updated 7/15/2005 8:22:33 PM ET 2005-07-16T00:22:33

The Opera Web browser will soon support a file-transfer tool commonly associated with online movie piracy. Christen Krogh, vice president of engineering at Opera Software ASA in Oslo, Norway, said the decision was driven partly by Opera's own distribution woes; its servers were jammed when it launched a new version of the browser in April.

Krogh said Opera isn't trying to encourage piracy but considers the tool, BitTorrent, more efficient for transferring large, legitimate files such as Linux, and now Opera, software.

BitTorrent works by assembling a complete file from multiple users who are sharing it. As you finish downloading one chunk, your copy becomes immediately available to others looking for the same chunk. This system reduces load on a central server and ultimately means speedier downloads.

"You get help and you offer them help in return," Krogh said.

Because BitTorrent has proven resistant to some of the countermeasures the entertainment industry has taken to sabotage file-sharing, it has replaced programs like Kazaa as the tool of choice for so-called peer-to-peer file-sharing.

BitTorrent previously required standalone programs.

The upcoming Opera 8.0.2, now available in a test version, will try to make BitTorrent downloads seamless, just like any other download using HTTP or FTP for transfers. The exception is the appearance of a warning that users will be sharing content they receive.

Users can turn off sharing for specific files after the download is completed, but not during. Sharing is also automatically turned off when a user exits the browser.

Opera is used in 2 percent of all U.S. Web-browsing, behind the industry-leading Internet Explorer from Microsoft Corp. and browsers based on Mozilla, according to WebSideStory.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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