While Hollywood and the music industry are currently working hard to have dozens of millions of infringing links removed from Google, they are increasingly trying to cut off users’ access to those links by way of website censorship.
Interestingly this is being driven by United States-based companies yet no sites have yet been blocked in their homeland. Instead, the major studios and recording labels have zoomed in on Europe – the UK in particular – and between them have had close to 30 sites blocked by the country’s major ISPs.
Users of BitTorrent, streaming and other file-sharing sites in the UK are soon going to have to get used to a new reality. Currently none of the top 10 torrent sites listed in our 2013 chart are available by direct means (they are through a VPN service). Furthermore, the MPA are slowly but surely taking out the top streaming sites while the BPI concentrates on some of the big MP3 download portals.
To find out what kind of a dent these actions have had on accessibility, TorrentFreak took a look at the list of top 30 torrent sites in the world to see which ones remain unblocked in the UK. We used Alexa ranks to put them in general order, which is sufficient for this exercise. Later we’ll take a look at one or two other interesting findings.
Ranked 890 worldwide by Alexa, surprisingly YIFI Torrents has somehow managed to remain unblocked in the UK. Quite why this growing site is being left to flourish is unknown, especially since a request to block the site was made six months ago.
According to data obtained from meta-search engine Torrentz.eu, RARBG has a relatively small database of around 400,700 torrents. Despite that figure being dwarfed by the availability on other lower-placed sites in this list, RARBG has a global Alexa rank of 1,986.
Targeted by the RIAA back in 2011, LimeTorrents has continued business as usual ever since. The site has a clean design and a reported 3,395,599 torrents. Alexa ranks the site 6,515.
Just slightly less popular than LimeTorrents in terms of traffic, Torrents.net has a similar sized database of just over 3.4 million torrents.
Created in 2010, Torlock has a database of more than 1.25 million torrents. However, the site claims that there are zero fake files in its listings. In fact, they are so confident this is the case that they offer $1 for every one a user can find.
According to the site’s records, TorrentFunk has more than 5.5 million torrents in its databases, which is more than any site in this ‘unblocked’ top 10. Alexa ranks the site 10,398 in the world.
YourBitTorrent claims to be the “ONLY non-egoist torrent website.” The site says that since 2003 it has donated to multiple large organizations that care for the interests of animals. It has more than 4.1 million torrents and has just added a feature to add torrents to Putdrive accounts for downloading on any device.
According the site’s stats, SeedPeer currently carries around 4.7 million torrents, 186,000 of which are verified as definitely not fake. Overall the site’s torrents are being serviced by more than a billion seeds. The site is ranked 12,634 by Alexa.
Vertor is one of the few torrent sites to concentrate on having only quality torrents, i.e none that are fake, locked by passwords or containing a virus. The site claims to run on five dual-core servers with 8 GB RAM and currently hosts just over a million torrents.
With a claimed 3.39 million torrents in its database, Fulldls takes the final spot in the top 10 unblocked list. To give an idea of just how far the rankings of sites readily available in the UK have dropped due to ISP blocking, Fulldls has an Alexa ranking of 26,536. The top 10 position in our pre-blocking chart earlier in the year was taken by H33T with an Alexa rank of 1,430
To complete our investigation, TorrentFreak examined every site currently listed in Alexa’s chart of the Top 500 most-visited sites overall in the UK.
Notably, streaming portal PrimeWire.ag is ranked 209 in the UK having quickly grown in popularity following domain issues. Other unblocked streaming sites riding high include Watchseries.lt (Alexa UK #278) and Vodly.to (Alexa UK #301). SolarMovie.so is currently placed at #364 but will soon be blocked by the leading ISPs.
Since The Pirate Bay is blocked to around 90% of UK internet subscribers, it comes as no surprise that people are looking for workarounds. Clearly many are accessing the site through PirateProxy.se, a proxy now listed as the 241st most popular site in the UK.
Also riding high (Alexa UK #413) is Come.in, a multi-site proxy that unlocks several sites including TorrentReactor, ExtraTorrent, KickassTorrents and The Pirate Bay. Interesting, VPN provider HideMyAss is now the UK’s 415th most popular site.
It is almost certain that the BPI and MPA will be back time and again to have fresh sites blocked in the UK and will continue to do so until the top 50 to top 100 sites have been added to the country’s unofficial blocklist. Whether this will encourage people towards official outlets is not yet clear, but the rise of the proxy and VPN services listed above (and tools such as PirateBrowser) shows that there is definitely a desire to circumvent rather than succumb to bans.