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uTorrent 3 hands on: zero-config Web control, streaming, and one-click file sharing

uTorrent LogouTorrent 3 beta [download link], which has been publicly available since the end of 2010, is now stable enough and juicy enough for you to sink your teeth into.

As far as actual torrenting goes, uTorrent 3 is very similar to its precursor, but it's now very apparent that this new version is about extending the BitTorrent protocol -- and the company -- into another space entirely.

The main new feature, which we alluded to when we reviewed uTorrent Remote for Android last week, is integration with uTorrent Web. uTorrent Web is a completely new offering from BitTorrent (the company) that offers secure and private zero-config control of your torrents via a Web control panel.

There's more, though! Video and music streaming makes its return, and 'Pulse' torrent ratings are making their debut. Finally, there's a new way to share files with your friends with the magic of TinyURL, BitTorrent, and 'Web Seeds.' Read on for the full hands-on treatment.

uTorrent 3: secure Web control panel, streaming, and simple file sharing


Music and video streaming

Media streaming, which first appeared back in uTorrent 2.1 alpha, has re-emerged in the 3.0 beta. It works for both video files (TV shows, movies, trailers, etc.) and music (it supports single MP3s, or albums -- but not FLAC, sadly).

Basically, this means you can consume your media as you download -- and in today's world, where it's all about consuming things as quickly as possible, that has to be a good thing... right?

Rate torrents with Pulse

There's very little documentation about Pulse, but seemingly it's a way to weed out bad torrents. There's a new tab called Ratings at the bottom of the client, and you simply provide a star rating, and optionally a comment. You can't delete your rating or comment either, which suggests it's being stored somewhere in the cloud -- on the tracker, or on uTorrent's servers.

Eventually, once enough people are rating torrents, you'll be able to scan through your RSS feeds and pick out the torrents with the best ratings. This is assuming, of course, that BitTorrent has built some safeguards into Pulse to prevent nefarious types from rocking the vote. Presumably, indexes like The Pirate Bay will also be able to show the Pulse rating alongside torrents, which will be handy.

Simple file sharing

Another new feature is the enabling of simple file sharing via a 'Drop files to share' zone in the bottom left corner of the interface. All you have to do is drop any file or directory onto it -- a document, some photos -- and uTorrent generates a TinyURL link that you can share with your friends.

If you thought that was cool, get this: the TinyURL directs your friend to a page that downloads uTorrent, and a torrent of the file you're sharing. Seriously, try it out -- download a photo of me in the Google ball pit. It's a little bit weird, having to download an EXE file, but it works surprisingly well. If you already have uTorrent 2 or 3 beta installed, the EXE doesn't try to re-install -- it just adds the torrent to your client.

Also worth noting is that this feature uses 'Web Seeds', which means that the torrent is also being seeded, via HTTP, by uTorrent's dedicated servers. In theory, I could jump off my Google ball pit torrent and uTorrent's Web Seeds would send you the file. Very cool -- especially if you can use Web Seeds for large files.

uTorrent Web

The crowning achievement for uTorrent 3.0 is its integration with uTorrent Web, which is BitTorrent's new zero-config Web control panel. All you have to do is enable it under Options > Preferences > Web and type in a username and password -- you don't even have to go near your router or its port forwarding tables. Next, head along to http://web.utorrent.com (or load up your uTorrent Android Remote) and log in.

The security employed -- and thus the level of privacy -- is rather impressive. Basically, everything you do is encrypted with a key that is derived from your password, and your password never travels across the Internet, so even BitTorrent can't snoop on you.

Crazily enough, the service seems to be completely free (at least for now) -- and to top it off, the Web control panel is top-notch, mimicking almost every feature found in the installed client.

In conclusion, assuming uTorrent 3.0 beta is stable enough for everyday use, you really should upgrade right away.

Download uTorrent 3.0 'Falcon' for Windows (There's a 64-bit version, but it's not as stable)

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