Top Torrent Sites Begin Providing Streaming Video and Music
Piracy, and the BitTorrent protocol so often used to distribute pirated content, are hotly contested issues across the worlds of media, tech, and privacy - and this newest development will only stoke the flames of controversy.
The use of torrents to distribute media across the internet is nothing new, and has been widely embraced by both legitimate content creators and piracy groups. While various efforts by government and industry groups to limit the flow of illegally pirated material have had mixed success, perhaps the biggest barrier to more widespread adoption of torrent use has simply been the lack of user-friendly convenience. Up until recently, acquiring content (legally distributed or otherwise) via BitTorrent required downloading a client software, and then downloading the full file(s). Media like songs or videos could only be listened to or viewed once the download completed. Compared to the on-demand, instant gratification of YouTube, Netflix, or Spotify, getting content via torrents was a hassle, and many users would rather watch ads or pay for the convenience of a streaming service.
But now streaming has come to the world of torrents. The largest torrent site on the internet, The Pirate Bay, has implemented support for a plugin called Torrents Time, which allows users to stream torrent content directly within their browser. And unlike previous iterations of streaming implemented within the online piracy world, Torrents Time actually uses the peer-to-peer connections of standard torrent sharing. This means that it benefits from the same bandwidth distribution flexibility, avoiding the bandwidth overload that frequently hinders other illegal (or legally questionable) streaming sites. Other torrent sites are following suit, as the Torrents Time plugin can be added to any site.
While The Pirate Bay and similar sites are primarily the domain of desktop users, there are also options for mobile users to be able to stream pirated content, namely Popcorn Time and Showbox. These apps allow streaming of content from BitTorrent (and possibly other sources) to phones, tablets, and set top boxes, giving users a free (but legally risky) Netflix alternative. And Showbox recently rolled out a robust music streaming feature, putting it in direct competition with Spotify.