BitTorrent Inc. is unveiling the first beta version of its Project Chrysalis client today, aiming to bring social features and a simplified user experience to the BitTorrent world. One of the most important features is private sharing, which makes it possible to upload a file of any size to BitTorrent’s servers and then share it with friends even when the own computer is turned off.
Once a user shares a file with a friend, the file is automatically turned into a content channel. Links to that file can be shared via email, Twitter and Facebook, and anyone visiting that link will receive an offer to download the latest Chrysalis client with the specific content channel for the privately shared file pre-installed.
BitTorrent’s servers will seed the file for 30 days, and any downloads are facilitated through the BitTorrent protocol, meaning that any user that downloads a file automatically also becomes a seed. Users can also comment on a file, and BitTorrent hopes to foster “mini social networks” around these privately shared channels.
Project Chrysalis was first unveiled with an alpha version in March. It replaced the default UI of the company’s uTorrent client with content channels, making it possible to subscribe to podcasts and similar forms of episodic content. A BitTorrent spokesperson told me this morning that the company wants to establish Chrysalis as its second major product next to its traditional uTorrent client. Chrysalis is only available for Windows (s msft) currently.
uTorrent has been very popular with advanced BitTorrent users, but the interface and the process of finding and downloading torrents has been a challenge at times to people new to the P2P world. Chrysalis wants to simplify that not only with an easier-to-use interface, but also with an upcoming device certification program. BitTorrent is talking to device makers right now, and wants to have certified devices available by fourth quarter 2011. Users will then be able to easily play files on any certified device without having to do any manual conversion.
The idea of private BitTorrent sharing with server-based caching isn’t entirely new. Paris-based P2P start-up Vipeers offered a similar service four years ago with its Podmailing client. However, Podmailing eventually shut down due to exploding hosting costs. BitTorrent’s spokesperson told me the company isn’t planing to limit the size of privately shared files in the future, but that it wants to use the current beta to evaluate usage behavior.
One side effect of the new offering is that BitTorrent may have to deal with DMCA take-down notices for content shared by its users in the future. One-click host sites like RapidShare have been facing legal action by content owners. However, BitTorrent could likely make the case that it’s more of a private P2P sharing service like Pando, which has operated for years without any legal pressure.