Often referred to as the “Netflix of piracy,” the free streaming site Popcorn Time shut down this week. Developers behind the app and site emailed media outlets Tuesday, announcing its closure.
New Year, No Popcorn Time
Site developers seemed to point to a lack of online user interest as the reason for taking down the site. When you try to access the platform or its countless mirrors, you’ll now see a cartoonish bag of popcorn with X marks for eyes next to a message reading “R.I.P.” Below it is a screenshot of a Google Analytics chart that has seen searches for “Popcorn Time” on a steady decline since its formal launch in 2015.
This isn’t the first time that the site and apps have shut down, either. It had disappeared for years at a time when interest from the online community waned. At the peak of the 2020 pandemic, the site and app surged in popularity again after a short disappearance. It seemed the pandemic had sparked a resurgence of interest in streaming free content, as many people were stuck at home and spending more time online.
A History of Piracy and Streaming Innovation
Long-time internet users will be familiar with pirating and peer-to-peer downloading sites like The Pirate Bay, Limewire, and Napster. Popcorn Time started in 2014 in its short-lived beta form and provided a different approach to pirating. Its innovative streaming platform quickly became the go-to online hotspot for free movies and TV series.
Popcorn Time was hailed for its easy-to-use interface, which many users compared to Netflix and other paid subscription services. Popular torrenting sites were notoriously difficult to navigate, and users would have to download potentially illegal torrents directly onto their devices — which could result in malware infection.
Though Popcorn Time relied on the same BitTorrent technology other sites do, it provided live streams to users through its app. This removed the downloading process for users by tapping into torrenting networks on their behalf.
Hollywood’s Always Targeted Popcorn Time
Hollywood and streaming platforms have long considered illegal pirating their greatest competitor. However, in 2015, designers associated with the original Popcorn Time told Bloomberg that they weren’t concerned with legal issues. They believed since they weren’t hosting any of the content — or making any money off it — they weren’t technically responsible for pirating.
Popcorn Time was rather an experiment as an open sharing platform on the torrent network, they said. Regardless, within two weeks, their beta platform was taken down due to legal action. The original creators abandoned the site shortly after its launch but designed the app with open-source coding.
This meant that future developers could hop on board and continue developing newer, more improved versions of the streaming app. Many forks and mirror sites followed.
A Lone Mirror Site Presses On
Deep in the bowels of Reddit, piracy enthusiasts have been supporting a mirror site they claim is a workaround for Popcorn Time. The site is in its development stages and offers downloads of the app for Windows, Mac, Linux, and mobile operating systems. Many Redditors commented that their ISP was blocking access to the site and that you need a VPN to access it.
These downloads were offered on Jan. 4, 2022, immediately following the shutdown of the main site and its mirrors. Of course, we don’t recommend downloading anything from new sites right away. If you’re interested in using Popcorn Time in the future, we suggest waiting until (or if) site developers have proven to provide a safe outlet.
In the meantime, if you’re interested in other streaming sites, make sure to check out our article on the best Popcorn Time alternatives. Though there are plenty of subscription platforms — such as Netflix, Disney +, or Amazon Prime — you’ll need a premium VPN to access them from outside the United States.
If Popcorn Time pops up in the future, make sure to use a VPN to protect your privacy for any unofficial streaming.