Long considered the fastest and most unobtrusive of the various torrent clients around, uTorrent announced last week a surprising step toward plug-ins with the introduction of an "app store" in the Windows-only alpha release of uTorrent 2.2.

The Griffin project adds apps to the latest uTorrent alpha. (Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Called the Griffin project, the HTML and JavaScript-based API system will display apps from within the uTorrent interface in an embedded browser window. The developer SDK has yet to be released, and there was no indication which browser engine was being used at the time of writing. Currently, four demo apps are available.

There's a VirusGuard provided by security vendor BitDefender; a list of the top free games at Raptr that includes download links, file size, and genre; and VODO, which is like Raptr but for legally free independent movies. There's also ?Gadget, which adds an Ask.com-powered toolbar to Internet Explorer and Firefox and gives users uTorrent features. uTorrent has long had a relationship with Ask.com, where the program has often opted users in to installing the Ask.com toolbar unless they actively opted out, so it's not surprising that Ask.com shows up in the only "monetizing" demo app.

During casual testing, the apps appeared not to affect torrenting or other program behavior adversely.

For readers who've noticed that the screenshots and download of the alpha say "beta" on them, it's apparently because of an internal uTorrent naming convention that forces all releases to be marked as beta--even the alphas.

Tell me about your experiences with Griffin and the new uTorrent in the comments below.