YIFY: Hollywood Nemesis Becomes Iconic Piracy Brand

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Roughly three years ago nobody had ever heard of YIFY but today the movie release group is one of the most recognizable movie piracy brands on the Internet. Unlike Scene or P2P groups who strive to be the first to leak a pirated movie, YIFY's motivation is to cater to pirates with a wide range of easily accessible titles. Talking to TorrentFreak, the group's founder explains why.

yifyEvery month hundreds of million of people flock to various torrent sites to download the latest Hollywood blockbusters.

Traditionally these pirated released were leaked from “the Scene,” but in recent years the landscape has evolved bringing many new groups to the forefront.

These P2P groups release their own pirated versions and often beat the Scene to it. The primary motivation, however, is the competition element of being the first to get a movie out there in top quality.

YIFY doesn’t fit into either of these categories. Unlike most other groups they are not motivated by the competition and the credits that come with it, but by serving their ‘audience’ the best way they can.

This approach appears to work, as millions of people are now following the group’s releases. Their own website YIFY-torrents is now among the top ten most-visited torrent sites on the Internet, and on sites such as KickassTorrents the term YIFY constantly appears as one of the top searches.

YIFY searches on KAT


To find out how it all came to be and what makes this group tick, TorrentFreak caught up with its founder. Using the handle YIFY, he tells us that one of the main goals is to make films accessible in all parts of the world, combining relatively small file-sizes with good quality.

“We aim to bring Hollywood films to the masses at smaller file-size. Our primary goal is to enable users from all parts of the world, who have bandwidth or hard drive limitations, to download and enjoy this content,” YIFY says.

YIFY started three years ago by releasing movies on various torrent sites and quickly added its own website a year later.

“It all started in 2010 when x264 started to gain significant popularity. I saw the potential application of using this codec to spread films at a smaller size. By August 2011, YIFY releases had gained enough popularity to launch our own website, serving as a platform for our releases.”

The steady release of popular titles in an easily digestible size and format piqued the interest of many movie pirates. Around this time last year the number of visitors to YIFY’s own site had grown to 200,000 a day, and over the past year this exploded to 700,000.

Together with the hundreds of thousands of followers on other sites, it is safe to say that YIFY caters to the demands of millions of people.

YIFY site growth


YIFY currently uploads its releases to its own site and five other public indexes: PublicHD, KickassTorrents, 1337x, The Pirate Bay, and ExtraTorrent. The group posts dozens of new and older films every month, a schedule that appears to appeal to a wide audience.

The high volume of searches for YIFY shows that more people actually search for the group tag than for specific movie titles, so in a way the group is guiding people’s viewing habits.

“I personally think that many people are following and downloading YIFY encodes due to the consistency we offer in our releasing. Everything from the consistent film cover art, to the information layout, and ultimately to the file-size of our encodes,” YIFY says.

“I believe this is important because people like stability and assurance with what they are downloading. By adding consistency to a reasonable file-size, we have filled a spot in the community, which seemingly has a lot of demand.”

Behind the scenes there’s a lot going on before a release is published on the Internet. YIFY doesn’t reveal specific sources but says it mostly relies on “leaked Blu-ray disks from friends.” A set of automated scripts then handles the encoding and subsequent uploading.

In many ways the popularity of YIFY is reminiscent of aXXo, the uploader that gathered an immense popularity during the latter half of the last decade. YIFY is flattered by this comparison, but personally he believes that’s too much credit.

“aXXo revolutionized the file-sharing community with highly accessible releases, while we are just a popular name; we have not actually introduced anything new to the community,” YIFY says.

Of course there’s also a darker side to YIFY’s newly gained fame. The group is clearly in the cross-hairs of Hollywood since the UK anti-piracy group FACT has already asked the court to block the site in the UK. At the same time, more radical legal steps can certainly not be excluded.

YIFY notes that their legal issues are limited to DMCA requests for now, which they comply with as other torrent sites do. Their biggest challenge at the moment is keeping the site online, which is easier said than done with the rapid increase in visitors.

“One year ago we were getting around 250,000 visitors daily on the website, presently we get around 700,000. Setting up our system to handle this growth in traffic has been the main challenge thus far,” YIFY says.

As for Hollywood, YIFY points out that the movie industry would be wise to move away from expensive per item sales, and focus more on free access models such as Hulu and Netflix-style subscription models in countries where these are not yet available.

“I do not think that Hollywood needs to learn anything specifically from our success. Rather, I think that our success is just a symptom of a much wider, and fast growing, worldwide phenomenon. I think that this demonstrates that people all around the world are no longer willing to pay a premium for their digital media,” YIFY concludes.

For the time being, YIFY is happily filling this gap.


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