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Amazon briefly broke its video streams, and pirates were first to complain

A recent change to Amazon Prime Video has lead to numerous complaints about a decline in the quality of the video streams. Although Amazon now appears to have fixed the issue, it was interesting to note that pirates were the most vocal complainers, rather than people who’d paid to stream this content legally. 

People first noticed something was up when the file sizes of their pirated downloads started to plummet by as much as a third, and bitrates declined by around a half, TorrentFreak reports.

Once the file sizes changed, people started looking at the quality of the videos themselves, and were shocked to discover that they now appeared to resemble a “blurry mess”, as one legitimate customer put it.

But the most vocal complaints came from the pirate community, who noted that Amazon appeared to have been switching haphazardly between H264 and H265 encoding, to the detriment of the overall file quality.

Peering behind the curtain

It’s ironic that it would be non-paying customers that delivered the harshest criticism of Amazon (you get what you pay for, after all), but it makes a certain amount of sense.

Firstly, these are the people that have chosen to not pay for the service, and to instead pirate the content. Seeing the quality of paid content decline is pretty validating when you’ve already decided that a company’s content isn’t worth your money.

But more interestingly is the fact that pirates had a much better means of establishing that a drop in quality had taken place than paying customers. If you’re paying for Amazon Prime Video then you’re accessing the streams through a slick interface that hides details about file-sizes and bitrates.

Meanwhile, anyone downloading the ripped files can see all this information directly, and will be able to have a much better idea of what might have gone wrong.

Regardless, Amazon appears to have now restored the original quality of its video streams, but as with any ongoing service it will inevitably continue to tweak its technology to find the right mix between video quality and file size.

Did you notice a drop in the quality of Amazon’s streams? Drop us a line @TrustedReviews.

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