BitThief is an unusual torrent client: unlike other similar tools, it lets you download content without ever uploading a bit. As a result, it may help you increase your download speed, especially on large swarms. However, it has raised a controversy as to the ethicality of this method.
The application has a straightforward but quite plain interface. It supports importing torrent files as well as magnet links. Moreover, you can add torrent search engines and use them to get the desired results. It shows the progress of the active downloads, which you can stop or pause at any time. Likewise, it is possible to view details about a given download. In this respect, there are a series of tabs you can open to monitor the download job’s behavior, including download rate, upload rate, memory usage and many other parameters.
The application uses a trick that takes advantage of a flaw in the torrent protocol, which permits downloading without contributing for 30 minutes if you declare you are a newly arrived peer. BitThief simply simulates having just arrived to the connection to avoid the time limit. Another thing that contributes to an increased download speed is a smart usage of memory by which the data is downloaded directly to the RAM and then only periodically transferred to disk.
It is a shame BitThief has been accused of uninformedly transferring connection data to the developers’ servers. In their defense, it is fair to say that the application is part of a scientific project and they need feedback data for their research. Likewise, leeching without contributing is considered rude and a danger to the very subsistence of the torrent protocol. Actually, newer versions of the application let you turn on uploading if you want to. Moreover, the developers claim they just want to issue an alert about the necessity of using a new protocol called T4T.
In general, BitThief may be useful when you need to download torrent contents at faster speeds than it is normally possible. This comes in particularly handy when your connection is so slow that it would otherwise take ages, or when you are using a metered connection. Yet, in other conditions, this behavior is selfish and goes against the idea behind torrenting. Finally, you should know that this client is multiplatform and is distributed as a Java file (JAR) for free.