In 2004, the player started to become known as XBMC (Xbox Media Center) and in 2008 the tool officially adopted this monicker. As it developed to become available on a broader range of its devices, XBMC’s goal largely remained the same, allowing hobbyists to arrange, catalog, and play digital media on their own devices in the friendliest way possible.
From Humble Beginnings, a Mighty Piracy Beast Emerged
When the big shift came for XBMC isn’t entirely clear but with the rise of Internet streaming and users’ access to plenty of bandwidth, third-party developers began creating a new generation of plug-ins (addons) for XBMC.
Instead of carrying out traditional and mostly content-neutral tasks, many were designed from the ground up to push pirated content to XBMC users, against XBMC’s developers’ wishes and to the outrage of copyright holders.
In August 2014, XBMC underwent a name change to Kodi but instead of throwing pirate developers and pirates off the scent, this only seemed to throw fuel on the fire.
From a solid but relatively humble decade-long development lead-in, the terms ‘Kodi’ and ‘piracy’ were rarely far from each other in thousands of mainstream articles, which (with ample assistance from copyright holders) demonized and at the same time accidentally promoted the tool as a piracy powerhouse.
Media Fueled Promotion of Piracy-Configured Kodi Installs
Certainly not overnight but with a noticeable progression, the Kodi software soon became synonymous with people watching movies, TV shows and live sports for free and with its Android compatibility, soon became the weapon of choice for millions of pirates on a global scale. Hollywood, among others, were not happy.
In February 2017, with Kodi popularity a seemingly unstoppable force, the MPAA labeled the software as the “$64,000 question” and one without an immediate answer. By November that same year, the Hollywood group claimed that while around 12 million people used the software legally, a further 26 million were enjoying it with third-party piracy addons.
Time For a Crackdown
Both before and after the MPAA’s assessments of massive Kodi usage by pirates, there were already signs of a crackdown.
In the summer of 2017, TVAddons, the-then largest repository of third-party Kodi addons, was targeted in a DISH lawsuit in the United States, something which prompted several developers to throw in the towel.
Not long after, TVAddons founder Adam Lackman found himself raided at the behest of some of Canada’s most popular media companies, legal action which is still active today. While that didn’t immediately put off the majority of developers still involved in the scene, more action was to come or was already underway.
Kodi Continues But the Pirate Market is Probably on the Decline
While there are still plenty of third-party Kodi addons available to facilitate access to infringing content, it now seems that for a number of reasons, the increased interest in Kodi for use as a piracy powerhouse seems to be on the decline.
Taking a look at Google Trends stats from August 1, 2014 (when XBMC changed to Kodi) to the present day August 2020, it appears that the search term ‘Kodi’ reached the peak of its popularity between February and April 2017. Today it’s just a fraction of what it was.
Similar trends reports for the same term (Kodi, specifically software) in other appropriate Google categories (computers & electronics etc) produce almost identical results and clearly map the same declining interest over time.
When looking at Google search trends for a related term, this time ‘Kodi addons’, what we see is a broadly similar pattern, with interest very high around the start and first quarter of 2017 and then a fairly rapid but steady descent to the present day.
It’s important to note, however, that neither of these trends charts represents the number of Kodi or Kodi addon downloads, only the amount of interest registered by Google users due to their searching for these products. Nevertheless, the signs are obvious that the popularity of both is on the decline.
The Strange But Perhaps Expected Conclusion: No One is Too Upset
From the Kodi team’s perspective, interest in Kodi has not fallen to such a point that it’s irrelevant now, but just to a level that isn’t being boosted by millions of pirates. Pirates that, incidentally, they’ve said on numerous occasions they do not want and wish they didn’t have.
So, in that respect, a bunch of pirates disappearing into the night won’t be a problem because, among other things, the piracy label should drift away too. Certainly, the mainstream media (particularly in the UK), have largely stopped printing piracy-focused Kodi articles, quite possibly because they noticed the SEO falloff over time and the diminishing returns.
Hardcore pirates probably won’t be too upset that Kodi isn’t as popular as it was in 2017 either, for many reasons. For one, less attention means less heat, so for the developers still involved in the addon game, there might be fewer resources targeted at them.
Secondly, the massive upswing in the availability of free dedicated Android streaming apps and paid IPTV cannot be ignored. Both of these will have helped to erode the market for pirate content available through Kodi since they are easier to install and on the whole, are comparably reliable. This will keep casual pirates happy as they still get their fix via a simplified experience.
Finally, while the MPAA might be pleased that Kodi pirates appear to be on the decline, they now have other things to contend with, i.e all of the mechanisms listed in the above paragraph that millions of pirates are enjoying, without having to resort to piracy through Kodi. Millions of people will still be using Kodi for piracy, of course, but it’s no longer the growing problem it once was.
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