We know that Microsoft has bold ambitions for Project Spartan, its next-generation browser for Windows, but the software giant isn’t the only company with big plans. BitTorrent is also working on a next-generation browser of its own.
You may know BitTorrent as the company that developed its namesake torrent client for Windows, as well as sister app uTorrent. Clients that are typically associated with piracy. So you’d be forgiven if you expected a browser made by BitTorrent to be one that simply aims to make it even easier to pirate Game of Thrones with. And while that may be the case, Project Maelstrom is more than just a convergence of a browser and a torrent client, this next-gen browser looks to reinvent the entire concept of web browsing.
Today, you wake up, and you want to know whether there’s any news of the Surface Pro 4. You fire up your favorite web browser, type ‘winbeta.org’ in the address bar, and hit enter. Your request is ultimately directed to some central server in an unknown location, and the browser starts pulling content from it. The layout, the text, the images, and everything else gets downloaded and constructed till the site is fully loaded.
That’s all just fine and dandy, the process has worked for us well thus far. But should that server go down, or should a government decide that a website should be taken offline because it exposed some of its shady operations, then the website is lost, and no one will be able to access it. Not if BitTorrent has its way though.
“If we are successful, we believe this project has the potential to help address some of the most vexing problems facing the Internet today. How can we keep the Internet open? How can we keep access to the Internet neutral? How can we better ensure our private data is not misused by large companies? How can we help the Internet scale efficiently for content?” – BitTorrent
Project Maelstrom is the world’s first peer-to-peer browser. Using similar technology that powers its torrent clients, BitTorrent’s browser allows you to not only load websites from servers, but from fellow web surfers as well. Project Maelstrom is based on Chromium so it looks almost identical to Google Chrome, but it uses both regular HTTP and BitTorrent’s own P2P protocol to fetch and load websites. It can also download torrents just as it would regular files.
The browser shows promise, or at least the technology underneath it. It could potentially result in reduced server costs, and keep websites alive even if the main host goes down. BitTorrent has even released developer tools to help web developers transform their websites into torrents. Which brings us to BitTorrent’s first hurdle at achieving its ultimate goal. Here lies the main issue; support.
Project Maelstrom is basically useless at this point as there aren’t any websites that are optimized for the browser, at least not the major ones, as in websites you visit on a daily basis. Today, developers will first need to use a tool that “generates optimized torrent files from static website files”, then seed those files through uTorrent so that others can view it. Only then will Maelstrom be able to pick those files up via its built-in magnet picker. It’s a process, however we assume that once the ball gets rolling, there’s no stopping it, especially when used in the case of websites frequently visited by thousands (or millions) of people a day. Websites would load much faster and taking them down could be near impossible.
As we’ve said, it’s a very ambitious project, but it could have a great impact on the established web. For what it’s worth, you can try out Project Maelstrom now over at the download links below. At this point, it’s still a beta and is exclusive to Windows. Should this gain some serious traction, it wouldn’t be surprising to see companies like Microsoft, Google, Mozilla, and others integrate the P2P protocol into their own browsers. Time will tell. In the meantime, let us know what you think of Project Maelstrom in the comments below.