The BitTorent protocol is a highly efficient method of transferring data over the internet, and as such has since its inception been the tool of choice for downloaders. However, P2P downloading requires a reasonable degree of technical know-how, and because larger files can take some time to download, it lacks the immediacy of what is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to consume online video content – streaming.
Streaming in the form of popular commercial services such as Netflix and Lovefilm has become so mainstream in fact, that its popularity is attributed to reducing P2P piracy, offering the convenience and flexibility that many movie loving internet users clearly crave for.
Well, a new open-source project aims to bring the convenience and immediacy of streaming to P2P users, with a new tool called ‘Popcorn Time’,
‘The technology behind the app is very simple. We consume a group of APIs, one for the torrents, another for the movie info, and another for the poster. We also have an API for the subtitles. Everything is automated, we don’t host anything, but take existing information and put it together, explains Sebastian, an Argentinian web designer who came up with the idea.
Basically, the app is a repackaged browser designed to stream video content hosted on the popular YTS (was YIFY) torrent site (which specializes in high quality video rips), and offers users the opportunity browse hundreds of films and watch them instantly, complete with a choice of resolutions and subtitles (if required).
Sebastian says that since posting the code for the app on Github, he has been joined 20 collaborators who have worked hard to improve the program and extend its functionality. He also promises that the app will always remain 100 percent free and open source.
Users are clearly warned that they may liable for copyright enforcement issues, and that responsibility resides with them. Whether using the app is illegal depends very much on your local copyright laws, but we anyway strongly recommend using a VPN service to help maintain your anonymity (of course!)
The app (still in beta) links to many movies and TV shows that are copyrighted, so it is unsurprising that it has been dubbed ‘Netflix for pirates’, and if the movie industry is not highly alarmed we will be very surprised. Sebastian, however, is confident that he won’t get into legal trouble with peeved content owners,
‘We don’t expect legal issues. We don’t host anything, and none of the developers makes any money. There are no ads, no premium accounts, and no subscription fees or anything like that. It’s an experiment to learn and share.’
Popcorn Time is available for Windows 7+, OSX 10.7+, and Linux.
Edit 13 March 2014: We didn’t expect it to take long, and Mega, who hosted the file, has now removed Popcorn Time from its servers. The website however promises that ‘We’ll be right back! Careful when downloading from other sources, as we have the only official ones’. If you can’t wait, and are willing to risk downloading from ‘other sources’, the app is readily available on all good torrent sites.