The biggest advantage of illegal streaming service Popcorn Time is arguably that it's easy to use. The app — which is so influential that Netflix considers it a serious competitor — employs the same BitTorrent protocols that have been used to pirate movies and TV shows for years, but wraps them in a sleek user interface, minimizing confusion and lending the enterprise an air of legitimacy. It's perhaps no surprise, then, that Popcorn Time's creator — an Argentinian designer and programmer named Federico Abad — built the software with his mother in mind.
In a fantastic interview with Abad by Norwegian paper Dagens Naeringsliv (Google Translate version here), the 29-year-old says he was frustrated by having to wait as long as six months to see new movies, and that the usual pirating experience was too messy — full of pop-ups and porn ads. Instead, he used his mother as a case study, designing a program that she would find easy to use. His guiding principle? Anyone should be able to start watching the movie they want in just two clicks.
A lawyer visited Abad's LinkedIn profile to let him know he was being watched
Abad no longer works on Popcorn Time. Along with a community of volunteers, he built the software under the pseudonym Sebastian, but the effort cost him his relationship with his girlfriend. And once it became clear that maintaining the app would also lead to legal trouble (he says a lawyer from Warner Bros. visited the LinkedIn profiles of him and his fellow 'anonymous' developers to let them know they were being watched), he gave it up. However, the software is still being maintained by various groups, with Abad and his fellow founders supporting the popcorntime.io version.
Ultimately though, Abad thinks the lesson that studios should take from Popcorn Time is to introduce global premiers for movies rather than releasing them region by region. Copyright holders argue that the ability to sell the same content in different markets is what makes their businesses sustainable in the first place, but Abad thinks if movies are available quickly and easily, people will pay for them. Otherwise, they pirate.