Popcorn Time micro evaluation


Upon seeing my premium and libre movie centralization proposal, several people suggested I check out Popcorn Time, perhaps as a technology platform.

It seems there are two prominent forks. The one available from popcorn-time.se seems to be developed in private and might ship with adware. The one available from popcorntime.io seems to be developed in public.

Both seem to use yts.to, as a movie directory. It currently has 4088 entries, which is not a large number (Netflix: 7125), but seems to be very heavily weighted toward recent U.S. mass market movies. Doubtless there are pirate communities that cater to older, non-English, and art releases, but YTS and by extension Popcorn Time definitely does not. Unfortunately this only reinforces my impression that piracy provides price discrimination, customer retention and marketing services, gratis to Hollywood.

I looked for a libre or public domain movie to try watching in the Popcorn Time application. I found only a few old films in the catalog that may be in the public domain, at least in the U.S. I tried the oldest in the catalog, Way Down East (1920; Wikipedia, Commons).

It took 7 minutes to start playing the movie. That’s impressive, relative to waiting for the entire file to download, and that the bandwidth is presumably all coming from distributed peers. But it’s not at all impressive relative to near instant start on streaming sites. Seeking seemed to not work, but perhaps would’ve had I downloaded the entire movie. It’s possible that more popular titles would start playing faster. I admit that watching a few minutes of an unpopular title and trying to seek is a totally unfair evaluation!

I made a request for Sita Sings the Blues. If that is added I will make further requests for a handful of other libre movies and do a more thorough evaluation.

I suspect that web streaming, even if assisted by bittorrent, is a better primary distribution mechanism for premium libre movies. Downloading a dedicated application and waiting minutes to start watching are each high barriers.

But a centralized premium and libre video community might also be better able to coordinate to get distribution of premium and libre video in channels such as YTS and Popcorn Time, and that would be worth doing.

PeerTube: federated (ActivityPub) video hosting free software (AGPL)

Streaming WebTorrent with a permanent or on-demand server seed is an interesting thought.

EDIT: I see that web seeds is an existing but open issue.


I’ve used Popcorn Time, mostly to stay abreast of developments in fun piracy projects (the MPAA and others really, really hate PT!). But I didn’t get into it.

I am not an average user, but I don’t like streaming compared to the alternatives. Using a torrent client on a 'net-connected server sitting at my home’s IP addy, I can have media waiting for me when I get home, and that is often how it works for me. If someone mentions Sita and I feel like watching it, I add the torrent with my phone and I have the whole video sitting on a 5TB drive at home, and the entire setup cost less than what most people pay for viewing tech (I offset the cost by not owning a tv set).

For folks like me, Popcorn Time excels is having a pretty nifty interface that can be customized, something that would be unheard of from Netflix et al. I’ve no doubt that most PT users are just people trying to watch movies for free, and I agree with your assessment that streaming is a better mechanism, if one is trying to reach a larger audience.


YTS hasn’t added Sita but has added at least (more if any were removed) 111 titles in the month since above post (May 22 - June 22), now claiming 4199 entries. Browsing the site with entries sorted by ‘latest’ it doesn’t appear any of the additions are libre.

All [libre] culture on a thumb drive?

Doesn’t usually take 7 minutes to start popular torrents. I expect the bandwidth on seed was pretty low for what you tested.

Would be nice if popcorntime could be improved to have pluggable data backends. Then could try with archive.org torrents and similar.


It appears that http://butterproject.org is or will be a version of Popcorn Time, but:

will operate in an absolutely clear legal framework to develop the best technology we can

We’re making Butter like any Open Source project: open governance by the contributors and easy to fork. Planing on making a Popcorn Time clone ? don’t do it from scratch use some Butter to make it awesome !

Not only an empty shell, we want to make Butter a great App if you want to stream independent cinema and tv shows. Right now all the content in Butter is provided by the amazing people at vodo.net but if you know of any other sources of this kind of content please send us an email or better yet some code !

Sounds promising. Previous note about vodo.net. Clearly this ought be a destination for premium and libre video as well, and probably also used for a dedicated PAL-only destination.

I enjoy Butter’s exhortation to collaborate rather than proliferate mediocre projects.


Apparently both the PopcornTime.io website and YTS movie database have been shut down, covered in https://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-chaos-triggers-more-downtime-151023/ and https://variety.com/2015/digital/news/popcorn-time-yts-shut-down-mpaa-wins-injunctions-1201632595/