In early 2014, Popcorn Time turned the consumer end of the piracy world upside down. Utilizing a BitTorrent backend and a beautiful interface, Popcorn Time certainly lived up to its promise of being the Netflix for Pirates. Adopted by millions of users, it soon became a household name.
In the months and years to come, Popcorn Time grabbed hundreds of headlines. However, aside from the app’s success, much of what followed was negative in tone as the entertainment industries struggled to contain this new kid on the block.
Since then, of course, Kodi and its numerous illicit third-party addons have become massive news, stepping over Popcorn Time to become the most talked about and consumer-friendly of piracy tools. In the background, however, other applications have been making steady and indeed somewhat stealthy progress.
One of these applications is Terrarium TV. Built exclusively for the Android platform and equally at home on a phone, tablet, streaming stick or set-top box, this software has gained a cult but significant following. For those out of the loop, it will be the most important piracy app they’ve never heard of, despite its Facebook page alone attracting close to 200,000 members.
In many respects, Terrarium TV resembles Popcorn Time. It has a beautiful Netflix-style interface, pulling movie and TV show artwork and metadata from several sources to make what some consider to be the best all-in-one streaming app for Android, period. While Kodi is no doubt powerful and Popcorn Time has one hell of a reputation, Terrarium TV makes viewing simplicity itself. And it really does cater to everyone.
If people are worried about Popcorn Time due to its BitTorrent-based streaming, Terrarium TV has that covered. Every single stream offered by the app is conjured up from public sources such as file-hosting sites and even GoogleVideo. On the whole, streaming is of an extremely high-quality with dozens of sources offered for most content, whether that’s the latest Hollywood movies, blockbuster TV shows, or decades-old rarities.
The quality is impressive too. While 4K rips are best left to the BitTorrent crowd with bandwidth to spare, Terrarium TV manages to conjure up a bewildering range of content in an impressive array of qualities. HD is commonplace and barely a search goes by without a corresponding source alongside. And with multi-language subtitle and Chromecast support, the icing is placed on top of what is an extremely competent cake.
But despite all the accolades, Terrarium TV has an uncertain future.
Over a week ago TerrariumTV.com – the site from where the application has been seamlessly delivered for some time – suddenly disappeared without trace. There was no announcement on Facebook, no announcement on Twitter. Even the moderators on the fairly active Terrarium TV subreddit seemed to have few ideas as to what was going on.
Theories are numerous but most center around the developer, who’s resident in Asia, going on some kind of hiatus. Why that would require the Terrarium TV website to be taken down isn’t clear. Neither does it explain why the Terrarium TV site Github repo was taken down too.
But alongside the ‘break’ theory is one that legal trouble, either actual or simply the fear of it, is what’s underlying the apparent limbo in which the app now sits. That was confirmed this week by the developer, who told one of the app’s subreddit moderators that he’d be lying low, at least for a while.
“I’ve decided to shut down the official website and maybe soon will also shut down the Github repository hosting the apk files in order to avoid any potential legal issues,” he said.
“There has been no cease and desist letters, no lawyers at the door, no seizing of the website. Ad free is not involved. It has been purely a precautionary measure. I want to take a break for a while (maybe a few weeks) first.”
After a short exchange in the summer, Terrarium TV’s developer didn’t return our recent requests for comment but if he had, we’d have certainly asked him about the future development of the app, framed around the Popcorn Time situation.
Despite many legal attacks, the open source nature of Popcorn Time allowed the project to ‘fork’ in several different directions, with various teams continuing development. Terrarium TV, on the other hand, is closed source meaning that when it’s gone, it’s possibly gone for good.
At the moment it’s still available for download from sources listed in the sidebar of its dedicated subreddit but whether the dev will decide to revisit the project again is unclear at this point. If he does not, it seems likely that the system will degrade over time although at the moment it carries out its tasks automatically, which is impressive in itself.
In the meantime, its hundreds of thousands of users will just have to cross everything – and wait.