The new 'Altruistic Mode' built into the latest release of uTorrent has been bemusing file-sharers who say they're already generous without a software setting. However, BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen informs TorrentFreak that the feature is aimed at private tracker users who don't want to get into ratio trouble, and it might have a future use too.

Last week, BitTorrent Inc. announced a new feature for its uTorrent and BitTorrent clients.

Altruistic Mode is an option buried away in the clients’ preferences that ensures that the downloader who enables it always maintains a share ratio of 2:1. In other words, if they download 1GB their upload will always be 2GB.

As subsequently highlighted, many enthusiastic file-sharers simply didn’t ‘get’ the point of the new feature.

By definition, keen file-sharers always try to seed more than they take, so often their ratios are higher than 2:1 already. Equally, those who don’t care about sharing wouldn’t bother enabling the new mode.

However, Altruistic Mode itself was developed and subsequently announced by Bram Cohen, the man who invented BitTorrent itself, so it must be useful – right? In discussions with TF, he certainly seems to think so.

“The reason for not just continuing to upload until the ratio hits 2:1 is that it won’t always get there. Sometimes a torrent is so overseeded that downloading a complete file guarantees you’ll get less upload than download, even if you keep seeding until the end of time,” Cohen explains.

“Almost all the people who are commenting on the public forums are torrent obsessives who already have put in the time and effort and gotten the permissions to get very high seeding ratios. Altruistic Mode is not for them.”

Great! So who is the mode designed for then?

“There are some sites with ratio enforcement which make it essentially impossible to get a positive ratio once you’re in arrears without Altruistic Mode,” Cohen explains.

In other words, the new mode is designed for people trying to maintain a decent ratio on private trackers, where site membership itself could hinge on being a good sharer.

Depending on site rules, any user can activate the mode and jump on any torrent, safe in the knowledge that their ratio will never get any worse and will only improve, which is perfect for building up a sharing buffer.

Cohen also took the time to address those who raised concerns over what would happen if too many people used Altruistic Mode. If everyone tries to upload twice as much as they download, the system breaks down, they argued.

“Of course it’s impossible for everybody to have a positive ratio. The people who run seedboxes, or who have super fast net connections, or special permissions to download early, can make it practically impossible for people who don’t have those things to upload more than they download,” he explains.

“Altruistic Mode is for those other people. Altruistic Mode is there so people who find themselves in an impossible ratio situation can simply start a whole bunch of things in Altruistic Mode and have a good chance of getting a favorable upload ratio.”

With that cleared up from Cohen himself, we’ll leave Altruistic Mode to do its magic. However, BitTorrent’s inventor may not be done with its development just yet.

“In the future I’m thinking of making a feature which downloads eventually but starts out in Altruistic Mode, so that people whose goal is to download the whole file eventually can help others stream it in real-time right from the beginning,” he concludes.