As we noted earlier this month, Bram Cohen hopes his BitTorrent Live protocol will prove to be a major disruptor for the streaming media business. Today, Cohen shared that BitTorrent Live -- despite its possible patent encumbrance -- will be entirely free for both users and broadcasters who utilize the P2P service.
A potential game-changer, BT Live is a BitTorrent-based P2P protocol optimized for streaming live content near-instantaneously. Currently, BitTorrent Live streams broadcasts with relatively low latency (a "few seconds" according to Cohen) which fares better than other P2P streaming technologies which can generate delays best measured in minutes.
Cohen says some "very unorthodox techniques" were used to bring latencies down -- possibly techniques which are covered by his recent patent application. Cohen is also the author and inventor of the original BitTorrent protocol.
"To get slightly more technical, the way BitTorrent Live works is by making subsets of peers responsible for subsets of data. High robustness and low latency is achieved by using a screamer protocol between those peers," Cohen explained to TorrentFreak.
"For the last hop it uses a non-screamer protocol to regain congestion control and efficiency. There is redundancy and some waste in the screaming, but that’s kept under control by only using it to get data to a small fraction of the peers."
Although bi-lateral usage is slated to be entirely free, third-party client implementations will be limited (i.e. the technology will probably need to be licensed). Cohen claims BTL is a "tricky" protocol and misbehaving clients could have a serious, negative impact on the ecosystem. It seems he wants to make certain clients are regulated and play by the rules, but this may also provide a way for Cohen to monetize his invention, as well.
BitTorrent Live has endured beta testing since last year and has actually been a work in process for several years. In 2010, Cohen expressed the inherent difficulties of crafting a satisifactory BitTorrent-based streaming solution.
Interestingly, DSL Reports noted that their own, recent demonstration was a less than perfect. You can demo BitTorrent Live for yourself at the company's website: live.bittorrent.com.