Forget piracy: BitTorrent is turning its attention to privacy.
The company on Tuesday officially released Bleep, a new mobile messaging app that purports to keep user information private.
It's been in development for some time, and Android and Mac users have been able to access an alpha version since last fall. But the latest update brings the app to iOS and significantly overhauls that initial build.
When you register for Bleep, you only need to input a nickname. It doesn't sync to existing social media accounts or email, which means you can be more or less "anonymous" on the app if you choose.
Perhaps the biggest appeal of Bleep, though, is that it offers a peer-to-peer connection. That basically means your data isn't stored in the cloud, where it could, in theory, be hacked into remotely. Data sent via Bleep is stored on your device until it's delivered, through an encrypted connection, to your friend's device. It's similar to the theory behind BitTorrent's file-sharing platform: When you download data via torrent, you are essentially accessing that data from a slew of other people who already have it on their computers, rather than pulling it from a central server.
You're likely familiar with how the concept leads to illegal downloading, though BitTorrent and peer-to-peer connections are in no way against the law themselves.
The new and improved Bleep also adds a function called "Whisper," which obscures key information in an effort to frustrate would-be screenshot-takers. When you're using Whisper, messages and images will be deleted 25 seconds after they're viewed, and they're never displayed at the same time as an individual's username. Unfortunately, the system isn't exactly fail-safe: While you can't nab a screenshot that contains a user's name and message at the same time, you certainly can take two different screenshots to get both. So, as with everything else online, you'd probably do well to keep anything truly private to yourself, just in case.
That said, Christian Averill, vice president of communications and brand for BitTorrent, says that Whisper isn't actually meant to protect against screenshots.
"The current approach is not protecting users against taking the screenshot. This is not the intention. Whispers protect users against making the association between who sent the message or image," Averill told The Huffington Post via email.
Bleep isn't the first app of its kind. But it's notable for its scope -- the app is available on iOS, Android, Mac and Windows -- and because of BitTorrent's efforts in recent years to rebrand itself as a legitimate tech enterprise, freed from the stigma of its platform that can be (and often is) used to pirate content. That same platform, after all, is also used by businesses like Blizzard Entertainment, which lets you download large games and updates relatively quickly by delivering data via peer-to-peer connections.
In addition, BitTorrent has a TV series in the works and now offers paid media downloads.
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