The partially gated system of torrenting built into BitTorrent Bundle has entered a semiprivate alpha, as it continues its march toward viability.
The BitTorrent Bundle is, in the words of BitTorrent's Justin Knoll, "a publishing platform designed to address the issues of distribution, reach, and virality that every independent creator is up against."
The Bundle creates a system by which a limited amount of content is available as it normally would be in a torrent, but the rest is behind a "gate." So far, to open the gate all you've had to do is enter your e-mail address on a Web form. The end goal, however, is to give Bundle creators the option of a pay gate, so that some content would be free, and the rest could be unlocked and paid for.
"The best measure of success will be that content creators are able to create amazing BitTorrent Bundles without our direct involvement," said Christian Averill, BitTorrent's director of communications.
The private alpha for the Bundle means that any creator who wants to give the Bundle a shot can request an invite from BitTorrent to test one out. Once approved, BitTorrent has created a site that walks you through the upload and "e-mail gate" page-creation process.
The private alpha launches with Bundles from some well-known names in entertainment, including author Tim Ferriss, film studio Cinedigm, film distributor Gravitas Ventures, online magazine Fader, and others.
"We believe more eyeballs equal more dollars, so whether it's an immediate call to action or seeding media availability, the millions of potential impressions from sharing a BitTorrent Bundle represents a profoundly new and exciting marketing opportunity for independent film producers and distributors," said Jill Calcaterra, Cinedigm's chief marketing officer.
Knoll, senior vice president of products, user experience, and data at BitTorrent, tossed around some interesting numbers from Bundle tests over the past five months that indicate that the Bundles are garnering a reasonable amount of attention. The test Bundles included creators from across different media, such as Public Enemy, Ferriss, Converge Studios, and Kaskade, and were downloaded by 18 million people with 600,000 of them contributing e-mails to unlock the extra content.
Averill said there's been "great interest" in the pay gate from "all sides" but that the feature doesn't have a timeline to be added yet.
"The priority is to make sure the utility of the platform works well for our partners," he said, although he made a point of saying the e-mail gate has been a hit, too.
"The music industry has been ahead of the game when it comes to building a fan base over e-mail, and we're hearing a lot from the film side that they are aiming to do the same," he said.
Eventually, Averill said, BitTorrent expects to make money on the Bundles, but for right now he sounded a more altruistic note. "We're focused on making this the best possible self-service tool for the entertainment industry it can possibly be."
Editor's note: Using P2P and file-sharing software to distribute copyrighted material without authorization is illegal in the United States and many other countries. CBS Interactive does not encourage or condone the illegal duplication or distribution of copyrighted content.