It's been only a couple of weeks since word got out about a new Firefox Bittorrent extension called Foxtorrent. Yesterday Red Swoosh released the Fox into the wild, announcing both Mac and Linux support and version 1.0 on the same day.

foxtorrent

I've been testing Foxtorrent 1.0 for a couple of hours now on both Windows and OS X - and I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. A well-done Firefox Bittorrent extension clearly has potential, and the fact that Red Swoosh is now owned by Akamai makes this even more interesting for the whole P2P space. I just wish they hadn't rushed to release this so soon.

First of all, Foxtorrent really is easy to install and requires zero configuration to run. That's a welcome change from most P2P programs. It's also surprisingly easy on the eye for a browser extension. No busy toolbar, no sidebar that takes over valuable screen space. Instead it just waits in the background until you click on a Torrent link.

Foxtorrent then displays the download status right within the browser. Not as detailed as Azureus, but enough to get the job done. And there is a little surprise: A stream button. Red Swoosh extended the Bittorrent protocol with a progressive downloading capability that makes it possible to start watching a movie before it downloaded completely. Or at least that's the idea. I never could get anything to stream. Instead the DivX web player Red Swoosh recommends just stalled.

Unfortunately that wasn't the only problem I encountered. The windows version of Foxtorrent has some major memory leaks that require regular restarts.

Foxtorrent also has problems downloading content from some websites, a problem that can be attributed to the architecture of the software. Every torrent file gets downloaded via a Red Swoosh server, which makes it possible to download the content both through the regular Bittorrent protocol and the Red Swoosh P2P protocol.

Update: I've been told that the Redswoosh server actually never touches the Torrent files. Foxtorrent just uses the link prefix "edn.redswoosh.net" to trigger the internal client, which then uses the traditional Bittorrent protocol to download the content.

Unfortunately this doesn't yet work for Torrents that hosted on SSL-secured servers - which essentially means that Foxtorrent users can't download anything from Bittorrent.com.

This wouldn't be that bad if people just could download that content with another Bittorrent client of their choice. But Foxtorrent does something really odd: It overwrites every Torrent file you download with HTML code, effectively making it unusable and establishing itself as the only working Bittorrent solution on your system.

Now I don't think Red Swoosh did this on purpose, even though it seems to be right out of the rulebook for the Balkanization of Bittorrent. It's probably just a bug. But it's a biggie - and not something that should have made its way into a version 1.0.



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