Browser Popcorn: Popcorn Time as a web service

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 17, 2015
Updated • Oct 20, 2015
Music and Video

The free application Popcorn Time made big waves when it was first released. Depending on who you'd ask, it was either the future of watching content on the Internet or yet another tool to stream movies illegally to users from all over the world.

The app combined a movie browser, media viewer and torrent client in a slick great looking and working interface, something that the media industry failed to deliver for years even if you take away the torrent part of the equation.

The original version of Popcorn Time was taken down rather quickly but forks quickly filled the void with several applications being released using the technology.

Update: Browser Popcorn has been taken down. It is no longer available.

Browser Popcorn takes the core Popcorn Time concept and moves it to the web. It requires a modern browser but that is all that is needed to start streaming movies to your location.

Unlike apps that are based on Popcorn Time, it is not using user systems to torrent media files selected in the app according to its author. Instead, it is downloading the torrents and streaming the contents to the user while it is doing that in the background.

If true, it would mean that users would not torrent these media files directly which would move them out of harms way at least when it comes to the monitoring of torrent downloads. Obviously, there are other ways to obtain data about users who use the streaming service.

The service itself lists movie categories on the left, and a selection of movies on the right. Each movie is listed with a poster shot, its name and release date. When you click on it a sidebar opens displaying options to watch the movie and to read a short story synapses.

There is also a search that you may use to find movies of interest but that is about it. What you don't get are different qualities right now, options to watch movies in different languages, or subtitles. Subtitles at the very least will be included soon though according to the creator of the site.

You are probably wondering how long it will last. I would not get my hopes up that the service is still around for Christmas.

Now You: Would you use a service like Browser Popcorn?

Browser Popcorn: Popcorn Time as a web service
Article Name
Browser Popcorn: Popcorn Time as a web service
Browser Popcorn is a web-based version of the popular media streaming application Popcorn Time.

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  1. down said on October 20, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    MPAA, y u gotta ruin everything?

    BrowserPopcorn has been taken down by the E.V.I.L. money-grabbing shitlords of America, The Motion Picture Association of Murica.

    Please contact me via [email protected] for more details.

    seems like they down

    1. DonGateley said on October 20, 2015 at 11:39 pm

      Why do pirate sites that keep running afoul of special interests not move themselves to the Dark Web (Tor)?

      It may not have the bandwidth for direct video streaming like this site tried to do but it sure would seem capable of handling something like KickAss Torrents.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on October 20, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      That did not take long..

  2. beergas said on October 19, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Hey then when the hell we paying ISP fees for if not to mess around with whatever is upon it?

  3. DonGateley said on October 18, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    I’m surprised at how well this works. In FF video streaming can be problematic but it’s smooth and jerk free after what can be a significant delay for buffers.

    All I can say is, VPN, VPN, VPN, VPN, VPN, VPN, VPN, VPN, VPN with kill switch if you are going to do this or you will suffer the fate of “The Cobbler” pirates that got caught. Without a kill switch the VPN can drop its connection and your computer will blithely continue without it or its encryption. I don’t mean to condone this, my opinion on pirating is my business only, but if you do you’d better protect yourself.

    Same is true, of course, of downloading copyrighted content via any Torrent client.

    1. DonGateley said on October 18, 2015 at 11:06 pm

      It just occurred to me that this could be a Trojan designed to ID you from information it can get from your browser (even if there is a VPN in between.) The whole security/anonymity quagmire is a tower of Babel to this old brain so I’m wondering if such a possibility is plausible (such as the HSTS vulnerability) and if so how to defeat it in general. It works from the Tor browser through my VPN, which I would hope obscures any possible identification, but putting a streaming load on Tor doesn’t seem nice.

      If so, it would certainly be entrapment but there are usually ways hide that and still retain admissible evidence.

  4. DonGateley said on October 18, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    “Unlike apps that are based on Popcorn Time, it is not using user systems to torrent media files selected in the app according to its author. Instead, it is downloading the torrents and streaming the contents to the user while it is doing that in the background.”

    And the difference is?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 18, 2015 at 9:29 pm

      With Popcorn Time, it is you who is downloading the files associated with the torrent. This means that anyone monitoring the connection notices your IP address. With Browser Popcorn, it is the site that is downloading the torrent which means that you are only connecting with the site directly when you are using it and cannot be monitored by services that monitor torrents.

      1. DonGateley said on October 19, 2015 at 9:51 am

        Nah, who would do that? :-)

      2. DonGateley said on October 19, 2015 at 8:25 am

        Martin, so they take care of managing the torrent transactions and then just stream you raw video data over IP directly? Little could be more vulnerable to snooping (lacking an encrypted VPN) than that. “They” don’t need to monitor your torrent transactions, they can just monitor what they send to your IP.

        They’ve totally eliminated what little protection Bit Torrent offers.

      3. Martin Brinkmann said on October 19, 2015 at 9:00 am

        That is, if you don’t trust the service and think they monitor your connection.

      4. Ademas said on October 19, 2015 at 6:54 am

        Martin, please answer.
        So is it safe to use from Germany?
        My VPN subscription is about to end and I don’t think I need to extend it when I’m using this service. (?)

      5. Martin Brinkmann said on October 19, 2015 at 7:37 am

        Nothing on the Internet is entirely safe.

  5. Patrick said on October 18, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Hey Henk: Don’t shoot the messenger!!! If smeone is looking for copywrite material on the web all they have to do is use Google, Yahoo, Bing, Duck Duck Go, a hundred other search sites. What might be illegal in your country may not be illegal in someone elses country. Come down from your high horse. I just hate censorship of any kind. Mr. Martin Brinkmann can write whatever he wants, whenever he wants and doesn’t need your approval or criticism. Chill out!!!

    patrick (who may or may not be in Panama)

  6. Henk van Setten said on October 18, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    The question was: “Would you use a service like Browser Popcorn?”

    My answer: No, never. It’s a form of stealing, violating copyrights in many cases, and therefore it’s clearly unethical to use services like this. Even if you didn’t download/feed the underlying torrents yourself, by having crooks streaming stolen content to you, still you make yourself into a crook too.

    Just today, news came out that some individual users of the original Popcorn Time app, facing a lawsuit by the makers of the illegally downloaded movie “The Cobbler”, accepted a settlement of several hundred $$ each. For details about this case, see:

    Apps and services like this are like tentacles of the criminal Dark Web stretching into (and soiling) the regular web. Martin, I do admire you for your nearly always excellent and outstanding gHacks blog. But in my view, this time you soiled your own pages by giving uncritical attention to a semi-criminal service like this. Taking a neutral position by writing “Depending on who you’d ask”? Come on now. On matters like this, one cannot be “neutral”.

    Martin, just imagine for one moment: how would you feel if I were to set up a site called PopcornGhacks as a full clone of your own site, with all your work literally copied from the original, stealing some legitimate traffic and income from you? Right… Bloggers need theft protection: and so do film makers.

    Sorry for my harsh words, but you did ask for my opinion.

    1. DonGateley said on October 19, 2015 at 5:37 am

      There is no commandment in any of the moral traditions that coves IP (here meaning Intellectual Produce) or in any way transforms it into real property. Copyrights, patents, etc. are legal constructs defined and framed by lawyers, lobbyists and legislators who continue to evolve them. At some point it was decided that IP generators should profit on what they choose to produce and that anyone infringing on that profit was libel and now a state criminal. This is by no means an open and shut issue. The law is what it is, but whether it should be and why it’s the way it is is and how it operates are all very open to reasoned disagreement. This is not a moral issue to be preached, it is strictly a legal one. You are preaching about the morality involved and nobody cares what you think about that.

      1. Jeroen said on October 19, 2015 at 8:30 pm

        I respect your opinion, but that’s all it is – IMO – an opinion.

        Internet is only free for one who knows the way and will always be (it’s pretty easy, so i’m not “desperate” at all… ;-). The user-friendly regular internet is everyting but free and heavily monitored for about 10 years already.

        You mix up ‘real life’ with a real life where a happy few need to impose hefty prizes and forced-by-law restrictions on entertaiment, education and information. In real life we also use(d) to exchange vinyl, cassettes and CD/DvDs for our friends and their friends, etc, to listen/watch/copy because some of us do not feel the need to abide to such imposition.

        The so-called lawmakers (“military industrial complex”) are the biggest threat to a free internet and exchange of entertaiment, education and information coz they are afraid of their own people. The big money loading entertainment industry will keep being payed well by another happy-lot. Some “laws” are there just to be bended, because they ARE bended all the time. That’s also “that’s just how it is”.

        Morally unjust exchange such as what you mention is unfortunate collateral damage that should be seriously dealt with. Just as in real life where dodgy stuff is sold on the streets.

        Actually on a sidenote; starting low-buget artists want nothing more than being endlessly copied and distributed for free on Youtube et all to have the everyday man do the promotion for them. I’m a graphic designer who lives off designing unique works which are – one time – payed for when used by an organization. After that the artwork is practically at large and will be copied and used for whatever by whoever. I don’t give a hoot. I got payed and move on to the next project.


    2. MarkCB said on October 18, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      Wherever you stand on the morals of the issue, it is best to use the correct terms. Copyright infringement is not theft. Stealing is the taking of another person’s property, without that persons permission or consent, with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of it.

      Your post is littered with emotional language and baseless hysteria.

    3. Jeroen said on October 18, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      Welcome to The Internet, an open place to share everything without restriction. Or at least what that used to be and was intentionally developed for and should be. However as a user that pays for the data i can still make arrangements to make it work that way, so it’s like being on an open flea-market where i can get anything i damn well desire that’s on offer there.

      Did i steal intellectual property from Steven Spielberg when i just payed a little cash to a vendor for his copy of Saving Private Ryan, even more so if he gave it to me for free? No. That vendor did. And Steven Spielberg is stupid to not having his work protected well enough. So don’t blame me. I do “steal” too ONLY if i copy it 10 times again and sell them, and that is my sole responsibility.

      IRL and online everybody lends out entertainment and educational works, makes a copy for oneself and distributes it further in the network for free just because it’s like that and on any given movie hundreds of people that have nothing to do with the creation need to make money out of it, so it ends up with the user for exhorbitant prices.


      1. Henk van Setten said on October 18, 2015 at 9:02 pm

        @Jeroen: It looks like you’re trying desperately to find a few lame excuses for what basically is an immoral viewpoint.
        The formal difference between a thief (who steals things) and a fence (who buys stolen things) is totally irrelevant in this discussion. But if you think it’s better to be a fence than being a thief, so be it.
        As for the internet, this is NOT (as you say) “an open place to share everything without restriction”. If that were true, then you would (for example) be allowed to freely share child porn online. In real life, you are not: for the simple reason that child porn is illegal. So sharing things on internet does not stand above the law: it is subject to laws, and restricted by laws, like any other realm of life. Sharing stolen things on internet is just as illegal as sharing things in real life.
        Of course the internet should remain as free as possible, I give that to you. But you know what? The people who endanger online freedom the most, are exactly those who set up services like Browser Popcorn. By their irresponsible misuse of a supposed freedom, they make it inevitable for companies and governments to actually restrict online freedom ever more. In the end, ordinary internet users will suffer the most from this. Just like some years ago, ordinary users suffered from the inconvenience of DRM restrictions on DVDs: a restrictive measure that would would never been have necessary, if some crooks hadn’t started to mass-copy copyrighted DVDs illegally.
        So the biggest enemy of a free internet are exactly those people who misuse the freedom given to them, and who in that way provoke legal restrictions that otherwise wouldn’t have been necessary. Clear?

        @MarkCB: see above. You are trying to obfuscate reality by an irrelevant formal excuse. In the everyday reality of internet, where we talk about nothing but digital data, copyright infringement is just a form of stealing: it’s as simple as that. I’ve been the victim of this kind of online theft myself a few times, and let me tell you, it feels no different from any other kind of theft.
        As for my “baseless hysteria”, sorry for that. Just because I’m curious, could you give an example of where I am “hysteric”?

        @Patrick: I did not intend to “shoot the messenger”. I apologize if I inadvertently gave you that depression. I really do like Martin Brinkmann and his work very much. But here it was like Martin happened to write about a bunch of street pickpockets and he wrote “depending from who you’d ask, this pickpocketing was either the future of wealth distribution, or yet another case of common street thievery”. In such a case I think this kind of “neutral” approach is fairly wrong, and I feel entitled to criticize him for that. I’m sure Martin will understand that my criticism was not intended as some kind of personal attack.

  7. Tom Hawack said on October 17, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    I’ve been unsuccessful on the site. CPU climbs very high or I am notified that the format cannot be run. Almost froze Firefox. Heavy, very heavy. Anyway I dislike movies on a small screen.

    1. DonGateley said on October 19, 2015 at 9:48 am

      I have the opposite experience. I hate to keep saying this but I couldn’t ask for better FF performance. Less than 10% additional 2.2Ghz Core I7 cycles from within a Firefox 43.0a2 installation. No pauses, no stutter, no jitter. It defeats my 1Ghz AMD C60 netbook but, hey. :-)

      What version of Firefox are you using?

  8. Yuliya said on October 17, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Nice, I always wanted to watch Despicable me 2, but never had the time :)
    Tip: In Firefox, right click gives the option to save the video ;)

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