Vuze is an application for Mac or PC that allows users to search, browse, and download ‘near DVD’ and HD quality video content, using the peer-to-peer protocol, BitTorrent. In particular the company is pitching the platform as a way for independent video and film producers to distribute their content to millions of users — at no cost — and with a higher picture quality than other competing services. In addition to being an open platform where anybody can publish their content, Vuze has signed licensing deals with a number of larger players, such as the BBC, A&E, and Showtime, who are offering paid-for content (rental and to-own). Curiously, Vuze is also being used to distribute music and computer games.
This first thing you’ll notice about the software, compared with most other BitTorrent clients, is its ease-of-use and polished interface. Browsing and downloading content is very straight forward, and in addition, Vuze has a number of social features including rating and commenting on content, as well offering ‘magnet’ links which can be embedded on blogs and social networking profiles. The idea here is to encourage Vuze content to be promoted elsewhere on the web, even if users will need to download the application in order to access that content.
One drawback is that download speeds aren’t guaranteed, and being based on the BitTorrent protocol, will depend on how many other users are sharing and downloading the same content, and with what available bandwidth. In my own testing this varied somewhat, and at times Vuze was slower than other download services. Having said that, the pay off is really for content producers, as the technology means that most of the required bandwidth is provided by users. Another thing that was slightly disappointing is that although Vuze manages your download library, the application doesn’t have its own media player. That’s because Vuze is format agnostic, so content producers are free to upload their video in any number of formats, making it simpler to let playback be handled outside of the application (using QuickTime or Windows Media Player, for example).
Vuze will appeal to independent producers who want to distribute their content at zero-cost and up-to HD-quality. While the option to charge for content is only currently available to those who’ve signed formal licensing deals, an upcoming version of the software will enable all content creators to set their own prices, select a business model (rental, to-own or ad supported), manage territories, and choose whether to use DRM or not.