For as long as there’s been an Internet, there has been Internet piracy—and for many years now, torrent sites have simply seemed inevitable, as invincible as they are maligned. According to recent data, however, the reign of torrent sites may actually be coming to a close. Torrent sites are experiencing dwindling popularity—and while they’re not yet a thing of the past, they’ve taken enough of a hit that anti-piracy efforts have been declared successful, at least to a degree.
Tough Times for Torrent Sites
Just consider some of these facts and figures. At the beginning of 2013, the popular website The Pirate Bay—a leading destination among torrenters—was ranked as the 73rd most-visited website in the entire world. Now, it’s receiving only a fifth of the traffic it did back in its prime—a significant fall from grace.
Meanwhile, at the end of last year, the bandwidth-management company Sandvine reported that U.S. traffic to torrent sites had dropped by 20 percent, in the span of just six months. Many leading torrent sites are experiencing free falls in their traffic and web rankings, on par with what Pirate Bay has experienced; a few have actually been shut down altogether by the United States government.
Anti-Piracy Efforts Paying Off
What is most significant about these torrential declines, though, is that they seem to be the direct result of anti-piracy efforts. While torrent sites are notoriously non-responsive and non-compliant—conforming with Internet policy changes only when more or less forced to—anti-piracy messaging seems to be having a major, if delayed effect.
So what have anti-piracy activists been doing to see these torrent sites shut down? Specific efforts include escalating complaints to hosts and registrars, which often forces torrent sites to switch hosts and domains, losing search engine rankings in the process. (It’s not unlike a brick-and-mortar store having to change both its name and location every few months; even if you like the store, there will come a point at which it’s just not worth the effort to follow it.) In other instances, the complaints from anti-piracy activists lead to massive down times, which is a huge frustration to torrent site users—for obvious reasons.
Anti-piracy activists have also requested that all the major search engines—not just Google, but also Yahoo and Bing—deindex these torrent sites, and the search engines often comply. This keeps old and new torrent domains alike from saturating the search listings; Google, meanwhile, has claimed to reduce rankings for sites that infringe on existing copyrights.
Torrents Losing Luster
The torrent business isn’t what it used to be, in other words—and the loss of luster comes down to more than just down times, lost traffic, and plummeting search engine rankings. Activists and their attorneys have gone after torrent sites with lawsuits, as well as collection efforts—all of which has made torrenting seem a lot less appealing than it used to.
Critically, though, the downward spiral of torrent sites isn’t attributable to anti-piracy movements alone. Torrent sites are also facing competition in the form of Netflix, Google Play, and Spotify—sites that are legitimate and require payment, but also allow users to obtain content much easier, and at a much higher level of quality, than they’d find at torrent sites.
The Big Picture
Still, there’s something to be said for the anti-piracy movement. While it’s a frustrating thing to think of how slow the progress has been, and day-to-day efforts often seem futile, the big picture is much more positive. There has been much progress made against torrent sites and online piracy—and hopefully, more to come!