After a decade of seemingly constant innovation in the public file-sharing space, the past few years have seen a relative decline in new ideas. This means that well presented and well thought out file-sharing solutions stand out a mile.
One such tool, the recently unveiled Popcorn Time, ticks all the boxes. Based on BitTorrent technology, the software hides all the complexities away and presents high-quality video content to the user in a way familiar to any user of Netflix.
Since piracy often drives the consumer solutions of the future, Popcorn Time’s elegance definitely warranted an article here on TF last weekend and in the days that followed dozens more appeared, all singing the praises of what is probably the most beautifully simple (yet unofficial) movie viewing solution of recent times.
But despite the rave reviews, those looking to jump on the Popcorn Time bandwagon today will find themselves disappointed.
Since its launch the software has been distributed via getpopcornti.me but the actual installer has been hosted as a public download (encryption key included) on Kim Dotcom’s Mega.co.nz. Today, however, all that came to a halt. Visitors to the previously published link are greeted by the following page.
What we know for sure is that the developers didn’t delete their own file. Speaking with TF a few moments ago, a Popcorn Time dev team member said that the file had been removed by Mega.
To try and find out more, TF contacted Kim Dotcom himself to see if he could shine some light on developments. At least for now (its night-time in New Zealand) Dotcom is maintaining radio silence.
The entrepreneur certainly knows about the software. Yesterday he tweeted about TechCrunch’s coverage of the original TF article, alongside a note directed at the MPAA with a cheeky ‘wink’ emoticon at the end. Whether he was aware at the time that Mega.co.nz was hosting the software is unknown, but it’s unlikely the gesture would’ve been appreciated in Hollywood.
“It’s strange, yesterday Kim Dotcom tweeted about us. He seemed ironic and happy. Bad luck he removed the link,” Popcorn Time’s Sebastian told TF.
The big question is why Mega deleted the file. Thus far the MPAA hasn’t answered our questions on Popcorn Time, but the Popcorn Time team told us that they have been given a headsup that the MPAA is preparing a lawsuit to take the project down.
Whether that is really the case remains to be seen, but a formal takedown demand to Mega would be a predictable prelude to a lawsuit, should the MPAA choose that route.
So what now for the biggest app of the year so far? Obviously any lawsuit could hinder the software’s development but being open source, alternative routes could conceivably be found.
That said, speaking off-the-record with someone else closely familiar with the project, TF has today learned that a plan had previously been put in place to strengthen distribution of Popcorn Time in a way that doesn’t involve relying on third-party hosting companies such as Mega.
So, will Popcorn Time quickly return to poke Hollywood in the eye with its considerable beauty and simplicity, or are things about to get ugly?
“We are discussing our next step,” Popcorn Time’s Sebastian informs TF. “This could be the end of Popcorn Time (not the community, its open source!) but maybe our goodbye as a team.”
Update: Kim Dotcom wrote to us at 03:50 local time. Obviously the Mega offices are closed.
“No idea what happened,” he told TF. “I’m not involved in Mega’s day-to-day business since I resigned from Management to work on an alternative Internet concept called Meganet, Baboom and the Internet Party.”
We’ll post additional thoughts from Kim in the hours to come.
Update: Strangely enough the installer is still available to MEGA users who are logged in to their account.