BitTorrent’s name may still be associated with piracy, but BitTorrent the company has been working to legitimize the peer-to-peer technology as a tool that can be used to distribute content in legal ways. Its products have over 170 million users, the company claims. Today, its streaming application BitTorrent Now is launching on iOS and Apple TV, in order to allow content creators to tap into that audience.
The app first launched on Android in June, with promises of an iOS release in the near future.
Similar to music streaming apps like SoundCloud, BitTorrent Now allows artists to upload their work to BitTorrent’s platform, where it can then be discovered by a broader community. However, unlike many other services, BitTorrent Now doesn’t limit itself to only one type of content: it can host songs, films, music videos and more from these independent creators.
On mobile, that content was distributed by BitTorrent’s servers in a more traditional fashion, but the company has been working to build in support for peer-to-peer technology. However, the BitTorrent Now network, which is also available on the desktop, is “powered by fans” the company’s website explains – that is, the first people who download content then become the distribution point for others downloading it.
The company says the mobile app still uses a client/server system for the time being, however. This is “temporary,” as the p2p components are being developed.
For the most part, you won’t find today’s big-name, mainstream artists on BitTorrent Now – it’s more about discovering up-and-coming talent. That being said, the company does have a few notable names on board, including The Onion, Super Deluxe, IHEARTCOMIX, Major Lazer, Flume, G-Eazy, A24 Films, Drafthouse Films, David Cross, and The FADER, for example.
The app allows users to follow their favorite artists, create playlists see what’s trending in the BitTorrent community as a whole, and receive curated recommendations. You can also explore the content in the app by genre or tags, like “rock,” “house,” “mixtape,” “folk,” “book,” “comedy,” and others.
BitTorrent Now also supports background play on iOS and a sharing function (that uses iOS’s native share sheet) if you want to spread word to your friends via social networks, text, or email.
The challenge for BitTorrent Now is in carving out a niche for itself among when there are so many other avenues available for content discovery, including from the “indie” artists that BitTorrent is after. In addition to SoundCloud, artists can share their work on Bandcamp, YouTube, Vimeo, or even their own websites or larger social networks, like Facebook.
However, BitTorrent does allow creators to set their own terms, which gives it an appeal. Using BitTorrent’s “bundles,” artists can give away their content for free, require subscriptions, or ask for payment. The artists also get users’ email addresses, and keep the majority of the proceeds.
But for fans, these varying options mean that, in some cases, you’ll be watching ad-supported content, and in other cases, you’ll need to pay. That can lead to a sort of disjointed experience, which not everyone will find ideal.
The BitTorrent Now app is live now on iTunes and Apple TV.