Opera Adds BitTorrent to Web Browser

Opera Software has released a test version of its flagship Web browser that adds an embedded BitTorrent client for downloading content using the popular file sharing protocol. Although Opera has not officially announced the beta, which is dubbed a "technology preview," the release is available from the company's FTP server.

The addition makes Opera the first Web browser to natively support BitTorrent downloads, which normally require a separate external client. Alongside the BitTorrent feature, Opera 8.02 will also introduce a number of bug fixes including an update for Web pages using Flash.

BitTorrent has found immense popularity as a way to download files due to its distributed architecture, although its use thus far has largely been for sharing copyrighted content such as movies.

Operationally, a "seed" file, or one complete file, is all that is needed to initiate a BitTorrent download. Once initiated, seeds are downloaded by file sharers who obtain "bits" of the master file over peer-to-peer networks. The efficiency of distribution scales upward as more file sharers download.

But just like P2P networks, BitTorrent has drawn the attention of authorities that have shut down a number of Web sites related to the protocol. BitTorrent has been used by a number of legitimate organizations to distribute large files, however, including Linux distributions of Red Hat and Mandriva.

The Opera 8.02 Technology Preview is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

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