Today I was able to get my hands on the FoxTorrent Firefox extension to give it a whirl and see what it was all about. Apparently last week one of the members on the team developing the extension had leaked a copy of it and created quite a stir…but at that time they didn’t really want to open the doors of the extension to so many people.




The page where FoxTorrent was originally posted to be downloaded has since been removed, and in its place is a nice little story saying how they didn’t mean for it to get leaked. I really wanted to try out the extension to see what it was all about, so I followed their instructions for joining the “beta team,” which consisted of sending an email to this mailing list. A little bit later I received an email saying how they had to move the site to a new location, and they provided me with a generic username and password that they are trusting no one will give out.

The email was automated, so if you want to try the extension yourself I’m sure you should receive the username and password in no time. What’s the extension all about though? FoxTorrent is aiming to be the next big BitTorrent client since it integrates with the Firefox web browser. This would mean that you don’t have to download any other program in order to download your favorite torrent files, which could be BIG news. All kinds of companies and organizations have begun to provide BitTorrent download links to some files with Linux distributions being the first to pop in my head. Most people shrug off those downloads because they don’t feel like opening the BitTorrent application just to download something that also has direct links provided. If Web browsers begin integrating BitTorrent into the browser itself I think that it could start to become even more mainstream.

FoxTorrent

I tried the FoxTorrent (Beta) extension out to see what kind of speeds I would get and how well it worked. After installing the extension and restarting Firefox I downloaded one of the recommended video files from a Diggnation podcast. The file was 282MB in size and chugged along quite well…most of the time it was maxing out my Internet connection. I then wanted to see how well it worked with normal Torrents that most people get from sites such as The Pirate Bay, so I searched for some obscure things that didn’t have too many people sharing the files.

I found some files very quickly, but then I also noticed one big problem with the FoxTorrent extension. It can’t handle Torrents that have multiple files in it. So, for example, if you’re trying to download 50 MP3 files you’ll actually only receive the first one that it finds. Before reporting it I noticed that it was already a known issue, and here were the four things that they still have to work on:

  • Windows only (Mac and Linux well underway)
  • Single file only (multi-file not yet released)
  • Torrents with sub-folders have issues
  • A memory leak and CPU usage issue with the JavaScript

So whenever they get the multi-file version release I think this extension is going to become really really popular. Here are the actual features that are listed for the extension:

  • Download torrents right in Firefox
  • Download in Firefox’s Download Manager, and manage your torrents from right in Firefox.

  • Accelerated torrent downloads
  • Torrents are downloaded from both the BitTorrent and RedSwoosh network, resulting in greater speed and availability.

  • Stream
    Play streamable media (e.g. .WMV, .MOV, .MP3, .AVI) files as your torrent downloads!

I didn’t try streaming any media files but that sounds like a feature many users will love. That will allow people to watch videos or listen to music as they download it instead of having to wait for it to finish.

Opera has had integrated BitTorrent support for quite some time, and I’ve tried using it for on occasion, but there always seems to be a huge speed decrease compared to what I get with a well optimized BitTorrent application. I tried FoxTorrent on about 10 different files (all single file downloads that FoxTorrent can handle) and then did the same files in Opera…and FoxTorrent beat Opera in speeds every time. Maybe it is just some sort of fluke for the time being, but FoxTorrent looks really promising. I think BitTorrent file sharing as we know it is on the verge of becoming a standard method for downloading files.

Update:
As Max pointed out in the comments below, the extension does install software by Red Swoosh in order to manage the downloading of the torrents. In my opinion this takes away a lot from the usefulness of the extension and leaves Opera as the only browser with an integrated BitTorrent client without needing an external application.