You'll soon be able to stream live video with your smartphone using a type of BitTorrent. Last year, BitTorrent Live was launched as a way to broadcast and stream live video for free. Instead of relying on a single company's servers to record a video and send it back out to viewers, BitTorrent Live is peer-to-peer: it has a broadcaster send their video to a handful of viewers who then watch the video while sending it out to even more viewers to do the same thing. It's only been on the desktop for now, but BitTorrent says that a mobile app is in the works for later this year — though it doesn't say what platforms it might debut on or whether the app will allow for just broadcasting, just viewing, or both.
The app will be released in alpha
BitTorrent Live itself still remains in beta, though BitTorrent says that it's matured over the past year. The app too will launch in an unfinished state — an alpha, BitTorrent says — though presumably the lack of polish will be in the developing protocol and not the app itself. When we initially tried it last year, the protocol's reliance on a distributed network remained problematic: when there weren't enough viewers, videos would start slowly or wouldn't play at all. At the moment, it appears to have worked past some of those kinks and is performing much better, at least on officially featured streams.
For individual, small-scale broadcasters, there may be no immediate benefit to using BitTorrent over one of the many companies that offer live broadcasting for free. But for broadcasters that want an inexpensive way to stream a lot of content — and to make money off while doing it — BitTorrent seems to be hoping that Live will be a compelling option. For one, streaming content in bulk can be done for free, but perhaps more importantly, after an early demo in February 2012, Bram Cohen told TechCrunch that BitTorrent Live would make it relatively inexpensive to begin showing ads on a stream — a feat BitTorrent can handle thanks to Live's peer-to-peer nature lending to low overhead. If you're curious how well the protocol works, you can head over to BitTorrent Live's website where a number of streams are currently broadcasting.