For the first time, BitTorrent traffic has declined in the United States, a trend that is said to be caused by more available legal alternatives, such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Prime, and similar streaming and digital-download services. On the flip side, torrenting has continued to increase in Europe, and the most likely reason is similar, if unfortunate — there are less legal means of acquiring content, and so viewers seek illegal copies.
Such information comes from the Global Internet Phenomena Report: 2H 2013 from Sandvine, which shows that overall BitTorrent traffic is down to 7-percent. This represents a 20-percent decrease over the past half year. Contrast this with 2003, where the same report shows that BitTorrent traffic amounted to 60-percent of Internet traffic. Netflix has taken up more than half of that number on its own, and other legal video services make up quite a bit more.
In Europe, about 50-percent of uploads are attributed to BitTorrent, which is a drastic difference. Though legal alternatives are the major reason for torrent decreases, it is worth noting that punitive actions can also be credited to a certain degree, such as the six-strikes system in the United States. In other locations, BitTorrent has been blocked outright by ISPs in an effort to curb piracy.
Said Ernesto Van Der Dar of TorrentFreak in a statement to the BBC: “If this trend continues I think it can most likely be explained by the increase in legal alternatives people have in the United States. In Europe and other parts of the world, it’s much harder to watch recent films and TV shows on demand so unauthorised BitTorrent users continue to grow there.” While dedicated torrent users are unlikely to be attracted to for-pay options, it is likely that overall torrenting will continue to decrease if the past decade is anything to go by.