Tuesday, April 26, 2011

µTorrent 3 Beta Released – Goes Backwards

I've been a long-time user of µtorrent. I've been helping out with basic support int heir IRC channel for ooh... years. However, with recent developments, I may be moving away, and I'm not the only one. Recent builds have added more 'features', but have broken core ones in doing so, and the UI has been tweaked, to the disadvantage of power users, for issues that don't actually happen.

I've been using µTorrent a long time. Not just back when Ludde (Ludwig Strigious) was running it, but back when it was a small project with support mainly handled through a freenode channel. I remember (in no particular order) the retspan debate, the buyout, v1.0 being released, the introduction of µTP (and the fun that generated), and many other issues, and some of the Idiocracy pieces have come from the #utorrent IRC channel. However, recent versions have me questioning the client, as the marketing mentality goes into overdrive, and the client gets destroyed as trying to make it a 'bigger number 1' takes away from what made it number 1.

I've been using the Falcon build-path (was the 2.1 alpha line from late 2009-June 2010, when it became the 3.0alpha) off and on since it first came out, but full time since July 2010 (when I created the screenshots used in this TorrentFreak article). The apps, while novelties, were not really useful, so they weren't used much. The only real feature exclusive to Falcon that got more than occasional use was streaming.

Streaming can be really bad on torrents (and I do mean really bad). Bittorrent's speed and efficiency comes from it's 'rarest first' piece distribution philosophy, meaning your client tries to build as many distributed copies as it can. This means piece are downloaded in no particular order, except their rarity amongst the pieces you can see. In order to stream, you have to have the pieces arrive in order, which reduces the efficiency of the torrent. On a very well seeded torrent, it won't be an issue, but on one that's not, it can be a problem, and can lead to torrents dying prematurely.

I've used it before, with Tribbler, and while the implementation works better in µTorrent (when it works, in many builds, it fails entirely) rolling it out will have a net negative effect. It's very simple - People are impatient. You just have to look at how many people do anything they can to improve their download speeds. If they can stream it, all the better for their impatience.

Of course the biggest criticism recently has been with the look of the client. Recent versions have been playing with the icons, especially on the control bar. And has led to a LOT of backlash on the forums. There are other 'tweaks' as well, such as re-ordering the information tabs at the bottom (so that files is now first, rather than 5th) and a new ratings tab has been introduced (because that has been SO useful on clients like BitComet, which have had it for years)

In discussions with someone at Bittorrent Inc., I was told that it's down to the UI designers. That's right, Bittorrent Inc., who plead poverty to TorrentFreak in 09 when they added the browser bar, has hired UI Designers. At least the icon-set in the beta has improved over the version that was sent out a few days earlier, where they are now recognisable again.

Another major issue is the sidebar. In previous builds and versions, you can select a category (label) and then close the sidebar and carry on. In fact I've done this many times with 3.0alpha builds, and it wasn't until a month ago, that this appeared, with build 25127 (which is where it started going downhill). I was told
This is intentional (and not a new change at all), so you never get stuck in another view with the sidebar disabled.

  1. If it's not been in the previous builds (It hasn't, and isn't in the current stable version of 2.2.1 either) then it certainly IS new.
  2. I've checked my logs for the IRC support channel and found nothing there indicating any kind of problem. Ok, I've only gone back TWO YEARS (I have logs going back to early 06 somewhere) but I'm not seeing it as an issue. I had a quick look at the forum too, and didn't see it as much of a problem.
    Oh, and it's an 'issue' that's solved by pressing F7, or going to the options menu and choosing 'Show Category List           F7'
    Very 'stuck' I don't think.

So, naughty Firon, telling lies. Not a good way to provide support.

So, will the problems, the issues (both real, and those created to deal with imaginary issues) be sorted? If not, will people soldier on with the client, or perhaps start using older versions (plenty still use versions back to 1.6.1) or will they migrate to another client altogether?

It may well be that in trying to lure in the 'basic user', with Project Chrysalis, that it spills over to µTorrent, alienating the user-base (of what has been described as 'the most powerful bittorrent client'). I don't even think that there is a major market for a 'basic' bittorrent client, but if there is, the one thing you do NOT want to do, is destroy your world-leading product trying to produce something for an unproven market group.

Of course, I don't expect things to change too much. So I will be taking the third option above, and looking for new clients. Once the 'Community Manager' starts lying to long-term members of the community, that's any sort of trust or respect straight out the window. And that's a shame, because many of the staff are nice people, who I've got to know well. Integrity rules though, and Bittorrent Inc., through their community manager, has squandered that in my books. One of the first clients I'm looking at? qBittorrent.

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog! Looks like you're up to great things, keep it up.