The days of peer-to-peer file sharing tools ushered into popularity by the original Napster are over and done, and today, BitTorrent reigns supreme. It took some time for BitTorrent to gain mainstream popularity, but now that it has, there are a surplus of BitTorrent clients available vying for your downloads. Keep reading for a breakdown of the top five. Photo by djxspike.
Before We Get Started
By now BitTorrent is a common and popular file-sharing protocol, so chances are you all know how it works. If you don't, check out our beginner's guide to BitTorrent. If that's too elementary for you, our intermediate guide might be more your speed.
uTorrent's first public release came three years ago today, having been developed with one goal in mind: To create a lightweight, efficient BitTorrent client. Once a popular independently developed app, uTorrent is now owned and operated by BitTorrent the company (not to be confused with the protocol). Despite a continued emphasis on keeping the application small, fast, and light, uTorrent is now loaded with features, including a personal favourite, built-in remote control.
Deluge (All Platforms)
Deluge is a lightweight, cross-platform BitTorrent client. The look and feel of Deluge is very reminiscent of uTorrent, and as much as uTorrent has dragged their heels on porting to any platform other than Windows, Deluge is poised to really take hold as a uTorrent-for-the-rest-of-us. The app is a little over a year old, and in that time it's already built an impressive, feature-rich client. Another feather in Deluge's cap is that it supports a plug-in architecture, and though all plug-ins are currently included in the app, the extensibility it offers could mean a lot to Deluge as it continues to grow.
Transmission (Mac OS X/*nix)
Transmission is a free, open-source BitTorrent client with big download bars and an increasingly impressive feature set. Like uTorrent and Deluge, Transmission aims to remain as light on system resources as possible while still offering every feature most users could want or need. The application boasts similar features to most of the rest, like download scheduling and remote control, but also has nice integration with OS X, including Dock and Growl notifications and built-in Quick Look.
rTorrent is a text-based BitTorrent client that runs on Linux and Unix-like systems. In contrast to the other options, rTorrent is about as spartan as you can get on features and interface. Most fans of rTorrent love that they can easily control rTorrent remotely over SSH, but a very nice web interface called wTorrent is available if you like the idea behind rTorrent but can't see yourself managing all your downloads through the command line.
Vuze (All Platforms)
Vuze (or the BitTorrent client formerly known as Azureus) is a free, cross-platform application written in Java. Often criticized for its memory footprint (70MB at startup for me—or about 10 times that of uTorrent), Vuze has recently re-branded; in addition to the torrent downloading, it's now a content distribution tool for original video. One of the biggest talking points for Vuze addicts is its distributed trackerless network, which allows users to find and download content from peers even when they can't find anything on a web tracker.
If you've picked your favourite BitTorrent client and you know our beginner and intermediate guides inside and out, check out our top 10 BitTorrent tools and tricks for more cool ways to get the most from BitTorrent.