The sudden closure of torrent site RARBG three months ago will be remembered as one of the most significant since the invention of the protocol, and despite competition from a laundry list of candidates.
Operating a large public torrent site for 15 years is a considerable feat. Doing so in an incredibly hostile environment, as one of the world’s most recognizable ‘pirate’ brands, is certainly unusual. Doing so with virtually no downtime and without any assistance (or protection) from Cloudflare is absolutely unprecedented.
RARBG made everything look effortless. Then just like that, RARBG was gone. For reasons highlighted earlier, a site like RARBG isn’t easily replaced. The combination of content, stability, reliability, branding, and visibility was rare in a public site, and trying to replicate the formula would require motivation and the secret sauce that somehow kept RARBG online.
90 Days Later
Just over 90 days have passed since RARBG disappeared, a short lifetime in the online piracy world. The hole RARBG left behind in the public ecosystem may not ever be fully repaired, but traffic blackholes are much more quickly and readily consumed.
Over the past three months nearly all major torrent sites offering the same types of content as RARBG have seen impressive gains. Sites targeting different regions, and/or carrying content not previously offered by RARBG, have shown no obvious shifts in traffic.
With no surprise newcomers to the public torrent site scene, it’s likely that many of the leading sites now enjoy an increased market share (SimilarWeb data).
RARBG shut down on the last day of May so traffic data for that month (blue) is not distorted in any meaningful way and can be compared to traffic generated by the other sites in the same period. As the chart shows, RARBG’s traffic fell off the edge of a cliff in the two months that followed (June/red, July/yellow), with the other sites all showing gains.
Sample Facts and Figures
An interesting observation is that despite widespread reporting of RARBG’s shutdown, in July the domain still received an impressive 4.6m visits. It would’ve been trivial to place a few ads on the page to make some easy pocket money but for their own reasons, the site’s operators haven’t done that.
In overall visitor numbers, YTS has obviously done very well. Before RARBG’s shutdown in May, YTS was receiving around 86.7m visits per month. At the end of July, that already impressive figure had increased to 102.3m, which may be one of the highest totals ever achieved by a torrent site in a single month.
Between May and July, torrent site 1337x also picked up significant traffic; around 16m more visits in July than May according to SimilarWeb. The Pirate Bay enjoyed a smaller boost, around 4 million extra by July, but one site in particular seems to have really struck gold.
According to SimilarWeb, TorrentGalaxy received around 18 million visits in May. The next month that had risen to 34.8m but in July, the number of visits reached 40 million, just a million or so fewer visits than RARBG enjoyed in May before it shut down.
While the loss of RARBG is more than just traffic, it’s safe to conclude that supply easily kept up with demand in the face of an unexpected crisis.