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Popcorn Time: How Did It Work? And Why Was It Shut Down?

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Popcorn Time allows you to stream and download media files like videos. It is open-source software.

Popcorn Time was closed in January 2022 due to declining interest.

What Is Popcorn Time?

Popcorn Time is open-source software that allows anyone to download and stream media files, such as videos.

To download the content, the platform uses torrenting technology. The content is then streamed in its app.

BitTorrent is used to build the platform. This means that it does not host any videos. It uses a peer network made up of many participants, from which one can download the video.

To ensure smooth playback, the video is downloaded in sequential order. Normally, files downloaded through regular torrenting networks are downloaded in random bits without regard to order.

The seeding of files is another key feature of torrenting. This means that while you are downloading the file, the file is also shared with other peers via the network.

Popcorn Time’s legal questionability is also a result of this. Many jurisdictions make it illegal to upload or download copyrighted files as they are created during seeding.

Popcorn Time was shut down multiple times, only to resurface with a new domain.

Due to their open-source nature and illegality, many forks (different versions) of the software have been released over time. Most forks can be downloaded via GitHub.

These versions are also available on other platforms, such as Windows, macOS, Android, and Linux.

How Did Popcorn Time Work  

Popcorn Time isn’t a streaming app but a BitTorrent client that includes an integrated media player. The app uses torrenting technology for downloading video content and streaming it within the app. The company doesn’t host any content but instead uses third-party torrent trackers and peers to distribute it.

Here’s how streaming with Popcorn Time works.

When you select a movie to stream, you first connect to the torrent tracker.

You can then start downloading the file from a torrent client by sharing your video file with these peers. Popcorn time torrenting is different because it downloads each file separately.

Regular torrenting can lead to random bits of files being downloaded, often without regard to order.

Popcorn Time is sequential in that it downloads video content at the beginning of each file.

This app immediately downloads the beginning file bits. You can stream the movie while it’s still downloading.

What Happened To Popcorn Time?

Popcorn Time was originally released by anonymous Argentinian web developers in March 2014.

Since the release of the project, not one member of the original founding team has publicly acknowledged their involvement.

Federico Abad is a designer based in Buenos Aires.

Popcorn Time was created by Abad after he had to overcome his own issues with watching new movies. He was born in Argentina. Most movies are released six months after they were first launched in cinemas.

Moreover, the internet speed was slow at that time, making it difficult to stream movies from popular streaming services.

Finally, even though torrent sites were already available, their use was not intuitive and required some technical knowledge. Abad, who is a designer by trade, wanted to create something his mother could use.

He decided to rent an apartment at Palermo, Buenos Aires, where all the developers of Popcorn Time would code.

Popcorn Time was officially launched in March 2014, after a few weeks of hard work. The initial release of the software was for Mac, Windows, Linux, and other platforms. Popcorn Time used an API from YTS, formerly YIFY, to display downloadable content.

The Hacker News forum was where the founders shared their inventions, which led to exponential growth. It was covered by various media outlets, such as TechCrunch and The Verge.

The software was downloaded by hundreds of thousands within days. The project also had close to 100 contributors on GitHub.

Unfortunately, the founders would soon be repaid for their legal mistakes. Mega deleted the installer of the software a few days after it was released, only to have it restored hours later.

Two weeks later, the founding team announced on March 14th, 2014, that they would be ceasing to work on the project. Hollywood also came knocking at their doors.

One of the lawyers for Warner Bros. Film Studios tracked down the developers along with their LinkedIn pages.

Although the founders weren’t making any money, they were nervous about potential lawsuits. In fact, other torrent sites like LimeWire had to pay millions of dollars in fines to settle their own lawsuits.

The project’s open-source nature meant that it was not over. It was revived by other developers just days after it was shut down. YTS members, who were supplying torrent links, were resurrected as one of the most prominent forks.

Multiple versions of the software were removed over the next few weeks and then reinstalled. Popcorn Time was soon expanded by one of its most productive teams.

The Android version was released by time4popcorn.eu in May. The same team later added support for Google’s Chromecast as well as the Apple TV. The team released an iOS app in September of 2016, months after the release of Chromecast and Apple TV support.

The team behind time4popcorn.eu also had their own problems. Soon after the iOS app was released, its domain name was taken down by the EURid registry. The platform was then moved to popcorn-time.se

In December, popcorntime.io launched a VPN, marking the first time that one of the most popular forks had begun to monetize its popularity. The risk of being sued and fined for making money from what many consider illegal services is high.

Even though it was facing legal problems, the industry’s other players would soon notice. Netflix named Popcorn Time, in its January 2015 annual letter, as one of its “biggest rivals” – mainly due to its design, which was heavily inspired by Netflix.

The U.K.’s High Court ruled four months later that all pages related to Popcorn Time would be blocked by its internet providers, namely VirginMedia, BT, and EE.

The teams worked hard in the meantime. In May 2015, a browser-based version was released. Ironically, the browser-based version of the platform was discontinued in May 2015 after it became too popular.

However, its popularity did not decrease. Its websites were routinely ranked at the top of Google searches for “popcorn” by June. This was even more than websites like Wikipedia. Nearly a fifth of people in Norway and other countries were using pirated content, with most of them doing it on Popcorn Time.

Other anti-privacy groups, including Israel’s ZIRA, filed lawsuits against anonymous teams. However, not all countries ended up in the same position. In some cases, they even dropped those lawsuits to keep Popcorn Time afloat.

Popcorn Time was not blocked, which was a part of the reason. Cloudflare allowed some forks to bypass European ISPs and avoid other hostile ISPs by moving their hosting to Cloudflare.

The original founders made a public announcement in August 2015 and supported popcorntime.io. Abad, the co-founder of popcorntime.io, also revealed his identity shortly after.

Users were also being targeted by law enforcement. Two Danish police officers arrested two men for operating an explainer website (and not a fork) in the same month. They were sentenced to six months probation, community service, and more than $60,000 in monetary fines.

Popcorn Time users were being sued by more and more film studios towards the end of 2015. As people began to fear being sued and subject to the so-called copyright trolling cases, engagement started to drop. Defendants often ended up paying fines ranging from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.

Some teams also began to dissolve themselves. Some team members left the projects they were involved in due to disagreements over monetization and the resulting legal issues. Sometimes, popcorntime.io would shut down completely because of disagreements over monetization.

Many of these lawsuits were often brought to you by the Motion Picture Association (MPAA). Ironically, many of those previously popular people (such as popcorntime.io) now redirect to the MPAA website.

Although the popular.io forum did resurface in February 2016, it was no longer popular. The streaming industry was also booming, which contributed to the decline in interest.

While established players like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO added new original content continuously, entrants like Disney+ began to invest hundreds of millions in content themselves (other experiments, such as Quibi, didn’t go as well).

Trust didn’t rise when it was revealed that hackers had hidden malicious files in subtitles for both KODI videos and Popcorn Time videos in May 2017.

Some cases, like that of Stanislav Amelychyts, a Ukrainian resident, were able to be identified by law enforcement and brought to trial. Aptoide, a third-party alternative app store, has dropped Android versions from the platform.

After the spread of the coronavirus, some of the original.io teams released a new version (4.0) of the popular fork.

GitHub took down pages that belonged to forks shortly after the MPAA filed a copyright suit against the open-source platform. The source code is not subject to copyright laws, so it was restored two weeks later.

In the months that followed, more and better settlements were reached with studios and movie associations. Popcorn Time returned to the news when one of its most beloved forks, popcorn-time.tw, was closed down in January 2022.

Despite numerous shutdowns, the platform is still accessible via a variety of different forks.

Why Was Popcorn Time Shut Down?

Popcorn Time was closed in January 2022 due to a decline in interest.

Popcorn-Time.tw’s fork was taken out of the picture. The team stated in their goodbye note that Popcorn Time is no longer needed.

As stated previously, streaming platforms like Netflix, HBO and Amazon have added new content over the years.

Movie releases are often released directly on these platforms or within a few weeks of their cinema premiere.

In the past few years, there have been a number of illegal streaming sites that don’t use torrent technology and make it harder for users to be caught.

Popcorn Time has been shut down at times when Popcorn Time’s developers were under legal pressure or even sued. Sometimes, disagreements among team members over the direction of a project led to major closures.

 

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