New BitTorrent protocol supports throttling

— 5:24 PM on November 2, 2009

With network neutrality hot on the U.S. government's agenda, the last thing you'd expect is for BitTorrent developers to extend an olive branch to Internet service providers. Yet according to TorrentFreak, that's just what's happening. BitTorrent Inc is developing a new, smarter version of the BitTorrent protocol it has tweaked to be more network-friendly.

BitTorrent Product Management VP Simon Morris explains, "uTP [the new protocol] measures the time a packet takes to get sent from peer A to peer B, so in theory uTP will detect congestion anywhere on that path." If the client detects congestion, it will throttle speeds to keep traffic flowing smoothly. Both μTorrent and the "mainline" BitTorrent client will feature uTP support.

How big a deal is this for ISPs? Morris believes uTP "should result in a multi-billion dollar windfall in terms of savings" if it becomes successful. ISPs might even be able to forgo BitTorrent throttling on their end, TorrentFreak says, although none have announced such a move quite yet.

Surprisingly, the new protocol may not result in much slower download speeds for end users. Morris claims client-side throttling will mainly affect uploads, and TorrentFreak adds that with reduced network congestion, downloads might actually end up faster. At the very least, none of the folks testing the new μTorrent client have complained of "significant problems."

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