BitTorrent officially launches Sync 2.0 with $40 pro tier

BitTorrent officially launched Sync 2.0 Tuesday, taking the next step toward turning the P2P-based file backup and synchronization tool into a real business. Sync 2.0 comes with a pro tier that offers users more fine-grained access control for folders and other advanced features for $39.99 a year. Users can test the pro features for a month for free, or still use basic Sync functionality without the need to pay anything. BitTorrent first announced and previewed the Pro tier of Sync last November.

MPAA sues China’s Xunlei for copyright infringement

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has sued Chinese file sharing operator Xunlei for copyright infringement, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The lawsuit, which was filed in China, comes after Hollywood struck a deal with Xunlei last year that forced the service to filter infringing content. The studios contend that Xunlei never followed through on the deal, which apparently included requirements to block pirate sites, terminate repeat offenders and run any content licensing agreement by the MPAA for approval, according to Torrentfreak.

Ind.ie scales back, focuses on Heartbeat social networking client

The pro-privacy project Ind.ie, which I covered a couple times last year, has scaled back its ambitions due to a lack of resources – despite having raised over $100,000 in a crowdfunding campaign just one month ago.

Brighton, U.K.–based Ind.ie will now focus purely on Heartbeat, the client for its nascent Indienet peer-to-peer social network. The Indie Phone is no longer on the table for now, and the same goes for the Pulse distributed file synchronization system (as a consumer product, at least) and Waystone “introducer” that I wrote about in November.

Pulse, a fork of the Syncthing engine, will continue as a internal component of Heartbeat and its current source code can be downloaded, but Ind.ie chief Aral Balkan wrote in a Monday blog post that “if you want a standalone synchronisation engine with community support, etc., please use Syncthing instead.”

“Pulse, Heartbeat, Waystone, a phone … it was important to share with you our vision just as you would share the synopsis of a book with your publisher. But, going forward, it would be confusing — especially for a consumer audience — to have all those implementation details thrown at them,” Balkan wrote, adding that plans to release Heartbeat for anything other than [company]Apple[/company] devices had also been scrapped for now. Heartbeat will come out for Mac first (a private pre-alpha will open to some on January 26), then iOS in the “intermediate-term.”

However, the problem with the “synopsis” version of events is that the original grand vision was the basis for the recent crowdfunding campaign. Not surprisingly, some donors are very annoyed.

Balkan denied carrying out a “bait and switch” and offered to refund donations to those who want their money back. To those who decried the choice of focusing on Apple’s closed platforms, he pointed out in the blog post that “unlike [company]Google[/company], [Apple’s] business model is not to spy on you.” He also noted that the Ind.ie team all use Macs.

“We’re under no illusions that Apple is in any way perfect. To start with, they’re proprietary and closed,” Balkan wrote. “But we’re being pragmatic. Apple’s platform is a good stop gap until we have our own independent one.”

The decision to focus is, in my opinion, a good one both from a resources and marketing standpoint. The original vision was grand but ill-defined and confusing. Far better to make the Heartbeat product a demonstrable reality and build from there — the outfit still wants to make a consumer device one day, which may be a phone.

However, the timing of the readjustment is not good. Ind.ie should have figured this stuff out last year before putting its hand out for donations. The decentralization movement is part of the open-source world, which largely runs on community spirit. If the Heartbeat project is to pull through, Ind.ie will need to work on regaining whatever goodwill it’s lost this week.

BitTorrent is building a decentralized web browser

BitTorrent is taking the next step on its quest to decentralize all the things: The company launched an invite-only private alpha test for a P2P-based web browser called Project Maelstrom Wednesday. BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker announced the project with a blog post, which reads in part:

“It started with a simple question. What if more of the web worked the way BitTorrent does? Project Maelstrom begins to answer that question with our first public release of a web browser that can power a new way for web content to be published, accessed and consumed. Truly an Internet powered by people, one that lowers barriers and denies gatekeepers their grip on our future.”

Project Maelstrom will serve up web pages directly from its users’ computers, much in the same way that BitTorrent’s file sharing technology distributes files without the need for a central server. I asked a spokesperson for additional technical details, and got this as a response:

“It works on top of the BitTorrent protocol. Websites are published as torrents and Maelstrom treats them as first class citizens instead of just downloadable content. So if a website is contained within a torrent we treat it just like a normal webpage coming in over HTTP.”

Maelstrom 2

This means that Project Maelstrom essentially aims to build a completely separate, P2P-powered web that can only be accessed through the browser.

That’s an ambitious feat, but there are also numerous legal and logistical issues that could make it challenging for BitTorrent to turn Maelstrom into a product. For example, one could imagine that Maelstrom’s users might try to resurrect a site like the Pirate Bay, which was just taken down by Swedish police, in a distributed fashion.

Vuze adds Chromecast support to its Android BitTorrent client

BitTorrent, meet Chromecast: Vuze has added Google Cast support to its Android torrent client, making it possible to beam a media file to the TV right after a download has finished. To my knowledge, this is the first time anyone has integrated cast capability into a BitTorrent app, and it should make the life of Vuze users that also own a Chromecast adapter or one of Google’s new Nexus players a little easier. However, the feature isn’t available for Vuze’s desktop client, because Google hasn’t released a cast SDK for native desktop apps yet.