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Opera adds BitTorrent to Web browser

Opera Software has released a test version of its flagship Web browser that adds an embedded BitTorrent client for downloading content using the popular file-sharing protocol. Although Opera has not officially announced the beta, which is dubbed a "technology preview," the release is available from the company's FTP server.

The addition makes Opera the first Web browser to natively support BitTorrent downloads, which normally require a separate, external client. Alongside the BitTorrent feature, Opera 8.02 will introduce a number of bug fixes including an update for Web pages using Flash.

BitTorrent has found immense popularity as a way to download files due to its distributed architecture, although its use thus far has largely been for sharing copyrighted content such as movies.

Operationally, a "seed" file, or one complete file, is all that is needed to initiate a BitTorrent download. Once initiated, seeds are downloaded by file sharers who obtain "bits" of the master file over peer-to-peer networks. The efficiency of distribution scales upward as more file sharers download.

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