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.