BitTorrent, a company best known for its per-to-peer distribution tech, is taking the next step in changing how we browse the web. It’s just released its Maelstrom web browser as an open beta.
You can download it from the Project Maelstrom website. It’s Windows only.
Maelstrom was developed with the goal of offering a secure and distributed browsing experience. I don’t think the current release comes close to that idea, but its early days yet.
Based on the Chromium open source browser, Maelstrom has been available in a closed alpha test for the past 5 months. It looks an awful lot like Chrome (it’s even tied into the Chrome Web Store) but under the hood it incorporates BitTorrent’s peer-to-peer tech.
I’m just getting my hands on the browser today, and while I like the fact that it will be as familiar as Chrome I still think it suffers from a few conceptual flaws. For example, it shouldn’t be quite so easy to log in to your Google account. One of Maelstrom’s goals is to offer a more private and secure browsing experience, and that Google connection defeats the purpose.
As I understand it, that more private and secure browsing experience is going to be available via the Maelstrom Network. At the moment it only exists as a single test node, but one day soon this network will be a truly neutral, content-friendly network. BitTorrent says that more than 10,000 web developers and 3,500 publishers have already started working on developing tools, content, and that number is surely going to increase each time a new NSA or other privacy scandal makes the .
The Maelstrom Network is a good idea, but at the moment it is only accessible to those who log in with their Facebook or Twitter credentials. Along with your credentials, you have to hand over either your FB public profile and friends list, or the list of people you follow on Twitter.
Please excuse me for being dense, but I don’t see why I should have to give up my privacy in order to access a network intended to protect it. Given that anonymity is one of the best ways to guarantee both your privacy and security, I had expected that users would have an anonymous option. It might be a more limited option than logging in with a verified account, but it should still be offered.
I know that BiTorrent promises that they “will never disburse your private, individual information to third party interests without your express permission”, but the fact remains that they have the information and thus that information is inherently insecure.
If nothing else, we should remember that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that we don’t know who will be running Maelstrom 5 years down the line.
In any case, the Maelstrom Network is limited to a single test site right now so my complaints are moot. And the browser itself is clunky and unstable, so there’s no reason to switch to it at this time.
BitTorrent first hinted that they were thinking about re-architecting the web around this time last year, and the resulting Maelstrom web browser is just the latest adaptation of the company’s file sharing tech.
They’ve developed the private file-sharing service Sync to let you share large files with others, and they’re also working on a secure chat client called Bleep. And of course we all know of Bundle, BitTorrent’s retail platform, where hundreds of creators are already distributing and selling content.