Streaming vs Torrenting

According to Google Trends, people’s interest in the keyword “Streaming” (in red) surpassed the interest of “Torrent” (in blue) around 2015.

But streaming and torrenting came from different backgrounds; their history is entirely unrelated. Around 2009, the entire Internet was booming with torrent traffic. And the slow decrease in interest across time was due to different factors, from new torrent restrictions, the battle against pirate sites, and the rise of streaming platforms.

Why would anyone bother to download media torrents anymore, when torrenting has a risk connotation and streaming makes media accessible without too much hassling?

Table of Contents.

  1. From Torrenter to Streamer.
  2. The New Wave of Streaming.
  3. Torrent vs Streaming: A Brief Comparison.
  4. Streaming and Torrenting: What’s Happening Today?
  5. Torrents Are Not Dying, They’re Transforming.

From Torrenter to Streamer.

In 2009, about eleven years ago, torrenting was a booming industry. A study claims that P2P file transferring took from 43% – 70% of the entire Internet traffic. The P2P protocol was viral, and there weren’t too many restrictions.

Although P2P torrenting is still not illegal, people, especially “Millenials” seem to have switched their focus elsewhere.

In 2019 there was another study performed by the Intellectual Property and Youth Scoreboard that stated, “51% of young people, between 15-24 years, in Europe didn’t do any online piracy for at least one year”. This percentage of the population found new ways to entertain themselves outside the domains of piracy.

So where did that massive wave of 2009’s torrent users go?

While still torrenting is very popular, it has clearly been tampered down by the countless novel streaming platforms like Netflix, Youtube, and HBO, or by the free streaming sites like 123movies. Some of those legacy torrent users are now finding easier ways to entertain themselves. Why go through that tiresome and cumbersome torrenting process, when they can just play a stream with a single click of a button?

The New Wave of Streaming.

Although streaming is nothing new, it seems to be taking off lately… And this raise in popularity is because as compared to 10 years ago… today streaming works! And this is likely to be caused by the availability of fast Internet bandwidth and fast processing devices.

Now we have access to 100Mbps or 1Gbps, or even dedicated 10 Gbps speeds at the reach of our hands, Content Delivery Networks that reduce latency by bringing content literally closer to us.

Smartphones and smart TVs can automatically adapt their streaming quality and save precious bandwidth resources. Even if the bandwidth fails, transcoding servers can send the right bitrate and quality for the right bandwidth.

Popular Seedbox providers are also adapting their torrenting servers and providing streaming features in all of their boxes. Now seedbox users can download torrents and stream them from any device anywhere in the world.

Torrent vs Streaming: A Brief Comparison.

Torrent and streaming are very different. One is a method for file transferring and the other is for media playback. Torrenting and streaming in fact may complement each other.

Below we’ll provide a brief comparison based on media consumption experience and not functionality. Serious torrents seem to prefer content ownership and shareability over comfortability. While the streamers prefer comfortability and experience.


   1. Streams are ephemeral. Although you can access a movie stream online, again and again, it is never really yours. You are accessing the file from third-party storage, and playing as the file downloads. Once you hit the “Back” or “Stop,” the movie disappears.


   2. Streams require to be always online. In order to stream, you have to be online. So to stream something in 4K on a remote island is nearly impossible. But you could enjoy your media library on this island with your already downloaded torrent files.


  3. Torrents are permanent. Streaming and torrenting consume a similar amount of resources, but there is a difference. Why would someone spend their bandwidth and data streaming media while torrenting the same file utilizes the same amount of resources and becomes ever-present? With torrenting, users get to keep the content for as long as they want. But storing content on-premises also leads to challenging storage demands.


  4. Torrenting takes space. While streaming instances are ephemeral, torrents are permanent. Since torrenting requires storing media content on-premises, the files can be played anytime on any device. When you want to see a movie again, you’ll not need to connect to the Internet again and consume additional bandwidth.

Streaming and Torrenting: What’s Happening Today?

The battle against free streaming sites is the same battle against torrenting that begun in 2009. Sites like 123 movies or Putlocker are continuously being put down because their content is built from copyright torrents.

But this is not slowing down anytime soon.

The comeback of Popcorn Time will attract thousands of users. Their site clearly states on their website that their streams are made from torrents. Their enormous servers with thousands of movies allow you to browse, search, choose and play, just like it was a free Netflix.

Similarly the historical public torrent index Pirate Bay has released the new BayStream project which works similar to Youtube, where you can choose from the massively large torrents index, play, stop, fast forwards, and forget about it.

But even the streaming behemoths such as Netflix have utilized torrenting in some way or the other. According to an article from Forbes, Netflix monitors the trends of illegal torrent downloads, sorts these trends according to geography, and buys the movies and shows that are on high demand (from country to country).

Torrents Are Not Dying, They’re Transforming.

“Streaming vs Torrenting” is a really no-win battle. In fact, they are not even competitors, they complement each other. It is believed that the whole scenario of delivering media content will ultimately become “hybrid”.

The file-sharing mechanisms— Torrents and BitTorrent as we know them, will not disappear anytime soon. What will change is how we consume the media coming from torrents.

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