How ironic that just as we finish up our HTPC series of articles, PopcornTime -- the topic of the very first article in our HTPC series -- has closed up shop. Certainly, we're talking about popcorntime.io, the most popular fork of the original PopcornTime. The plug for the server has been pulled, and any and all logs that might prove "harmful" to any other developer(s) have been deleted.
The reports point to a dispute between the developers involved with the project at popcorntime.io. According to a report at The Verge, "a number of popcorntime.io's core developers left the project, fearing that the proposed inclusion of a paid anonymizing VPN service would lead to legal trouble." As a result, the program no longer works and the website has been shut down. There are other forks of the original PopcornTime program, but the popcorntime.io one was generally considered the safest.
There are some alternatives, though. Time4Popcorn, hosted at the popcorn-time.se site, is another fork of the original PopcornTime, but it has frequently been accused of hosting adware and viruses that infect users computers. When you launch it, it will also proclaim itself "PopcornTime," but the interface is slightly different from the popcorntime.io version. To be perfectly honest, I haven't used the Time4Popcorn version enough to be able to say whether the accusations are true or not. Running on Linux, namely PCLinuxOS, I'm not too worried about the reports of adware and viruses, but I certainly wouldn't recommend its use on Windows or Android platforms.
Another alternative recently came to light, as well. It is called Stremio. However, since I only run 32 bit PCLinuxOS on my computers, I'm unable to give it a whirl on the dance floor. While there is a Linux version available for download, it appears that Stremio only works on 64 bit versions. Attempting to run it on my 32 bit operating system throws an error about the executable being in the wrong format -- which is exactly what you'd expect to see when attempting to run a 64 bit executable on a 32 bit operating system.
Does this mean that PopcornTime -- namely, the popcorntime.io version we've all come to love -- is dead? That depends on how you look at it. After some of the developers left, those who remained wanted to carry on the project. However, those who remained could not convince the host of the server that they were who they say they are. The developer who maintained the domain was among those who left, and was the one who shut the server down. As a result, the remaining developers have moved to the Butter Project. However, there are no binaries yet offered on their website. There is quite a bit of activity on the binaries on GitHub, where they are currently under development.
While the developers over at the Butter Project state that they would in no way stream content that has even one shred of doubt about copyright, they also state that users can stream movies and TV shows. Either they have a very warped view of what content is copyrighted (which is almost all of it), or what they offer will be of little to no use. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until the Butter Project binaries are released to see which it is ... unless you compile your own from the files on GitHub.
There are many who proclaimed that it was too good to last. Technology has a way of outpacing marketing models and the laws. Plus, with the MPAA filing suit against users who were streaming content from torrents, the handwriting has been on the wall for a while. Whatever service you choose to replace popcorntime.io, I would strongly recommend using a good, anonymizing VPN to mask your activity, and to provide you some protection from the often overreaching legal arms of the MPAA.
Until next month, I bid you peace, happiness, serenity and prosperity.