Publishing your own videos via BitTorrent used to be tough. It either involved tinkering with your own tracker server – something only the brave and nerdy ever attempt – or casting your anchor in one of the Pirate Bays of the world, where your masterpiece would be poised to reside between pictures of top-heavy “girls from your area” and advertising for sex chats and fake Rolex watches. Oh, those raunchy pirates.
Luckily, a new wave of legal P2P websites has also given videographers more options to distribute their content. The two most popular platforms are BitTorrent.com and Vuze.com (also know as the Azureus content layer). So which one is better for user-generated content? We tested them both to find out.
The BitTorrent P2P protocol is obviously great for high-resolution videos with big file sizes, but I didn’t go too crazy for this test: I uploaded a movie called American Look on both platforms. It’s an out-of-copyright film from 1958 courtesy of the Prelinger Archives. An odd, yet charming celebration of 1950s futurism, and at 80 megabytes for the MP4 version, just enough to make BitTorrent distribution useful.
Speaking of BitTorrent: The company behind the popular file-sharing protocol recently started selling commercial content online. It also allows users to submit their own movies for free distribution, but the company doesn’t host these files for you. This means that you need to find some web space to host a copy of your movie first. You also need a free account on BitTorrent.com.
Once you got that done, publishing your content on BitTorrent.com is a matter of minutes. You paste the URL of your video into a form field, edit some basic descriptions – and literally a few seconds later the file is available as a torrent-powered download.
One downside of the platform is that it’s very biased towards commercial content. There’s no obvious way to browse all of the user-generated videos, and I couldn’t even find my own upload with a search for its title. So unless you promote your video or link it directly from your site, there is a good chance that no one will get to see it.
Vuze.com, on the other hand, heavily promotes and encourages user submissions. It even has an 11-page PDF manual to describe every detail of the uploading process. The platform does require an installation of the Azureus client to upload content, but the company hosts the content for you.
The upload process itself, which happens completely within the Azureus application, is pretty straightforward, but there are a few hurdles: The description of your video can be changed later on, but tags and categories can’t. Also, don’t try to change such things while you upload. In my case it confused the platform profoundly and required repeated restarts of Azureus to finish the upload.
Your film is available for download on Vuze.com as soon as your upload is completed – and, unlike on BitTorrent.com, people actually seem to find it. I managed to get a handful of downloads within two hours – not too bad for a ’50s flick with a really bad preview picture.
So which platform is better? It really depends on your needs. Give BitTorrent.com a try if you are already hosting your movie but want to give your web server some reprieve. Vuze.com on the other hand is great if you want to get your work in the front of an audience without worrying about hosting at all.