While BitTorrent may be best known for its peer-to-peer file transfer protocol, the company has also been trying to find a simple and secure way to share large files without relying on the cloud — and the storage constraints that come with it. In fact, the company has been working on killing off sneakernet for a while now. Earlier efforts, like BitTorrent Share and SoShare, never really took off, but the company finally thinks it has something with BitTorrent Sync. Publicly launched in beta last July, the service lets you select and share folders with any number of recipients, with the folder's contents sent directly between devices and kept in sync.
Sync is beginning to find an audience (more than 10 million installs and 80 petabytes transferred thus far), but it hasn't always been the most user-friendly process. BitTorrent is trying to change that with the launch of Sync 1.4 — a complete and much-needed visual overhaul and refresh of how users will share files. Technologically, Sync is still the same, but instead of using lengthy, "secret" alphanumeric codes to grant access, users can now invite others to view their folders using by sending an email or simply sharing an HTTPS link.
Once the person on the receiving end clicks the link, the original sender can see who is connecting and grant or deny them access. Another nice refinement includes the ability to simply right-click any folder in Windows Explorer or the OS X Finder — from there it brings up a quick dialog box that lets you generate the email or link you want to use to share the folder. The app also generates a QR code, which mobile users can then scan to add a folder directly to the Sync app for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone (a feature that's been present since Sync 1.3 launched).
It's worth noting that Sync is primarily a file-sharing service, not a backup solution — there's no cloud to speak of here. Instead, files are directly transferred between computers; if you're sharing a file with multiple users, you'll all benefit from increased speed when syncing files thanks to BitTorrent's peer-to-peer technology. However, the plus side of not using the cloud is that you can send any file or folder, regardless of how big it is. Dropbox, Google Drive, and the like all make it easy to share files and folders, but you're constrained by the amount of space you have available — that's not the case with Sync. Ultimately, the company believes it has put together the tools necessary to kill things like trading files on flash drives or mailing external hard drives.
For most users, however, the free space in Dropbox and Drive will probably be sufficient (and comes with the added benefit of backing files up in the cloud), but BitTorrent believes there will definitely be a segment of the market interested in this service. The company is mainly targeting users who need to send multi-gigabyte files like multimedia creators, as well as users concerned with security and don't want their files in someone else's server. With Sync 1.4, BitTorrent thinks it has added the necessary polish and fine-tuning too make the service a mainstream success. You can download Sync 1.4 for Windows, Mac, and Linux now, and updated mobile versions of the app should roll out today as well.