For more than half a decade, starting in the mid 2000s, BitTorrent sites dominated the file-sharing space. Early 2007 Mininova was the first BitTorrent site to earn a place among the top 100 most-visited sites on the Internet, and soon thereafter they were joined by The Pirate Bay.
In the years that followed BitTorrent sites continued to dominate, but in the background cyberlockers were catching up, and catching up fast. One of the most popular sites of this nature has always been RapidShare. But although RapidShare has always been as least as popular as BitTorrent sites, there were relatively few competitors.
This situation changed in the last two years though. Where most BitTorrent sites were seeing moderate growth, several new cyberlockers saw their traffic surge. In the last year the number of cyberlocker sites that have outgrown The Pirate Bay in terms of traffic has expanded to five, and that’s just the beginning.
Megaupload, Hotfile, 4Shared, Mediafire and RapidShare are all listed in the top 100 most visited sites on the Internet before The Pirate Bay, and newcomers such as Fileserve are eager to do the same. It is worth noting and exemplary of the growing trend that half of these sites are younger than 2 years.
This dominant position of cyberlockers hasn’t gone unnoticed to the outside world. In a report (pdf) published by MarkMonitor today it is concluded that RapidShare is the leading ‘digital piracy’ site with over 13 billion yearly visitors, followed by Megaupload with close to 5 billion visits.
Although the traffic estimates are off by a few million, and while even larger cyberlockers such as Mediafire were overlooked, the report does signal that one-click hosting sites have definitely outgrown BitTorrent sites. Of course website visits say little about the data traffic these sites generate, but we assume that they are a good competitor in this area too.
The changes in file-sharing trends have not gone unnoticed to the owners of torrent sites, and several are carefully exploring their options to start their own cyberlockers or cyberlocker search engines. This is most likely where the growth lies in the coming years and thus where money can be made.
What’s worth noting, however, is that the rise of cyberlockers is not actually hurting the traffic of BitTorrent sites. Instead the rise of cyberlockers coexists next to the moderate growth of BitTorrent sites for now. It will be interesting to see how these two match up in the years to come.