According to Google, piracy is all about availability and pricing, and while I do not agree with the company often these days, I have to admit that they nailed it this time.
If you are not living in the US, you do not get access to Hulu, Pandora, and other streaming services. While Netflix and Amazon Instant Video are expanding, their services are limited to select countries too.
What remains is not pretty. You can watch movies on Television when they air, which can be a year or more later after they are available on streaming sites in the US, buy the movie as a DVD, Blu-Ray or streaming video, and that is about it.
There are workarounds to make Hulu or Netflix work for people outside of countries where the service is offered in, but that requires the use of additional software and maybe a fake address and may not be perfectly legal because of it.
The Internet on the other hand makes available all movies and television shows on file sharing websites. Not only are the video files made available on sites such as The Piratebay, they are also offered in various qualities, from low definition videos for mobile phones and slow connections to 1080p or even 4k versions for users with fast connections.
Popcorn Time is an Open Source project that is available as a beta version for Windows, Mac and Linux. What makes it interesting is that it makes available that movie database to users from all over the world.
Start the program after you have installed it on your system and the program presents a list of popular movies to you. You find 2013 and 2014 smash hits listed here, from 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle to Gravity or Reasonable Doubt.
The left sidebar displays a search and genres that you can click on. Each genre lists select movies in the same way as the main page of Popcorn Time does.
If you only click through the categories though, you will miss out on movies, as it limits the display somewhat. The search is where all the power is at.
Search for Star Wars, and you get all six episodes of he series. Do the same for Star Trek and you get all Star Trek movies from the very first in 1979 to the most recent in 2013.
No matter what you enter, the program will return a clean list of matching movies to you.
When you click on a movie, information about it are displayed. This includes a short plot description, if subtitles are available, the quality it is available in, its health, and the playing time.
When you click on the watch it now button, a buffering video progress bar is displayed.
Popcorn Time uses torrent files to make available the movies which means that it can take some time before the actual movie starts to play.
Note: The program may not be legal in your country. It depends on local laws. If streaming movies via BitTorrent is illegal in your country, then what you do with the app is too.
The process should not take longer than a couple of seconds on fast connections, but if you are on a slow connection, it may take more time than that.
Popcorn Time demonstrates how easy movie streaming services can be. From its vast assortment of available movies to the concentration on features that matter, such as subtitles or qualities, it is all there.
While it could and probably will grow over time, for instance to add movies to favorites or mark them as watched, it is near perfect in its current state.
Plus, and that happens rarely, I'd gladly pay for it.
Now, the main problem is that using the app is not legal in most countries due to the sources it uses and the lack of distribution rights.
While it demonstrates streaming done right, users of it can get in legal troubles as torrent files are being used for that which may be monitored by rights-holders or companies that monitor BitTorrent traffic.
If all movie studios would create an app like Popcorn Time in a joint venture and offer it to a worldwide audience for a subscription fee, I'd sign up for it immediately if the price is right.
For now, it is a proof of concept that demonstrates how a good movie streaming app that is available to a worldwide audience could look like.
Update: The developers of the application have shut it down, and it appears that it cannot be used anymore to establish a connection. Since it was an Open Source project, there is still the chance that someone else will fork it and continue to work on it. For now though, it is dead.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.