Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) has always had competitors, whether it was the ancient video rental stores of old, the RedBox locations found right around the corner, or the shady underworld of torrent files just a few clicks away for savvy computer users. But Netflix won out because of its strong video library and simplicity. However, a competitor that refuses to die has recently reared its face: Popcorn Time.
Torrenting, a complex system for peer-to-peer file-sharing, has been around for a good while. The digital content available for torrenting ranges to just about anything, including books, full TV series, movies, video games, and all types of computer software. Of course, there have been some problems with torrenting. For one, a lot of the torrenting that goes on violates copyright law, though there are plenty of public domain items flying around between users as well. Another issue with it is that it’s just not as simple as idly scanning through Netflix to see if there’s anything worth binging or just watching.
Though Netflix won over many people, torrenting still had a few edges. Just about anything you can find on Netflix can also be found through torrents. Torrenting is also free, so many people who don’t mind a little legal risk can easily save a few bucks every month.
What Popcorn Time did was to create a much simpler interface — more browsing friendly — that would make it all too easy for people to find something they wanted to watch and stream it directly through the Popcorn Time application. The function is similar to Netflix, but it is based on torrents and peer-to-peer connections, so it can be fast while also having greater library with newer content than Netflix. But, some things are a little too good to be true.
On March 14, TechCrunch reported that Popcorn Time had gone belly up in the face of constant concerns about the legality of the project. Although in theory the program is legal, as it doesn’t host any of the infringing content, that didn’t keep its creators from worrying. Its creators wrote in a note, “Popcorn Time as a project is legal. We checked. Four Times.” But still, they concluded, “Our experiment has put as at the doors of endless debates about piracy and copyright, legal threats, and the shady machinery that makes us feel in danger for doing what we love. And that’s not a battle we want a place in.”
So, the law and movie industry managed to make Popcorn Time’s creators shy away from the project. However, there are plenty in the torrent sphere that are not quite so shy or intimidated.
Only two days after Popcorn Time was officially disbanded by its creators, it was clear that the project would be continued by the torrent community. Several sources, including Tech Crunch, reported that movie torrent site YTS had taken over the Popcorn Time project. However, YTS has stated on its websitethat this is inaccurate, that it is not taking over Popcorn Time, but that the project will in fact be continued as a “community driven project.”
Since Popcorn Times simplicity and especially its access to most of the newest movies around, it could become a major threat to Netflix. Its creators stated that Popcorn Time had been downloaded on every single country around the globe after only two days of being live. Though this could have been hyperbole, it doesn’t mean Netflix has any less to be worried about as it continues breaking into new markets.
The coming weeks may shine more light on just how pervasive Popcorn Time can become, and just how much Netflix has to worry.
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