Since launching in 2004 with the release of Half-Life 2, Valve's Steam PC game download service has expanded greatly and today it is now considered to be the single biggest source of PC games via download with over 30 million registered users. Late on Friday Valve announced on the Steam web site that it has made some improvements that will help both the users of the service as well as the developers and publishers of the games available on Steam.
According to the site, "The maximum aggregate bandwidth of the system will be greater than the current system; this will help us satisfy spikes in demand when there’s a big release." This new system should also allow more consumers from other parts of the world to have better download rates for grabbing PC games via Steam. Valve adds, "All the content on the new system is sent via HTTP; this is more firewall-friendly than the current system, and will automatically take advantage of web-caching proxies installed at ISPs."
The new system should also improve the size of updates and patches via Steam. Valve states that with the previous version of Steam, " ... if an individual file on disk were modified by a game update, your client had to download the whole file," With the new download system in place Valve says it now " ... supports delivering only the differences between the old and new files, meaning game updates will be much smaller overall." So far only some of the content on Steam is using the new download system. However, Valve says more games, including the developer's upcoming game DOTA 2, will use it. You can go ahead and try out the new system by downloading an HD video from the Steam site.
The new system will also help Valve make adding more games from developers and publishers easier. Valve states, "Simplifying the publishing process means it takes the partner and us less time to ship each product, so we can ship more stuff to more users." More improvements are also in the works with Valve saying they are working on Steam features like " ... download scheduling, bandwidth throttling, and prioritizing which games get downloaded first. You’ll also be able to download an update to a game while you’re playing that game; Steam will apply the update after you exit the game."