Bidding to appease internet service providers (ISPs), a leading developer of Bittorrent has open sourced an update to the widely used peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing protocol.
Bittorrent protocol designer Bram Cohen and his firm, Bittorrent Incorporated, have released the micro transmission protocol (µTP) enhancement under the MIT license, in the hope that it will foster improvement in the protocol and support it as the method of choice for sharing files over the Internet.
The protocol is implemented in the popular Bittorrect client µTorrent and aims to strike a balance between user service levels and adaptiveness to network conditions.
It tries to emulate and extend some congestion control policies, such as LEDBAT found in the transmission control protocol (TCP), by throttling down packet rates when the algorithm detects network congestion.
Since µTorrent became part of Bittorrent Inc. and the firm turned the client into closed source software, the development of µTP had proceeded without consulting developers within the greater Bittorrent community.
Some subsequent arguments about µTP stemmed from the age-old network engineering design decision of whether to use UDP or TCP as its transport protocol.
A combination of closed source development and the protocol choice dilemma had left some developers sceptical as to whether µTP would make any difference to either users' or ISPs' attitudes to Bittorrent.
So this move could turn out to be the sink or swim moment for the µTP protocol, as developers mull over whether it really is worth implementing µTP framing or whether it will be more conducive to use TCP.
The hope that this will somehow change the view ISPs have of Bittorrent is naive.
The P2P protocol is used to shift vast amounts of data of varying legality, and while µTP might or might not be more efficient than its predecessor, any trimming of excess fat in the underlying protocol is likely to simply increase bandwidth consumption.
As Google has found out with Youtube, serving videos over traditional client-server network architectures is not a profitable venture.
However Bittorrent is far from ready to serve up real-time video and improvements such as µTP are required in order to make it viable for video streaming, something that Bittorrent Inc. and Vuze are keen to push as a legitimate use of the protocol.
Thankfully Bittorrent Inc. has given the community a chance to look over and improve upon the protocol, which will hopefully see improvements in the way Bittorrent delivers content to users.