In December, BitTorrent Inc. announced its plan to radically change how we use the Internet with Project Maelstrom, a browser that retrieves web content from peer-to-peer-distributed torrents instead of traditional servers. Now the company is ready to give us an early look at its work.
On Friday, Project Maelstrom for Windows enters public beta and is available for anyone to download from BitTorrent's site. BitTorrent says a Mac version is coming soon, but there are no immediate plans for a Linux build.
Maelstrom is a Chromium-based browser that can function as a regular browser that accesses sites over standard HTTP/HTTPS protocols. The program also contains the ability to grab websites packaged as torrents and display them.
Although it's a Chromium-based browser, BitTorrent isn't officially supporting Chrome extensions and apps from the Chrome Web Store. Nevertheless, you can still install content from the Web Store and a lot of it should work, the company says.
Further reading: Project Maelstrom detailed: More info about BitTorrent's vision for a peer-to-peer web
Why this matters: The idea behind Maelstrom is simple: if the web relied on BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing technology, accessing web content could become much faster and more reliable than it is today. While the web's server-client architecture works pretty well, sites can often slow down or become inaccessible when servers fail or are overwhelmed by too many requests at once. Theoretically, BitTorrent-packaged sites would never go down as long as you could grab the site's files from another user.
For Maelstrom to work, however, developers and site publishers need to get on board and convert their sites into torrents; Maelstrom is not designed to convert sites into torrents on the fly.
BitTorrent says it's already seen some healthy interest on the publisher side, including more than 10,000 developers and 3,500 site publishers. BitTorrent was unable to give us access to Maelstrom before press time, but the company says you'll be able to try out torrent-packaged sites right away.
"When you first launch Project Maelstrom you'll get a torrent website that suggests a handful of other sites that have been created as torrents as well," BitTorrent's product manager Rob Velasquez told PCWorld via email. "These range from HTML5 experiments to a few of our more popular Bundles."
In addition to the Windows public beta, BitTorrent also released the first developer tools that make it easier for publishers and developers to create torrent-packaged content for the Maelstrom browser.