What’s a popular piracy haven worth without all the pirates? Search-engine-for-BitTorrent downloads YouTorrent is about to find out.
YouTorrent, which indexed a handful of illegal torrent sites and let users search them all from one place, is going legit: It’s now only searching sites “that claim the provision of licensed, certified content,” and appears to have stripped all the illegal stuff from its site. For example, a search for “Nova” returns a listing for legal downloads of the PBS show for $6 a pop from BitTorrent Inc — and nothing scummy-looking.
Meanwhile, YouTorrent is also in play, TorrentFreak reports: The founders have received a few offers and are shopping the site, which boasts more than 10 million unique visitors per month — a very impressive audience for a few-months-old site.
So, what’s it worth? The site’s decision to go legit “may well kill YouTorrent’s traffic before the site finds a buyer,” TechCrunch’s Duncan Riley warns. (TechCrunch now recommends a site called “PizzaTorrent” if you’re looking for illegal material.)
Sure, it’s true that many of those 10 million may stop visiting the site now that they can’t score the latest movie bootlegs or TV episode rips there. But that’s not the point.
Any real, commercial buyer is more interested in the technology (or people) behind YouTorrent than its initial audience. When the site launched, TorrentFreak praised its user interface and design as “one of the best” they’d seen among similar sites.
As media companies increase the amount of content they’re making available via BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer networks — and VC-funded companies like BitTorrent Inc., Pando, and Vuze push them to do more — YouTorrent is worth more. The peer-to-peer content market is very fractured right now: There’s a lot of stuff in a lot of places. So anything that can aggregate all that content and make it easy to search through is commercially valuable, even if most of its early adopters flake off.
YouTorrent isn’t the first to try to jump-start their business by engaging in illegal or ‘grey-area’ activity, then trying to straighten out and fly right before the big money shows up. Others include YouTube, purchased by Google (GOOG) for $1.65 billion; BitTorrent Inc., now pushing itself as a content delivery network and trying to get its software embedded into networking and entertainment gear; Imeem, etc.
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