BitTorrent partners with Onehub to scale up to enterprise file sync-and-share, building on new Sync API

BitTorrent has been pushing hard to bring its Sync technology into the very competitive file sync-and-share marketplace (see BitTorrent releases Sync 2.0, and BitTorrent Sync 1.4 is released).
The company has announced, today, that it’s taking new steps to expand its offerings and penetration of the market.
The first aspect of today’s announcement is a partnership with Onehub, who has built Onehub Sync, the enterprise-scale file sync-and-share tool built on BitTorrent Sync.
Screenshot 2015-07-15 14.39.24
Onehub for iPhone
Onehub and BitTorrent are working together to bring the BitTorrent protocol into the enterprise, despite the early history of that technology in questionable file sharing of movies, images, and music. Nowadays, it’s just another protocol.
The second part of the announcement is the release of a new version of the BitTorrent Sync API, which is RESTful and with 14 API calls compared to the last version’s 14.
Onehub has been working with major clients, building in-house and white labeled file sync-and-share platforms for companies like Phillips, Starbucks, Dell, and Wholefoods. They have skirted the peer-to-peer headache that bedevils enterprise users. Unless two parties are online at the same time, peer sharing doesn’t happen. The solution to this problem was discovered decades ago, since Lotus Notes was originally based on a peer-to-peer sharing model, too. Clever users would simply dedicate a PC to be always online, and therefore could always serve as a source for sharing, and then files would sync.
Notably, this is exactly what central servers do, but in the bad boy piracy days of BitTorrent, users would often not want servers to keep track of what was being passed around. But the opposite conditions apply to enterprise file sharing. So Onehub has implemented ‘peer-to-peer-plus-one’, which emulates the extra PC in the old Lotus Notes workgroup.
Building on the BitTorrent API for its backend for Onehub Sync means that customer will get the benefits of BitTorrent scaling without being away of the protocol at all. They are provided the familiar and well-designed interface of Onehub’s enterprise offering.

BitTorrent releases Sync 2.0

BitTorrent has been developing products that can lead to cash for the peer-to-peer communications and file sharing platform, with the secure Bleep messaging app and the Bundle content publishing service. The beta for the company’s file sharing service, Sync, has now ended with the release of Sync 2.0.

The company reports that all capabilities released in version 1.4 in August are still supported, which include secure sharing of folders over all platforms and the management of user access. The free product supports up to 10 folders with unlimited file sizes.

The company is offering a pro Tier  geared to workgroups, who need finer grained controls and more folders. Network accessible storage (NAS) devices can be linked along with other devices — laptops, smartphones, and so on — and now folder contents can be accessed on demand — so that  files can be picked and synced selectively. Pro is $39.99/user/year.

Sync 2.0 for Mac, Windows, Linux, Free BSD are live now (see GetSync.com). The mobile updates — iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Amazon Kindle — will be rolling out today.

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 Sync 1.4 is released

BitTorrent Sync is a peer-to-peer file sync and share tool that leverages the BitTorrent protocol. Because of its decentralized architecture, it’s an effective means of rapidly distributing very large files.

The company has announced the release of version 1.4, which is still a beta version, but which is featuring some large improvements over 1.3. And the company also states that since the alpha launch last year the company has had 10 million user installs and transferred over 80 petabytes of data.

The major improvements are centered on usability and simplicity. One feature new for 1.4 is the use of links to share without the recipient even having to have an existing account. Once they receive the link — by email, QR code, or other communication channel — the recipient only has to click the link and BitTorrent handles the next steps.

BitTorrent-Sync-1.4-3

The advanced options include controls on how long a link is usable, how many times it can be used, and management of peering access (shown at the bottom). This last control allows the user to require that all files syncing come from the originating device, and not from other peers with whom they have been shared with.

BitTorrent-Sync-1.4-5

The earlier Keys approach of giving access to folders is still available (formerly called Secrets), but this is remarkably simple.

The UI for v1.4 is much cleaner and easier to use, including a customizable folder list to show the metadata of interest to you.

BitTorrent-Sync-1.4-2

 

v1.4 is available now for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and mobile clients will be updated quickly.

As I wrote in the recent Roadmap on File Sync and Share,

BitTorrent Sync is in another special niche. The product relies on the BitTorrent protocol — an encrypted peer-to-peer service where, after authentication, files are synced and shared directly from one device to another — without passing through the BitTorrent server. This makes transfer of large files much faster, and since no copies are made on a cloud server the possibility of those documents being subject to a government inquiry or some other sort of disclosure is low, or even zero.

And this special niche is one that 80 petabytes have passed through already.

Would you use BitTorrent for file sync-and-share?

I read today the BitTorrent– the folks generally associated with sharing pirated TV shows, movies or music —  have developed a file sync-and-share app based on their peer-to-peer streaming technology, called BitTorrent Sync.
The company has a distinctive brand, but I wonder if they can get past the somewhat negative denotations of piracy?
The services works more or less like Dropbox, Box, and other competitors: you download a client, create a folder (or many folders) for syncing and sharing files, and then you can sync files with your other devices or with other users.
Unlike server-based options like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box, the syncing is performed on a peer-to-peer basis. When a friend receives the link to a BitTorrent Sync folder it doesn’t represent a folder stored in the cloud, but simply initiates a connection from your folder to theirs, and the transfer is peer-to-peer, without any intermediary file copying to the cloud.
To some people, that may seem like a feature: they may not want copies made anywhere else of the information in those files. But in my case, and for many others, having a duplicate copy of the files in my most critical folders is one of the best features of these file sync-and-share services. For example, that allows me to use the services as an archive, where I can retain old documents that I no longer want on my hard drive. And just as important, I can use any computer to access my files from the cloud without having to arrange for a peer-to-peer transfer in advance.
Also note that for a peer-to-peer service to work, at least one other peer must be online for you to be able to get access to desired files. If my friend Bette wants to share something with me and we are not online at the same time, the transfer can’t happen. This was a well-known flaw of the earliest version of Lotus Notes, which started out as a pure peer-to-peer solution, so workgroups would often add a spurious ‘server’ member to teams which was actually a PC that was always online so that at least one member would have all updates.
Earlier this week, Spotify announced that they were shutting down their peer-to-peer sharing capability, something that the music sharing service had relied on in its early days. Basically, the company has built out enough servers to provide a reliable and consistent experience for its users. I think this is where we are headed in general: away from peer-to-peer.
There is likely to be a community of users who will gravitate toward the BitTorrent Sync solution, but it won’t be the mainstream consumer or business users. Perhaps the world of video production, which has large files and users who are unlikely to want to pay for server side storage of many gigabyte files.