Petter Reinholdtsen

Using VLC to stream bittorrent sources
14th February 2018

A few days ago, a new major version of VLC was announced, and I decided to check out if it now supported streaming over bittorrent and webtorrent. Bittorrent is one of the most efficient ways to distribute large files on the Internet, and Webtorrent is a variant of Bittorrent using WebRTC as its transport channel, allowing web pages to stream and share files using the same technique. The network protocols are similar but not identical, so a client supporting one of them can not talk to a client supporting the other. I was a bit surprised with what I discovered when I started to look. Looking at the release notes did not help answering this question, so I started searching the web. I found several news articles from 2013, most of them tracing the news from Torrentfreak ("Open Source Giant VLC Mulls BitTorrent Streaming Support"), about a initiative to pay someone to create a VLC patch for bittorrent support. To figure out what happend with this initiative, I headed over to the #videolan IRC channel and asked if there were some bug or feature request tickets tracking such feature. I got an answer from lead developer Jean-Babtiste Kempf, telling me that there was a patch but neither he nor anyone else knew where it was. So I searched a bit more, and came across an independent VLC plugin to add bittorrent support, created by Johan Gunnarsson in 2016/2017. Again according to Jean-Babtiste, this is not the patch he was talking about.

Anyway, to test the plugin, I made a working Debian package from the git repository, with some modifications. After installing this package, I could stream videos from The Internet Archive using VLC commands like this:


The plugin is supposed to handle magnet links too, but since The Internet Archive do not have magnet links and I did not want to spend time tracking down another source, I have not tested it. It can take quite a while before the video start playing without any indication of what is going on from VLC. It took 10-20 seconds when I measured it. Some times the plugin seem unable to find the correct video file to play, and show the metadata XML file name in the VLC status line. I have no idea why.

I have created a request for a new package in Debian (RFP) and asked if the upstream author is willing to help make this happen. Now we wait to see what come out of this. I do not want to maintain a package that is not maintained upstream, nor do I really have time to maintain more packages myself, so I might leave it at this. But I really hope someone step up to do the packaging, and hope upstream is still maintaining the source. If you want to help, please update the RFP request or the upstream issue.

I have not found any traces of webtorrent support for VLC.

As usual, if you use Bitcoin and want to show your support of my activities, please send Bitcoin donations to my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Tags: english, verkidetfri, video.

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