All Failed Startup Stories
Popcorn Time

Popcorn Time

Food & Bevarage

General Information

Industry Food & Bevarage Country Argentina Started in 2014

Failure

Outcome Shut Down Cause Legal Issues, Loss of interest among users Closed in 2022

People

Founders 1 Employees 0-25

Funding

Funding Rounds 0 Funding Raised $0 Investors 0

What was Popcorn Time?

Popcorn Time was a free software BitTorrent Client with an integrated media player. It was introduced as a privacy-based alternative to Netflix. It used torrent’s technology to download videos and play on the app itself. This allowed the company to not host any content directly. Instead, it used peer websites and third-party hackers for distribution. 

How did it work?

The user interface of the application was somewhat similar to Netflix – with thumbnails and film titles. It also contained filters to browse films based on genre. As soon as the user clicked the film title, the film was downloaded over the BitTorrent Protocol. As the movie was being downloaded, it also shared the downloaded content available for other users.

The Rise of Popcorn Time

Federico Abad, an Argentinian designer wanted an application to make the movie watching process fast and simple. He got the idea from his personal observation. Generally, movies in Argentina were made available after 6 months of their initial release. In addition to this, the internet speed was slow, and the movies buffered a lot while using the available services. 

Hence, he started Popcorn Time in February 2014. Within just a few days, millions of people started downloading and using the application. It quickly crossed 100 contributors on GitHub.

The service was made free and available on Linux, macOS, Windows, and Android. Popcorn Time’s source code was also made available to download on their website. Contributors from around the world localized the application into 44 languages.

Due to its ease of use and a library size larger than Netflix, it gained a lot of attention from the mainstream media – namely PC Magazine, CBC News and TechCrunch to name a few. 

Since then, the project has been forked multiple times with several development teams like Time4Popcorn and the Butter Project. Within just a few months, Time4Popcorn reportedly gained millions of users.

How does Popcorn Time make money? A simple answer, It doesn’t. The creators of Popcorn Time never intended to make money out of the project. They just wanted to improve the movie watching experience.

The Downfall of Popcorn Time - Popcorn app that spooked netflix shuts

One of the lawyers of Warner Bros. tracked down the developers of Popcorn Time. Although they weren’t making money from the project, the recent lawsuits on torrent sites made the creators develop cold feet. 

Naturally, they panicked, and on 14th March 2014 – just three weeks after the launch, the developers announced that they had stopped working on the project.

But since the project was open sourced, multiple replicas of the website had already popped up on the internet. These were not created by the original founders, but instead by creators around the globe.

The most popular one was popcorntime.io, who soon released a VPN, trying to monetize the traction they had gained. Due to its rising popularity, Netflix named Popcorn Time as its biggest competitor in their letter to investors.

Many anti-privacy organizations from around the world started filing lawsuits against Popcorn Times. Additionally, there also were different lawsuits against developers for hiding malwares and trojans in the subtitle files of Movies.

They saw a sharp spike in users just after the COVID Lockdown was announced. But finally in January 2022, Popcorn-Time.tw, the last famous fork of Popcorn Time, announced the shut down of its application. 

The developers stated that “the world doesn’t need Popcorn Time anymore” – as the interest of people in Popcorn Time had declined. This unfortunately, forced them to close their application.

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