Peer-to-peer site Mininova has announced a beta test of a service allowing users to stream videos contained within BitTorrents on-the-fly.
The service is powered by the open-source Swarmplayer software which was jointly developed by the Technical University Delf and Free University Amsterdam. Tribler – the team behind the Swarmplayer – is working closely with various broadcasters including our very own beloved Auntie Beeb and has just recently been given a rather impressive £11 million grant from the European Union to carry out research into peer-to-peer technologies.
The site is currently looking for volunteers to beta test the streaming service – interested parties should post to this thread
on the Mininova forums. It's a closed beta, so if you're not picked you'll have to wait just like the rest of us for the official launch.
The thought of instant video streaming from .torrent files – a BitTorrent YouTube, if you will – must have anti-piracy groups sweating. It's one thing for a pirate to have to install a BitTorrent client, find a search engine, download a .torrent, open various ports on their firewall and router, and wait for the file to trickle down; quite another just to hit 'play' and sit back to enjoy free high-quality video playback.
That said, the interest shown by broadcasters including the BBC shows that the technology has very definite commercial possibilities: currently the streaming version of the BBC's iPlayer software uses scads of expensive bandwidth, and it's not even that popular. If the Beeb could offer something which appears to all intents and purposes as simple to use as the Flash-driven iPlayer interface but which uses BitTorrent to distribute the video – much like the original Kontiki-driven iPlayer did – the corporation would stand to make significant savings on data transit costs.
That said, we'll have to wait to see if the BitTorrent protocol, which wasn't written with real-time streaming in mind and works best when downloading chunks of large files in a fairly chaotic sequence, can really be adapted to time-sensitive data transit.
Hoping to get in on the beta, or do you just use YouTube for all your video streaming requirements? Share your thoughts over in the forums