Popcorn Time, 'the Napster for movies' shut down, then revived

By on March 16, 2014, 9:26 PM
torrent, bittorent, video streaming, popcorn time

Update #2 (3/16): And it's back. As an open-source project, this was bound to happen. A group called YTS who used to run the "Yi-Fi" torrent site and before that a popular movie uploader on The Pirate Bay has picked up and revived Popcorn Time, which you can download here fully working. Looks like the piracy issue won't be stopping them for now, here's a quote from TorrentFreak...

“The YTS team will now be picking up the Popcorn Time project and continuing on like previously. We are in a better position copyright wise as for us, because it’s build on our API, it’s as if we have built another interface to our website. We are no worse off managing the project than we would be just supplying the movies,” the dev explains.

Update (3/14): It was fun while it lasted. Argentinian-developed, open-sourced Popcorn Time has officially shut down only days after receiving wide coverage and praise from media outlets. Popcorn Time leveraged BitTorrent's P2P technology to distribute content, using an interface akin to Netflix that made it a breeze to navigate and use. The 'only' issue was most of the content extracted from public torrents was pirated.

In a blog post, Popcorn Time's lead developers reflect on where they stand and where the experiment was headed: 

Popcorn Time is shutting down today. Not because we ran out of energy, commitment, focus or allies. But because we need to move on with our lives. Our experiment has put us at the doors of endless debates about piracy and copyright, legal threats and the shady machinery that makes us feel in danger for doing what we love. And that’s not a battle we want a place in.

Our original post (3/10) follows below:

A designer/developer from Buenos Aires, Argentina has developed a BitTorrent-powered video streaming software app which lets you stream the latest blockbusters at no cost -- though not exactly legally either. Dubbed Popcorn Time (download), the app has garnered some attention for it ease of use, offering quick access to hundreds of torrent movies with a few clicks. You can choose the video quality and even opt for subtitles if needed.

While millions of people use torrent clients to download movies, the process is not very straight forward for newbies. Popcorn Time provides an interface that lets you easily search for movies, select the video quality, and start watching a stream without having to wait for the download to complete.

Movies are downloaded in a secret folder somewhere on your drive and are deleted on a reboot. Also, since this is essentially a torrent client, you aren't just leeching but sharing as well.

According to developer Sebastian, the app is basically a browser that uses CSS, HTML, and JavaScript to serve the movie streams. “The technology behind the app is very simple. We consume a group of APIs, one for the torrents, another for the movie info, and another for the poster. We also have an API for the subtitles."

Although you can bet content owners won’t be thrilled with what Popcorn Time is doing, the group behind the app believes they aren’t technically liable. Aside from informing users that sharing copyrighted material “may be ilegal” in some countries, they aren’t hosting anything themselves, just just repackaging existing stuff.

There’s also no commercial angle. There are no ads, no premium accounts, no subscription fees or anything like that, and developers promise to keep the open source program this way for as long as it’s available.

While those most vocal against piracy will certainly disapprove of the app, perhaps content owners should be taking note instead. As Sebastian explains, “Popcorn Time is an experiment to show that you can do something better for the users, and that you can do it with BitTorrent.”

Popcorn Time is officially still in beta and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. You can download it here and give it a try.

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