Blog Post

File sharing is alive and well, to the tune of 300 million users a month

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Surprise: P2P isn’t dead, after all. 300 million users swap files via BitTorrent every month, according to new numbers from media intelligence startup Tru Optik, which estimates that every month, more movies and TV shows get downloaded by file sharers than are sold on iTunes, (S AAPL) Google (S GOOG) Play and Amazon (S AMZN) together.

And we’re not just talking about users in countries where media would otherwise be inaccessible. Users in the U.S. download more movies, TV shows, music and software than any other country, according to Tru Optik. The only exception to this rule is video games, where users in Brazil are more active than their U.S. counterparts.

Image courtesy of Tru Optik.
Image courtesy of Tru Optik.

These numbers run counter to common wisdom, which assumes that file sharing has slowed down significantly, thanks in part to legal pressure and in part to the growing popularity of paid services like Netflix. (s NFLX) Traffic management company Sandvine, for example, recently pointed out that Netflix is now responsible for 34.2 percent of all peak downstream traffic, whereas BitTorrent only accounts for 3.4 percent of all peak downstream traffic, a number that has been continuously declining.

Tru Optik CEO Andre Swanston called these numbers misleading when I asked him about it. “There is a false assumption made that there is a correlation between percentage of network bandwidth and active monthly users or numbers of files downloaded,” he told me, adding that Sandvine only measured the relative share of all network bandwidth, which naturally declined as Netflix got more popular.

“Whether it’s Netflix, Facebook, or the New York Times, size, growth or decline of all types of mass media is measured by the number of subscribers and users,” Swanston argued. An estimated share of network traffic simply didn’t make sense to judge a medium’s popularity.

However, a problem has been that file sharing hasn’t been all that easy to quantify. Tru Optik wants to change that, and the company is now launching a P2P data analytics API that promises real-time access to file sharing data. “In the month of March, we connected with over 150 million unique IPs just from the top 7000 torrents on (the) Pirate Bay,” Swanston said. That data could power personalized content recommendations and help brands and media companies understand what consumers really want, he told me — which seems to be more than just Netflix.

5 Responses to “File sharing is alive and well, to the tune of 300 million users a month”

  1. Ridiculous conclusion. Each year more technologically savvy people are added to the population pool. Of course users will increase, that doesn’t mean it has to necessarily negatively impact the industry being “pirated”.

  2. lyadba

    Duh! as Homer Simpson says Facts can be used to prove anything…. Give me some crayons , paper and numbers and I can give you a graph that shows you whatever you want.

  3. Valentine North

    Incomplete data and false conclusions.
    Visiting the link:
    it says -5.7% for tracks and -0.1% for albums decrease in digital music sales, but they don’t mention anywhere things like streaming. Which practically exploded in the past few years.

    Then, they compare the numbers of the first hit on iTunes with all torrents, of the same song. Skewed …

    Of course, I just find it strange, they have such straight up numbers like 200% and 300% increases.

    To put it plainly, infographics are not real information.

  4. MediaInsanity

    Which means that less than 5% of the world’s population is file sharing. Along with the 3.4% of internet traffic figure (vs. 34% for Netflix), it clearly shows that it’s a negligible problem, and that it will never be eradicated. Instead of fighting a losing battle, the media industry should focus on the message that if you build a better alternative, people will flock to it over file sharing.

    • Boy are you a moron. Did this 5% flock over now that we have Netflix and other tools? Nope. They’re scofflaws.

      If anything, the number hasn’t risen because of the legal fight. We should fight harder against the scum who make money off of other people’s work.