On Thursday, popular file transfer service BitTorrent announced that it has laid off 40 of its 150 employees in an attempt to refine and focus its business goals.
Fast Company reports that the recent layoffs aren’t out of character for the file transfer protocol (FTP) service. The company once went from having 60 employees to only 10, and then back up to 150, in a brief period of time. Kevin Fu, BitTorrent’s public relations manager, acknowledges the layoffs but believes they were done for the greater good.
“We’ve recently realigned resources based on a regular evaluation of the business. Regrettably, this did include some employee departures,” Fu said. “The business however remains healthy, profitable and growing.”
The company’s claim to fame, its BitTorrent FTP, has revolutionized how large files are shared and downloaded on the Internet. Since its inception in 2001, BitTorrent has risen to become a major player on the World Wide Web, accounting for 10% of the world’s total Internet traffic. The company is routinely called on by Facebook, Etsy, and other sites to improve the software on their websites.
Though BitTorrent has a paid service option, the company makes a majority of its profits by bundling spammy toolbars into their free-service downloads. When free users download a file, they are asked to install a toolbar that switches their default search engines and home pages to either Yahoo! or Ask.com. When the user approves the switch (which is perfectly reversible), BitTorrent gets paid.
BitTorrent FTP is used by over 170 million users around the world. The BitTorrent is unique as a FTP. Instead of downloading a single file from a single computer, which is the way most FTP files are downloaded, a BitTorrent user can download tiny pieces of that file from multiple computers around the world and then piece them together. When founder Bram Cohen introduced the transfer method as open source, “torrenting” (as the practice is called) became the most popular method of downloading files (much of them illegally) in the world. Though BitTorrent is no longer the largest torrenting site on the Internet, its FTP is still heavily used, including by none other than the largest torrenting site online, The Pirate Bay.
Because of its structure, BitTorrent provides what some businesses think of as a better method of FTP. Rather than, as the saying goes, putting your eggs in one basket, companies can disperse data, which helps with security and back-ups. A good 70% of businesses have experiences data loss (including Target, which affected 70 million users total) due to system failure, virus, or physical damage to IT systems.