Last Friday, TorrentFreak was contacted by Milan Kragujević, a web developer with a brand new service up his sleeve. As the name implies, BrowserPopcorn.xyz looked very similar to the Popcorn Time application that has gained so much publicity in recent times.
In initial tests the site certainly worked very well too and for people looking for an easy, browser-based Popcorn Time-style experience, BrowserPopcorn offered everything.
We didn’t write about the project (more about why in a moment) but others did, enough to attract plenty of eyes over the weekend. According to its operator, that attention also extended to none other than the MPAA who he claims took down the service today.
The greeting displayed on BrowserPopcorn.xyz
If true (Kragujević didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment), the news hardly comes as a surprise. While Popcorn Time itself is a thorn in the side of Hollywood, making the same kind of service available to anyone with a browser (BrowserPopcorn even worked nicely on Android) is something that the MPAA won’t tolerate if it can be avoided.
At this stage it’s unclear what tactics the MPAA employed to shutter the service although a tersely-worded email to its hosting provider could’ve easily done the trick.
In any event the MPAA will be pleased that the site has gone so quickly but it was only a matter of time before BrowserPopcorn collapsed under its own success. Taking nothing away from Kragujević who is both articulate, talented and apparently just 15-years-old, we know from experience that these kinds of projects need resources behind them to keep going. Here’s why.
While BrowserPopcorn looks and feels like Popcorn Time, uses the same YTS.to content, and is being presented in the media as Popcorn Time in a browser, the way the service works behind the scenes is notably different.
The Popcorn Time application has BitTorrent under the hood, meaning that users of the software use their own bandwidth (both upload and download) to distribute the content to each other. BrowserPopcorn relies on a different mechanism which means it operates more like YouTube, gobbling up bandwidth at an alarming rate while using centralized servers.
When we spoke with Kragujević again on Saturday he was operating six dedicated servers, each capable of serving around 200 users. Putting that into perspective, an article on the topic from us would’ve ensured that the site would’ve become overloaded within hours, minutes even.
At that point the story would be self-defeating, since the topic of discussion wouldn’t exist. That’s never popular with readers so we told Kragujević we’d skip for now. However, that doesn’t mean that BrowserPopcorn isn’t an interesting project.
“Basically, BrowserPopcorn is powered by TorrentStream.me. TorrentStream works by running an instance of peerflix-server (the same engine that Popcorn Time uses) and there is a PHP script which handles interfacing between node.js and the outside world,” Kragujević explained.
“When you request [a movie], the PHP script adds a torrent to peerflix-server and starts proxying the data from it to the user.”
And of course, this is where the whole things becomes extremely bandwidth hungry. A true BitTorrent-client-in-a-browser solution would actually be perfect for this application, but that has its own difficulties.
“This is not an in-browser solution as that is impossible currently,” Kragujević said.
“There are attempts, like WebTorrent.io, but that only works if the peers are running the same client and communicate with websockets. It has no support for standard torrent clients like Deluge, uTorrent, Transmission, Vuze, etc.”
Whether BrowserPopcorn will make a comeback remains to be seen, but in the meantime there are several other similar sites ready to take up the slack, including Torba.se which has been around for some time already.