One week after Steam was crushed by huge demand from ravenous, bargain-crazed PC game buyers, Valve has announced that Steam will roll out a "better, stronger, faster" download system. (Better late than never, we suppose.) The statement doesn't go too in-depth on what's happening behind the curtain, but it does say that data will be sent via a firewall-friendly HTTP system "and will automatically take advantage of web-caching proxies installed at ISPs."
More importantly, this update will make the patches you download smaller. The way the current system works, if there's a 1MB patch to a 10MB file, you have to download the full 10MB file. The new system will reduce your download burden to just the 1MB difference. So the next time you go to launch a game and find that it needs to download a patch before it'll start, that time may be significantly reduced.
But wait, there's more! Further down the line, Valve says this system will allow Steam to finally implement some requested 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." And on that day, one of our biggest gripes with Steam will finally evaporate forever.