Paul Boutin over at Wired News has just written up a story on the attempted melding of BitTorrent and RSS, which I have some part in - I’m the admin of LegalTorrents.com, the music-distributing BitTorrent site which has been fitted with an RSS 2.0 enclosure-enabled feed for the purposes of trying out this unholy blending.
Andrew Grumet, who upgraded our RSS feed and wrote the add-ons for Radio Userland to enable the first implementation of this, has an explanatory page on the Harvard Law technology page which does a good job of sketching everything out:
“RSS and BitTorrent complement each other naturally. RSS was designed to report freshly available content, which is exactly where BitTorrent shines. RSS 2.0 enclosures were designed to automate the download process that BitTorrent optimizes.
Combining the two should reduce the barrier to entry for small broadcasters. While not a new idea, video blogging has always borne a bandwidth cost. Combining BitTorrent’s cost savings with widely available RSS emitting tools should, for example, make it possible for a small group of motivated people across the world to create their own news channel.”
Incidentally, when I say I’m the ‘admin’ of the LegalTorrents site, make no mistake about it, I’m not actually a coder of any kind. As one of the foremost semi-Lazyweb practitioners out there, I do hack around behind the scenes a bit, but I actually asked Reed of the excellent GameTab videogame news aggregation site if I could re-appropriate his BitTorrent page for other means, which is how the site got set up. I just keep the site running and add content now the magic has been infused.
However, in poking around behind the curtain, I do have a couple of notes on the efficiency of BitTorrent which may be worth passing on:
- If you have one high-speed Torrent seed hosted by the website creator, you may always be able to provide high-speed downloads. As the amount of users grabbing that file increases, the bandwidth they’re pumping back in should balance your seed’s bandwidth being eaten up due to high demand.
But hardly any BitTorrent sites are doing this right now (presumably because a lot of their hosted content is less than legit!), leading to a lot of disappointment in BitTorrent as a technology for files that aren’t in high demand.
So, you’ll still have bandwidth costs if you host a high-speed seed yourself, but your piece of media will always be available, and you don’t get maddening situations such as the freely distributable Baen e-book ISO on f.scarywater.net being unavailable for literally months, because of no seeders.
- The single biggest failing of BitTorrent right now seems to be firewalls on users’ machines cutting off vital ports, and resulting in either slow downloading or, worse, the inability to upload. If users are unable to upload as they download, all your bandwidth savings are lost, and this seems to happen with a certain percentage of users on LegalTorrents right now.
I don’t totally understand the issues (I’m a Lazyweb practitioner, not a coder, remember!), but it seems that making the correct changes to your firewall is relatively complex to the average user, and certainly isn’t well-signaled as part of the normal BitTorrent client - I believe new BitTorrent clients are trying to address this, though.
Where will this torrid tech intertwining lead? Marriage, or just a brief affair?