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BitTorrent's Project Chrysalis Arrives in Beta

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File-trading fans can finally get a taste of Project Chrysalis, the previously announced effort to grow BitTorrent from a torrent downloading program to a social sharing and home entertainment ecosystem. (An early alpha version of the software was announced in March.)

The beta of the Project Chrysalis is now available from BitTorrent, starting at 1PM ET today. This beta includes the same core software as the BitTorrent Mainline client, but a radically different user interface. Eventually, Project Chrysalis will take over for the Mainline client. File-traders who prefer the classic interface will need to use BitTorrent's lightweight µTorrent software.

Project ChrysalisThat radically changed interface will do two things. First, it will include prominent links to channels where users can download free media content or applications. This is intended to solve the problem of less technical users not knowing where to find content once they've downloaded a BitTorrent client. It also continues the company's efforts to highlight legally downloadable content. By partnering with media companies, BitTorrent has been highlighting free-to-download music, movies, and application for many months now.

The new software will also allow users to create Facebook-like personal channels where they can share photos, movies, or other files. The idea is that people can create as many channels as they like, perhaps for events like weddings or vacations, and control who can see the content inside those channels. Content will be hosted by BitTorrent, so the sharer won't need to be online for his or her recipients to see the content. For now, there are no size restrictions, so users can share as much as they like. There are also no content restrictions, so commercial songs or videos can be shared just as easily. Users will be able to comment on shared files and view comments in real-time. A future update will let followers also add content to channels.

Project Chrysalis"Until recently, most of your personal files were small enough to email or post to social networks. Now, it's really easy to shoot HD video with your smartphone or snap high-res photos from a digital SLR. What happens to these giant files? They sit orphaned on your computer, or over-edited to make them small enough to share," says Eric Klinker, chief executive officer at BitTorrent. "BitTorrent removes the size barrier and make it simple for you to openly share your creations."

Eventually, the client will grow to offer home sharing, as well, so users will be able download a movie and then send it to their television, for example. This will require compatible third-party electronics, which aren't on the market yet.

With this new direction, BitTorrent is assuming that its large and highly active user base wants more than file downloading out of its BitTorrent client. That's a big assumption. Historically, users have preferred sharing services that work through a browser, not a separate app. Gaining new users could prove difficult.

The beta is only available to Windows users. A BitTorrent representative said that a stable beta should be out by late summer, and that a Mac version will follow that by perhaps two months.

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