BitTorrent has slammed a report in The Register that suggests a planned protocol change could threaten the stability of the Internet.
According to blogger Richard Bennett, developers of the BitTorrent client uTorrent are reportedly taking steps that could slow gamers and voice-over-IP throughput, and even bring the Internet to a crawl. Writing for the The Register, Bennett described uTorrent's preference for the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) as a warning of slow times ahead.
As an Internet protocol, UDP is not as well-known as TCP, which has important traffic control features. Bennett says uTorrent's switch to UDP as its default peer-to-peer protocol could make the amount of ungovernable traffic go through the roof. "By most estimates," according to Bennett, "P2P accounts for close to half of internet traffic today. When this traffic is immune to congestion control, the remaining half will stumble along at roughly a quarter of the bandwidth it has available today: half the raw bandwidth, used with half efficiency, by 95% of internet users. Oops."
ISPs could control the problem by slowing down UDP traffic, but Bennett argues that "such throttling will utterly destroy VoIP."
Is Bennett right? His article makes some pretty broad assumptions ("most [P2P downloaders] have a sense of entitlement where their etiquette gene should be") and offers few references. And as one Slashdot.org forum participant said of Bennett's article, "the bottleneck for end users is typically the uplink on their last mile connection, so this probably won't bring the internet down or crash any ISPs, but it will make life worse for people sharing the connection."
When contacted by the Industry Standard, BitTorrent marketing manager Simon Morris described the Bennett's report as "utter nonsense," and said that the switch to uTP -- a UDP-based implementation of the BitTorrent protocol -- was intended to reduce network congestion. "It completely mis-characterizes what we're trying to do with uTP," Morris said in an email. "We're trying to roll out a protocol that is latency sensitive/performance neutral, NOT a greedy one that kills the internet."