Popcorn Time, the “Netflix for piracy,” is dead. Or is it?
Earlier this week, the person in control of popcorn-time.tw posted a Google Trends screenshot showing that interest in the app—which lets people illegally stream movies, TV shows, and anime using the BitTorrent protocol in a user-friendly interface—had plummeted since its introduction in 2015. Alongside the chart was a simple message: “R.I.P.,” and a picture of the app’s anthropomorphic popcorn logo with Xes for eyes.
This led various publications including Bloomberg to declare that Popcorn Time, one of the most popular piracy services of all time, is dead and that this era of piracy is over. But it’s not that simple, and it’s silly to declare something that was designed to be unkillable as being “dead.” Just as the Pirate Bay has been “shut down” dozens of times but still exists in some version today, various versions of Popcorn Time are alive and well, and there’s no reason to think that it will ever die as long as the internet exists.
This is because Popcorn Time is essentially just a BitTorrent client that has a video player built into it. BitTorrent is probably the best, earliest, most useful, and most enduring example of the decentralized internet that Web3 and cryptocurrency evangelists hope to achieve. In that sense, Popcorn Time is unkillable. Popcorn Time has "died" before and has come back, several times.
Popcorn Time has also been forked various times over its bumpy history, and the piracy community is split on whether the version that “died” this week was even the best version of Popcorn Time at all. Another version of it had its code updated yesterday, for example. Some versions of Popcorn Time can be set up to work with any torrent trackers, so unless all torrents and all torrent magnet files (a file that points to a torrent) on the internet are eradicated, Popcorn Time and programs like it will continue to exist.