BitTorrent is today taking one more step ahead in its bid to create a revenue-generating business out of its peer-to-peer file-sharing network. Sync, the desktop and mobile file synchronising service that BitTorrent presents as an alternative to cloud-based services like Dropbox, is today exiting beta as Sync 2.0. As part of that, BitTorrent is introducing a business-focused Pro tier starting at $39.99 per user, per year.
To date, there have been over 10 million downloads of the alpha and beta versions of Sync, generating 145 petabytes of data, VP of product management Erik Pounds told TechCrunch in an interview. “It demonstrates that P2P technology can work very well in this category,” he says.
But having said that, the company knows that it still has some convincing to do, so it’s going to, in the words of Pounds, “be very agressive on price.”
The Pro product’s sub-$40 charge — with volume-based discounts — applies to accounts, not devices, and is a significant discount to $89 for Microsoft’s cloud offering and $99 for Dropbox. And BitTorrent argues that it still can make a margin despite the big price cut, since it doesn’t rely on using third-party or building its own cloud infrastructure.
Indeed, the the move to general availability and premium pricing — which follows through on a preview BitTorrent offered last year while it tested Sync 2.0 — is a far cry from BitTorrent’s roots as a network for sharing copyrighted content illegally.
And it comes at the meeting of two currents. First, BitTorrent continues to hone and release a number of products that test the waters for how and where P2P services can make money. Other products include its Bundle “pay-gated” content distribution service and Bleep for messaging.
Second, consumers and businesses are increasingly looking for online solutions that they feel viable and more secure alternatives to cloud-based services. This is both to protect from malicious hackers, but also other prying eyes. Cloud-based services like Dropbox have come under attack by the likes of Snowden for being vulnerable to government hackers, and BitTorrent has seized on this idea in its own positioning and marketing.
The promise of Sync is that it’s significantly faster than your average cloud-based service for moving files around — up to 16 times faster, according to one of BitTorrent’s tests — making it particularly useful for large files. This is one of the reasons why BitTorrent has positioned itself as a partner in particular to people in creative industries such as film and music, where the need to transfer and share outsized digital files with others is par for the course.
The new version of Sync builds on the company’s latest beta (version 1.4), which notably included the ability to share links over email as one way of navigating to specific files and folders. To that it’s adding some new features. These include a clearer UI with more parity between mobile and desktop versions; and a new certificates-based security model. One nifty feature for creating certificates for you to use across your different devices and those devices of your contacts via mobile is through the use of QR codes.
The free edition is limited to 10 folders, although the size of each is unlimited, with users upsold to Pro partly to bring that number up (they are given a 30-day free trial to upgrade to Pro).
The Pro edition essentially enhances what you already get in Sync and is aimed for those using the service more, as well as larger workgroups who need more functionality and control. “We want the product to be accessible to everyone and stay free, but we also want people to be motivated to use it more,” Pounds says. “The purchase of Sync Pro licenses is the goal.”
According to BitTorrent, these some of the added features in Pro:
- ● Control folder permissions and ownership that you can change anytime. Specifically, you can create certificates for other devices that remain in place even after you disconnect a file, saving you from having to reissue the connection.
- ● Once you link all your personal devices together via a private identity, all your shared folders are available to you wherever you need them, which changes the focus from devices to users.
- ● Consume on demand: view contents of very large folders, consume only the content you need and preserving storage capacity, which is useful especially on, say, mobile devices. You can also set folders for different kinds of access privileges such as read-only and read-write.
- ● And it’s also adding priority technical support, to build out more enterprise-focused customer service.
BitTorrent says that Sync 2.0 is available now for Mac, Windows, Linux and Free BSD. The mobile updates (iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Amazon Kindle) are rolling out today. Those who use network-attached storage can also use Sync on devices that include Seagate, Western Digital, NETGEAR, Synology, Drobo, Asustor, QNAP and Overland drives.