During SXSW, BitTorrent announced the launch of its BitTorrent Live beta, a web-based peer-to-peer live streaming protocol that can be used by anyone with a webcam or mobile video camera.
According to the company, the new service is based on the principles of the BitTorrent protocol, and designed to make real-time reporting and open expression accessible to all. Each viewer becomes a miniature broadcaster and amplifies the source broadcast across the web. Thus the new protocol eliminates the typical broadcast barriers such as bandwidth, cost and infrastructure.
To broadcast, users can either use their webcam, or an app like Flash Media Encoder to stream their program. To watch a BitTorrent Live stream, potential viewers must download the BitTorrent Live plugin. The website itself serves as both a channel guide, and a way for broadcasters to communicate to their viewers via channel-based chat rooms.
"Since November, we’ve been working with a number of digital creators and broadcasters in a closed Beta program," the company said in a blog. "We’ve demonstrated scaling and improved stability during our invite-only period, and are excited to open our service up to anyone who wants it. Thanks to all our early users for their support."
Given the service is in beta, there will be some quirks before BitTorrent Live offers smooth broadcasting. Many users (including myself) are reporting app crashes, and are directed by the team to submit a log detailing what happened. Others seem to be viewing all channels just fine while others have issues with some channels, but not all.
The BitTorrent Live "plugin" is actually a standalone app that runs in the background. If it's not running, the browser will send a request once the user clicks on a channel feed. An actual broadcasting account isn't required to view channels offered on BitTorrent Live, but this downloadable app is required to be installed. As of this writing, only seven channels are up and running including Internet Archive Racing, Internet Archive Cartoons, the Bay Bridge traffic and several others.
It will be great to see how this service performs in the next several months after the beta bugs are ironed out and users are spilling their creative talent into interesting channels. To become a broadcaster, simply head here and sign up. If you only want to be a viewer, the BitTorrent Live apps are offered in Windows, Mac and Ubuntu flavors.
UPDATE: The BitTorrent Live team told Tom's that there are currently a few known issues running the app on windows 8. "If you have access to a Windows 7 machine, it should be fully supported," the email stated. When a Windows 8 workaround is provided, it will be pasted below, so stay tuned.
UPDATE 2: BitTorrent has uploaded a new client for Windows that should work just fine on Windows 8, version 0.4.11.271. Unfortunately, it's still not working for me...