BitTorrent had already tried to be the next Netflix, starting long before Netflix had become the next Netflix. The company was founded in 2004 by Bram Cohen, inventor of the open-source protocol that lent the startup its name, and Ashwin Navin. BitTorrent — the protocol — was a genius way to transmit large amounts of information over the net by breaking it into small chunks, sending it through a peer-to-peer network, and reassembling it. BitTorrent — the company — got started on the assumption that Cohen was brilliant. He’d invented one of the web’s most fundamental tools, and surely there was a business to be made from it.
But from the start, BitTorrent had a branding problem — pirates used it to share movies illegally, making it the Napster of entertainment. Because the protocol was open-source, BitTorrent (the company) couldn’t stop the pirates. For 12 years, BitTorrent’s investors, executives and founders attempted to figure out many money-making strategies, including both enterprise software and entertainment businesses, while convincing us all that, sure, people might use the BitTorrent protocol to conduct illegal activity, but BitTorrent was just a tool — a really great tool you can use for really great things! More at Backchannel.