With millions of users Popcorntime.io is arguably the most-used Popcorn Time fork around.
The application is the top result when searching for Popcorn Time online, and two months ago the original developers gave it their blessing.
Behind the scenes, however, there have been serious disagreements over how the project should be managed. This weekend internal disputes reached a new high causing several key players to leave the team.
TF heard opinions from developers on both sides, who have a different take on how things unfolded, but the recent trouble began when rumors of a Hollywood lawsuit surfaced.
While there is no concrete evidence, several developers feared that Popcorn Time’s connection to the VPN.ht service posed a substantial risk.
VPN.ht was founded by Popcorn Time developers ‘Wally’ and ‘phnz’ who integrated it into Popcorn Time. This added a significant revenue stream, which legally speaking, could make the software a bigger target.
Responding to this threat a small group of developers, including ‘KsaRedFx,’ suggested cutting all ties with the VPN and starting over.
“There was rumor of a lawsuit coming down the chain to Popcorn Time, specifically because of money made off of VPN.ht and its ties to us. It made us vulnerable. Some of the team opted to speak in private about either closing the project or cutting away from VPN.ht,” KsaRedFx tells TF.
The idea was to release a new Popcorn Time fork without any links to the commercial VPN. Starting over would also allow these developers to gain more power, as they had no control over the domain name and keys of the current project.
The plan was discussed among a small group of developers, but it didn’t take long before it leaked. When Wally and others learned about the planned fork they saw it as am aggressive takeover instead.
“KsaRedFx tried to take over the project without prior agreement. When he was not able to, he just wiped the mirrors,” Wally tells TF.
“All this started from an assumption that a lawsuit is near against phnz, but at the same time they wanted to release a fork and have the Popcorntime.io website announce that.”
As a result of the disagreement KsaRedFx’s access to Popcorn Time’s Slack and GitHub accounts was disabled. The same happened to developers who sided with him, while others left voluntarily. This means the team will now continue without a handful of its main contributors.
At the same time phnz, one of the VPN.ht founders, stepped out as well. He publicly announced his departure early yesterday.
It appears that power, control and money play a central role in the breakup. KsaRedFx and other developers were not happy with the commercial angle the VPN introduced to the project but they say their critique wasn’t heard.
“I’ve always been quite verbose internally about my distaste for it. However they did not care,” KsaRedFx says, noting that he was never paid a penny for his work on Popcorn Time.
Wally disagrees and says that several developers received money indirectly, by working for the VPN. According to him, KsaRedFx was paid too.
Other than compensating developers for work on the VPN, some of the revenue was donated to Popcorn Time so it could be used to pay the server bills.
“Our goal was never to make money,” Wally says, adding that Popcorn Time remains free and that the VPN was launched to provide a service to those users who are interested in more privacy.
Sammuel86, who left as well, also cites the commercialization and possible legal implications as the main reason to walk out. However, there have been other disagreements in the past.
“Deep rifts had already been formed by this point in regards to how the servers were being handled and the metaphorical choke-hold a few of the members had on the project,” he says.
So where will PopcornTime.io go from here?
The remaining team plans to continue developing the application, even though some core developers have stepped away. This means that on the surface not much will change for its users.
We haven’t been able to find any concrete leads on the rumored Hollywood lawsuit, so only time will tell if something’s brewing in the background.