When the original Popcorn Time application launched eight years ago, we billed it as the “Netflix for Pirates.”
The software offered a clean and easy-to-use interface to stream pirated movies and TV shows, all powered by BitTorrent.
Rivaling Hollywood and Netflix
In the years that followed Popcorn Time had to endure plenty of legal threats, mostly from Hollywood. The original developers were quick to throw in the towel but the open source code was widely copied with Popcorn-Time.to emerging as one of the leading forks.
During those early years, millions of people used the software. This was a major concern for Hollywood and Netflix began worrying too when Google searches for Popcorn Time began rivaling those for Netflix in some regions.
“Piracy continues to be one of our biggest competitors,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings commented in 2015, specifically mentioning Popcorn Time’s growing popularity.
This triggered a wave of enforcement actions including a lawsuit in the US, targeting the alleged operator of Popcorn-Time.to (later .tw). That case was eventually dismissed after the movie companies realized that they had identified the wrong person. Ultimately the fork remained online.
Popcorn-Time.tw Shuts Down
Despite weathering several storms, the curtain finally fell for Popcorn-Time.tw this week but legal issues didn’t play a role.
Speaking with TorrentFreak, the Popcorn Time team says that decreased interest from the pirating public drove it to take this drastic decision.
“It’s time to say goodbye,” the Popcorn Time team notes. “The world doesn’t need Popcorn Time anymore.”
This decreased popularity is in large part the result of competition from other pirate tools that rendered the software pretty much obsolete. Pirate streaming sites and dedicated streaming boxes have surged in popularity over the years, effectively taking over the “Netflix for Pirates” role.
Alternatives Take Over
The shift in preference also had a clear impact on Popcorn Time usage numbers. A few years ago millions of people regularly used the software but most of those people moved on to more convenient alternatives.
This evolution is also summarized by a Google Trends graph posted by Popcorn Time as part of its farewell message. Interest in the application continues to wane, and the days when it rivaled Netflix in some regions have long gone.
Popcorn Time’s demise doesn’t mean that Netflix has successfully beaten online piracy of course. Pirate streaming sites and devices remain a massive challenge, and Netflix content is still widely pirated on regular torrent sites as well.
Also, pirates who really insist on using Popcorn Time can probably still find a working fork somewhere. The official Popcorn Time repository on GitHub remains online, even though the associated PopcornTime.app domain has been offline for nearly a year.