With well over 125 million active users a month uTorrent is by far the most used BitTorrent client. Because of its success the software is also the main source of revenue for San Francisco based parent company BitTorrent Inc. It is estimated that the company currently generates between $15 and $20 million in annual revenue but this figure is expected to rise after it was quietly announced that uTorrent will become ad-supported.
uTorrent for Windows saw its first public release in September 2005 and soon became the most widely used BitTorrent application. Today over 125 million users worldwide use the client regularly and this number continues to rise.
After BitTorrent Inc. bought the software in 2006 it evolved heavily. What began as a minimalist and no-nonsense client targeted at a BitTorrent-savvy crowd, is now an application that does far more than downloading alone.
As always, some love the changes and added features while others complain bitterly after every bug fix. However, the announcement that uTorrent will become ad-supported is expected to meet wider resistance among a certain crowd.
The change was quietly made public in a forum post yesterday where it is framed as “a fresh approach to creating a no-nonsense and free torrenting experience.”
After nearly seven years this is the first time that advertisers will be able to reach millions of uTorrent users directly from within the client itself.
Until now nearly all revenue came from the toolbar which users can install optionally when uTorrent is first downloaded. However, BitTorrent Inc. sees the need to experiment with other revenue sources with “sponsored torrents” being added for all users in an upcoming release.
“You are all very familiar with how we have paid the bills so far. These new changes mark our next step towards finding that difficult balance between keeping our lights on and providing a positive user experience,” they explain.
The sponsored torrents will appear in a highly visible spot on top of the list of downloads and will be used to promote content from advertisers. They can’t be “turned off,” but users have the option to click away individual ads.