive as the idea of P2P streaming video is, it suffers from a fundamental issue: the maximum bitrate supported by the swarm is the average upstream capacity of the users in the swarm. In the case of regular BitTorrent, peers who complete the download will keep seeding, allowing the average download speed of downloading users to be higher than the average upload speed of all peers. But with live streaming, you never "finish" your download, so the average is all you ever get.

What is the average upstream speed of users today? I'd wager that for North America it's probably not high enough to sustain HD video. Even 1Mbps (which with modern codecs provides good quality SD) might not be realistic.

Indeed, this seems to be the reason why the BitTorrent Live client normally stays running all the time; the only way to get around the "can't finish downloading a never-ending stream" issue is to leech upstream capacity from users who aren't watching anything at all (leave the client running).
--
Developer: Tomato/MLPPP, Linux/MLPPP, etc »fixppp.org

jjoshua
Premium
join:2001-06-01
Scotch Plains, NJ
kudos:3

Re: Iffy

I agree with your assessment.

However, it is a good thing for content originators because they don't have to bear the cost of all of the bandwidth to every simultaneous client.

FFH5
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

Re: Iffy

said by jjoshua:

I agree with your assessment.

However, it is a good thing for content originators because they don't have to bear the cost of all of the bandwidth to every simultaneous client.

And it sets up just one more instance of conflict between content providers and last mile bandwidth providers. Content providers continue to try transferring delivery costs off their shoulders and on to the last mile providers(cable, telco, wireless providers). The last mile providers defend themselves with caps and increasing prices.
Kamus

join:2011-01-27
El Paso, TX

1 recommendation

Re: Iffy

said by FFH5:

said by jjoshua:

I agree with your assessment.

However, it is a good thing for content originators because they don't have to bear the cost of all of the bandwidth to every simultaneous client.

And it sets up just one more instance of conflict between content providers and last mile bandwidth providers. Content providers continue to try transferring delivery costs off their shoulders and on to the last mile providers(cable, telco, wireless providers). The last mile providers defend themselves with caps and increasing prices.

Except the cable, telco or wireless provider isn't actually paying for the last mile, it's the end user that foots the bill.

But if you know how i can get my telco to give me free internet i'm all ears.
brianiscool

join:2000-08-16
Miami, FL
kudos:1

Goodbye Bitorrent

I see no future for you anymore. Your technology in flawed in so many ways.

ARGONAUT
Have a nice day.
Premium
join:2006-01-24
New Albany, IN
kudos:1

Re: Goodbye Bitorrent

Agreed.
He likes jumping the gun.

Packeteers
Premium
join:2005-06-18
Forest Hills, NY
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable

early days

it seems you can only contribute a stream, like from a tv tuner or webcam. you can't broadcast a video file like on youtube. also i can't find anywhere you can simply be a fellow peer contributing bits of data cached from other streams others may be broadcasting.

Guspaz
Guspaz
Premium,MVM
join:2001-11-05
Montreal, QC
kudos:23

Re: early days

It's a streaming solution, not a VoD solution. You can stream media files just fine if you run them through a streaming solution. In the worst case, run xsplit (or similar) and play the file in a media player. Their solution seems to basically support generic RTMP video being streamed to it.

For best results, it seems like you'd want a high-bandwidth VPS or server to run the BT Live software, and then you'd stream from your home machine to that, which then handles the redistribution. This would be important because the source BT Live client is going to have to make up any bandwidth shortfalls in the swarm; if you try to stream 700 Kbps video, and the average upstream capacity in the swarm is 500 Kbps, and you have 100 viewers, you're going to need 20 Mbps of upstream capacity where your BT Live client is (I'm assuming that clients will fall back to the stream origin to make up bandwidth shortfalls). Most home users don't have that sort of capacity, but any decent VPS can sustain that indefinitely (although bandwidth costs can get out of control eventually).
--
Developer: Tomato/MLPPP, Linux/MLPPP, etc »fixppp.org
kxrm

join:2002-07-18
Fort Worth, TX

PeerCaster Redux

I have been in internet streaming for the better part of 15 years and this is nothing new. PeerCaster was started on a similar idea. The problem with streaming is you need to remove the need for the user to install anything. The moment they need to install anything more than a browser to listen to your stream you risk losing them.

Look at the ease of the popular jukebox services like Pandora. If it isn't that easy, it is unlikely to really take off unless his platform is overwhelmingly popular like Flash is.
Rekrul

join:2007-04-21
Milford, CT

Re: PeerCaster Redux

said by kxrm:

I have been in internet streaming for the better part of 15 years and this is nothing new. PeerCaster was started on a similar idea. The problem with streaming is you need to remove the need for the user to install anything. The moment they need to install anything more than a browser to listen to your stream you risk losing them.

I'm exactly like this. The moment I have to install a special piece of software, I start having second thoughts. I won't download from shareware web sites that require me to install a special download manager, or go to streaming web sites that require a special player.

I'm very selective about what I install on my system and I don't want some resource-hungry program adding itself to my startup and running all the time.