Decline of Torrents – Challenges and Trends

We have a big torrent problem. There is no denying the decline of torrents, its clients and its overall popularity.

the decline of torrents
The steady decline of torrents is undeniable

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Torrents used to be extremely popular when we were younger. It is not that they are not anymore now. But their popularity seems to have taken a hit. The torrent clients used to fight fiercely in the recent past. We had/have the uTorrent, qTorrent, Vuze, Transmission fighting among each other to provide the best possible experience and performance. Do we hear about them as often now? Not really.

This is not a subjective statement. Let us look at the global trends for the search terms we used to give before downloading torrent clients for instance.

A direct comparison between a torrent client and one of their biggest enemies gives us this.

We can clearly see the trends here. 2009 was perhaps the best time for torrent users. Things have been on the decline ever since.

There are a number of reasons for this decline of torrents. Some of them are very obvious and is largely due to the action of legal actions initiated against some of the torrent listing websites like Pirate Bay and so on. But the issue is deeper than that.

What apparently explains the fall of torrent searches and rise of Netflix for instance is that people are switching away from piracy. That may be true. Let’s put this to the test with a search for another term here.

This is not the best indication to suggest anything. But it does prove that Netflix continues its upward trend.

This is indeed a global trend. So let’s reduce this to India for instance. India is quite famous (I won’t use the term notorious) for ‘circumventing’ licensing laws when possible. So checks restrict the search to India. It is a major market now and a significant proportion of the global search traffic generates here.

I must be fair. Netflix is not very popular here. Yet. Let’s check hotstar for a more appropriate comparison.

Things get more interesting now.

As you can see, it is on an average about 4 times more searched than torrent. Even in India, viewers are swaying away from pirated content. That is a very good sign for content creators in India.

Even the newly launched JioTV has comfortably defeated torrent searches for the region.

Major reasons for the decline of torrents

A number of major disruptions leading to the decline of torrents. Some of these are the following –

  1. Torrent is banned in most countries. This had limited impact, for a number of reasons.
  2. Pirate Bay is taken down
  3. Action against Kickass
  4. US Government blocks major torrent sites
  5. Indian Government blocks major torrent sites
  6. uTorrent becomes bloatware
  7. Kodi pirate streams

The percentage hit to torrent popularity to each of the above reasons require a much greater research effort. But what is clear is this – peer to peer downloads are falling and consumers are turning towards paid but better quality content. That is a good thing.

However, a distinction needs to be made between legitimate peer to peer and illegal file sharing. Several Linux distributions and open source projects also release torrent links. It makes sense to do that because hosting big files on dedicated servers is far pricier than having it shared among peers all over the world. That traffic, I hope, is not affected.

There are some lessons that we can learn as well. Peer to peer sharing should not die. Media companies have brought their licensing prices down as well. Overall, the consumers are going to benefit the most. If uTorrent treated you well before, consider switching to some of the free, open source and ethical software available. Here are your options.

If you are more adventurous and wish to stick to uTorrent bad enough, check out this fork for details. Installing an older version of uTorrent is not recommended.

The Kodi Angle

Kodi is a free and open source Home theatre software that you can run almost anywhere with a processor and a screen. While it is true that there has been a decline of torrents use, peer to peer piracy has to an extent shifted to peer to peer streaming instead of downloading. This article also shows that there has been a switch to direct downloads as well.

This may be true to an extent in the Western World. Let’s check it out in Google trends. If there is an increase in interest, search trends will show it. I am assuming people are using Kodi as the preferred client here. Since it is the most used, this is a fair assumption.

What we see for a worldwide average is this.

However, since the population of India and China are included herein – the numbers can be skewed. Let’s take Canada for instance and check the trends again.

Ok.

So it is clear that even though the popularity is significant, the trends are going down here as well. In fact, the results are commensurate with the search interest for torrents in general. So Kodi use is largely restricted to the already decline of torrents user base alone. It is not gaining new viewers in any major way from the rest of the populace.

Conclusion

This is not a problem. So I cannot offer a solution.

There are some ways you can improve your browsing habits though. Streaming is a good option if you have got a good internet connection ALL the time. This is not guaranteed if you are travelling. Both Netflix and Hotstar will be less than sufficient in such cases. At the same time, there is a dearth of good DRM free solutions to this day. This needs to change. Hopefully it will if demand rises in the near future.