BitTorrent cofounder and president Ashwin Navin is leaving the company. He has plans for a startup incubator in San Francisco's Mission District. Good! That means he'll be screwing up far less consequential companies from here on out. Navin deserves credit for persuading Bram Cohen, the creator of the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol, for building a company around it. But that's about it.Navin wasted years and millions of dollars trying to turn BitTorrent Inc. into a competitor to Apple's iTunes store. He struck splashy deals with Hollywood studios by paying them large upfront guarantees, which depleted BitTorrent's bank account but got Navin into the right parties. Meanwhile, BitTorrent's other line of business, which used file-sharing technologies to deliver content more efficiently for corporate customers, suffered from lack of focus, and more established competitors like Akamai moved in. Sometimes losing a founder is bad for a company. In this case, it's nothing but good.
BitTorrent has denied our report that the company laid off 12 out of 55 employees. That may be true: While our source told us 12 employees were on the layoff list, we've learned that, at the last minute, the jobs of two sales engineers, an HR manager, and an office manager were spared. Another tipster — "you can guess as to whether I'm an insider or not" — says that the BitTorrent layoffs aren't the fault of new CEO Doug Walker, who came to the those-crazy-kids file-sharing startup to add some enterprise-software gravitas. Instead, the elimination of BitTorrent's sales and marketing departments amounts to a coup by cofounders Bram Cohen and Ashwin Navin, pictured here to Walker's right and left, who are giving up on the notion of marketing BitTorrent's file-sharing technology to businesses and hardware makers, and instead pinning their hopes on becoming an "Internet peace corps."That's the second time I've heard that phrase from BitTorrent tipsters, so I'm guessing it's already widely used, if poorly understood, within the company. Anyone care to explain what an "Internet peace corps" is — and how this plan will pay back BitTorrent's investors, who have invested at least $24 million in the company? Our tipster also says Walker's trying to raise a third round of financing amidst this uproar. Here's his detailed recounting of BitTorrent's woes:
Oh, god. For a few months, there have been rumblings of Comcast, the cable and Internet provider, intentionally disrupting BitTorrent traffic. The Associated Press verified the dusruption by trying to download a copy of the King James Bible via BitTorrent over Comcast-connected computers. A devilishly clever move, downloading a public-domain work unprotected by copyright, and suggesting that Comcast opposes the distribution of the Holy Book.