We’ll dive into the story of what happened to uTorrent. In the early 2000s, just as the internet began to take root in computers all over the world, individuals began to use it in ways that were previously unthinkable. The World Wide Web, like the people who used it, was still evolving. File sizes grew larger, but many people’s internet speeds and bandwidth remained unchanged, making downloading more difficult: What should we do?

The answer was discovered in uTorrent, a software that swept the desktops of dedicated internet users for the better part of a decade. This software made use of a new technology that had only been introduced a few years before. The name of the technology in question is “torrenting,” and uTorrent was about to become the tool that would promote its use for the public. Websites might now offer downloads the size of video game files at almost no expense to the host. The online world was about to undergo a major transformation.

What is Torrenting?

Torrenting is the process of downloading and transferring records through the BitTorrent network. Rather than downloading records to a focal server, torrenting includes downloading documents from other clients’ gadgets on the network. Then again, clients transfer records from their own gadgets for different clients to download.

Torrenting is the most famous type of distributed (P2P) record sharing, and it requires using specific applications to interface with the BitTorrent network. Such applications can be downloaded free of charge for various gadgets.

Everybody downloading or transferring a similar record is known as a peer. In view of how BitTorrent functions, a friend can download a document from a few different clients without a moment’s delay, or transfer a record to numerous different clients all the while.

We will discuss this in the article.

The downfall of uTorrent

It wouldn’t be long until uTorrent had established itself as the face of Internet file-sharing, the go-to for all your downloading needs. Stuck trying to find that one file you’ve been searching for for years? The answer was uTorrent…Until things took a turn for the worst. uTorrent was one of those programs that suffered a dramatic decline in popularity, but not in the way you might think.

I mean, the statistics say differently, but the people don’t. uTorrent went from being a must-have on the internet to something that no one spoke about overnight, thanks to a sequence of both long-term and short-term decisions that stayed unresolved for a long time.

What happened?

There was a period in the internet’s infancy when the first thing people viewed in the morning was their uTorrent downloads. The original story behind uTorrent’s popularity on the internet is a rather strange one. As previously stated, a chain of unusual occurrences resulted in the program becoming both beloved and despised at the same time. The amount of uTorrent downloads were affected, but not significantly enough to have an impact on competitiveness.

Though the program itself is no longer discussed, as though people don’t want to be associated with it, especially since the well-known package management system Ninite discontinued support for uTorrent in 2013. Currently, it has become somewhat obsolete in today’s age, and it all boils down to three things: bad marketing and business decisions, a disregard for constantly evolving technology, and, on top of that, the need for such a program simply became less required as time passed.

As you can see, some of these problems are beyond uTorrent’s control, but when combined with the other issues that were unique to uTorrent, they essentially served as the final straw.

It is vital to note that the elements around uTorrent’s lack of involvement in adapting to the times and its contentious business adjustments do go hand in hand, and it all has to do with the purpose of u Torrent’s creation in the first place. 

The origin story

It all started in 2001, during the Napster and online file-sharing period, right before the debut of the first iPod. 

This new wave of file-sharing was tremendously easy, but it came with an unexpected problem, specifically piracy. This all started with music files on the internet. This made sense since music files were not very large. Instead of going to a record shop to purchase their favorite sorts of vinyl or CDs, they could easily steal them. Because the internet was so new at the time, it was a bit more flexible compared to now.

Also, there were no laws in place to stop it, so illegal music-sharing and Napster spread like wildfire every day. However, with the introduction of the iPod and the clever iTunes store, Apple essentially found a solution for music pirates.

Receiving an instant download of a song for $0.99 was acceptable, and then, before you knew it, copyright law was updated to account for the internet, and Napster eventually started losing momentum. No doubt, some type of internet piracy has existed since the days of Usenet, but Napster was the piracy cultural boom, with virtually everyone using it, which led to Limewire and a slew of other services.

You might wonder, why begin with music, rather than other forms of entertainment?

Music, as we mentioned earlier, had a significant edge in terms of file size. A 1-minute song was probably only a few megabytes in size. And, on AOL dial-up, a file of that size may take up to ten minutes to download in the worst-case situation. On the other hand, larger files like movies or episodes of a series may have been as large as 400MB, taking a full day to download.

What if the device needed to be used for other things during that time? The download would be disrupted, and you’d have to start from the beginning. You would be unlucky since dial-up internet speeds were not very fast. The technology just did not exist at the time.

Until the 2nd of July 2001.

Bram Cohen, a University of Buffalo student, developed a program based on a technology he devised just three months before BitTorrent. This technology was called the same thing. The BitTorrent protocol pioneered a whole new method of downloading files that were both safe and didn’t put a strain on download speeds. So, what does all of this have to do with uTorrent? We’ll get to that.

BitTorrent is a variant of an older technology known as P2P, or “peer-to-peer.”

That’s precisely what Napster was. With P2P, you just join the host’s network, which then finds another user on that network who also has the content you’re seeking for. It would connect you to that person, allow you to share their file, and then download it to your machine. But what if the person on the other end didn’t have good internet speed?

What if the government intervened and shut down the network entirely (as it did with Napster)? What would you do if you no longer have access to that download? This is when the BitTorrent proper protocol comes into play.

To put it another way, let’s say your friend has a set of 3 paintings and you would like to have the same set. Your friend who has these paintings would simply photocopy each one for you, one at a time. That is the peer-to-peer way of doing things.

Now let us say there were 3 other guys that had the same series of paintings. In this case, your friend would have to ask these three friends to photocopy one part of the set. These friends are referred to as seeders and in case one of them decides not to help, he’s referred to as a leecher. 

Rather than take 20 minutes for your friend to single-handedly photocopy each painting himself, he can easily ask each friend to photocopy 1/3 of the painting, making the task take about 5 minutes.

And there you have it, that’s torrenting. 

Torrenting network
Torrenting network

Torrenting copies little bits and pieces of a file from various users and combines them to create a new copy of that file for the downloading user. You might have noticed that the greater the number of seeders, the faster the download. This is the reason. Is one of the seeders uploading at a snail’s pace? It’s not a problem. Simply choose one of the speedier ones. Because P2P relies on a single user, it cannot do so.

The more people there are, the more likely it is that there will be people with fast upload rates, which will help you download faster. So, back in 2001, if you wanted to download a 1GB file, you could probably do it overnight while sleeping, and if someone ever needed to use the phone, it was much easier to just pause and continue a torrent download because of all the seeders. Interruptions were not an issue. Finally, torrenting had the advantage of establishing direct networks with each seeder, whereas P2P relied on the network established by the host or website.

It is simple to shut down the network of a P2P sharing system, but if you take down the network for a torrent, it will simply find another seeder.

Because the network is so extensively dispersed, a file downloaded from the pirate bay could include malware. It could also connect you with a user who downloaded it from Demonoid, provided the files are identical. This means these websites do not actually host the files.

Therefore, torrent files are so little, even if the real file is gigabytes in size. They are essentially lines of code that state where the files can be found and instructions to begin downloading. Websites hosting these torrent files no longer had to worry about bandwidth. With the release of the BitTorrent program came a whole new manner of downloading and a whole new way of life. It essentially created a whole new torrenting community.

Alternative BitTorrent clients began to emerge, and this is where uTorrent enters the picture. That may have appeared to be a bit of a digression, but understanding how uTorrent came to requires some context. Torrenting became increasingly commercial and corporate as it grew in popularity. Many BitTorrent users now were practically bloatware, with some even hosting advertisements. The programs themselves started taking unneeded disk space and enormous amounts of electricity while providing subpar performance, with some even installing unwanted software on your computer.

This problem is what spurred the creation of uTorrent in 2004 by Swedish programmer Ludvig Strigeus. It was convenient, effective, and lightweight on space which was just what internet users were looking for at the time.

The downfall

Over the years, uTorrent’s market share in the BitTorrent client community just continued to grow bigger, even surpassing the old generations programs. By 2009, uTorrent took flight, and then Limewire’s dissolution in 2010 only helped them grow even further. It was only a matter of time before uTorrent had practically become a social monopoly. It was the go-to for all your BitTorrent client needs. uTorrent was Google, and all the other programs were Bing and Ask.com.

Having such a valuable resource at their hands, BitTorrent Inc. wanted to figure out a way to make this grow even faster and make even more money than they already were. The only way to do that was to change the program up a bit, make it more commercially viable. uTorrent was free, BitTorrent Inc. made all their money hosting ads on their website, which naturally got a lot of traffic from people going there to download the program, but what if the company found a way to make money from the program itself, while also keeping it free?

The answer to this was ads. By putting ads into their actual program, not many people were happy about it, obviously. We all know how ads can be off-putting at times when watching videos on Youtube. Their reason for this, other than extra cash, also had to do with the way torrenting works. Now, torrenting itself is not illegal. In fact, it is an effective method for downloading large files.

Torrenting copyrighted content is illegal, but that was torrenting’s selling point. From the example of the paintings, we mentioned earlier, there can be a whole network of people working to photocopy exact copies of a certain file. That is what makes torrenting the perfect tool for piracy. It has a large distribution of people, making it hard for it to simply be shut down. If you have the same torrent file from another server, you can always find the file you are looking for (even though it may take time). Companies like uTorrent had to make money one way or another since its programs are free, which leads us to the ads. 

Just like Youtube, some content creators may need to make some financial investments to produce a good video, but there is no guarantee of them getting paid for it. But they must make money, right? Therefore, we have ads, sponsorships, merchandise, and so on. 

However, the issue with uTorrent wasn’t necessarily the ads, but what was being advertised. Many at times, these ads were adware and malware. Some were harmful and graphic, not accounting for the younger demographic that were using the program. To make matters worse, it would sometimes download programs to a user’s computer without their full consent.

Try opening any pirated website and you may notice the huge wave of pop-up ads and malicious programs. This is because these sites aren’t legal, so anything goes really. Unfortunately, uTorrent was suffering from this. Although uTorrent was a legal program, it managed to catch the attention of malware companies that ended up ruining uTorrent’s reputation and this was a huge error on uTorrent’s part.

uTorrent started out as a simple BitTorrent client, which did as it was designed. However, as more malicious ads and unwanted programs got attached to it, users eventually started to lose trust in the program. So, people started switching to other clients, leaving uTorrent in the dust.

The final nail in the coffin

The final nail on the coffin would be announced on multiple news sites in 2015. Basically, the issue started when users started noticing that uTorrent was using a lot more CPU power than usual. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that uTorrent had secretly installed a cryptocurrency software and was mining bitcoin, using people’s computers without their consent (crazy right?!). This breach of cyber privacy was unacceptable and ended up chasing those that still had a little bit of trust in the program. Eventually, the mining program was removed and so were other graphic ads, but they were already neck-deep in trouble. People did not trust uTorrent anymore, leading to a huge chunk of users finding other clients.

Funny enough, uTorrent is still being used today. In fact, it is quite common today. The reason being the newcomers are oblivious to the malicious past that the program had. Also, another reason could be SEO or search engine optimization. Simply, when newcomers search for a BitTorrent client, uTorrent is usually the first result. With proper advertising, it would most likely be downloaded without question. This means uTorrent is not dead but is operating quietly.

Conclusion

uTorrent was a revolutionary service that affected the way people download files. Despite all the things that happened, this doesn’t mean that uTorrent can’t make a comeback. Since streaming services nowadays are getting way too expensive, it is possible for them to fill the blanks for those who can’t afford it. Only time will tell. However, uTorrent is a great example of what can happen when marketing decisions aren’t properly discussed. Even if the business is booming initially. Even today, uTorrent is still suffering the brunt of its mistakes.

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