Joined Sep 2007 Deductive Reasoner, Sr.
PSA: How Kodi's infamous streaming add-ons actually work (and what's happening when they don't work)
December 31, 2017 at 06:42 PM
If you read nothing else from this post, please just read the first section, below. It explains 90% of what you need to know with a simple example that doesn't even use Kodi, and anyone can try via most any web browser.
Sections covered in this tutorial/rant:
You can be your own Covenant/etc "add-on"...
Sections covered in this tutorial/rant:
- You can be your own Covenant/etc "add-on"
- When things don't go perfectly
- Index Sites are easy but Host Sites are much, much harder
- Ahem... I heard Real-Debrid/etc could magically give you more links
You can be your own Covenant/etc "add-on"...
As mentioned above, Kodi+Covenant isn't doing anything you can't do yourself with just a web browser ... which is because almost all of the most "infamous" streaming addons do little more than background-visit a few key websites and then show you the resulting video.When things don't go perfectly...
For this example, let's say you want to watch s44e21 of the PBS series Nova. You would start with something as absurdly simple as googling for "watch nova online free". Among the results would probably be a few websites familiar to many of us: CouchTuner, 123Hulu, WatchSeries, etc. These websites privately curate their own highly-prized lists of links to video files available via OTHER websites, and organize them into a searchable index.
For the purposes of this example, somewhere in those google results would be a link to the site SeriesFree. You could pull up that site on any web browser and navigate to the show, season, and episode and be presented with a variety of links to other websites that actually host the video files. These host sites allow a user to view a video file embedded right there in a webpage. ...and that's it. Boom, you're done, as simple as this image depicts:
In this example, SeriesFree only had a few links, and both of the ones I tried were both still valid, but that is certainly not always the case. Host Sites will often remove links due to DMCA threats/etc. Similarly many Index Sites will only choose to a few of the most popular/recent shows, sometimes leaving a user to try many Index Sites & Hosts before landing on a good video stream. Note that usually, both the Index Site and the Host Sites (SeriesFree and OpenLoad/Vidzi in this example) usually have ads and popups absolutely everywhere -- which makes sense because that's how they make money. FYI, visiting on mobile platforms is usually a lot less messy than via a desktop web browser.
This is pretty much all that a "universal" streaming addon (like Covenant) does, inside Kodi. Rather than googling for "watch XYZ online free", streaming addons usually have their own hard-coded list of dependable-ish Index Sites that will include the likes of CouchTuner, 123Hulu, WatchSeries, etc. And instead of having to manually visit many Index Sites to see if it has links to your show, the addon does it for you and compiles a big master list, all in the background.
Covenant (like other streaming addons you might have used in Kodi) doesn't have your eyes and years of skill at avoiding deceptive ads, popups, redirects, and other shady tricks that websites employ to get more clicks and make more money... so some kind soul had to write instructions, in the form of python code, to tell a computer exactly how to get the indexed links and video URLs off of any particular website. Here's a screenshot of just some of the ones that were used by the now-defunct (but still very good) Covenant addon:Index Sites are easy but Host Sites are much, much harder...
Covenant is a good example because it's currently in the early stages of deterioration after having been abandoned due to legal scares following the absurdity around the Zem lawsuits . Many of its original Index Sites will still produce links to add to the master list for any particular search, but for various reasons, many others no longer can. Just taking a quick glance inside these python scripts can often tell you why:
......A moment of silence for those Index Sites we have lost..........
For the purposes of discussion, please keep in mind that you probably have some familiarity with many Host Sites, already. Their ranks include RapidGator, Uptobox, Vidme, Openload, Vidzi and many other sites that are often referred to as "cyber lockers ".Ahem... I heard Real-Debrid/etc could magically give you more links...
Although an addon could just as easily include its own python scripts for both Index and Host sites, most of them only include instructions for Kodi to sort through Index Sites. Host sites really, really don't want to make it easy for you to get at their videos directly: hosting all that data and using all that bandwidth isn't cheap, and they would prefer you accidentally clicked on a ton of ads first!! These sites will regularly make changes to their sites to trip up anyone who has a dependable way of getting to the juicy juicy video links... which is really their only defense since they ...probably... don't have permission to host these files so they can't really complain to anyone. Luckily, the Kodi-addon community has a couple 800-pound code-unscrambling gorillas on its side by the names of NaNScrapers and URLResolver. These "dependencies" are used by most of the "universal" streaming addons and are maintained by a small army of volunteer coders... so even though Covenant is no longer under development, it still mostly works because it delegates most of the hard work to these gorillas. They work in a fashion very similar to that already demonstrated for Index Sites, but you should know they are pretty different, separate functions.
This is very important to keep in mind, if for no other reason than to understand that there are multiple points of failure when using a streaming addon: Index Sites can change and/or go away ... and same for Host Sites. I'd like to think most properly motivated slickdealers now have the knowledge to look a little deeper into why their particular usage case isn't working well themselves, rather than helplessly post on forums.
That's not how it works. Don't expect miracles. And don't craptalk a service for not working the way you want it to, if that's not actually how it works.edit: 3 of the 4 images I originally attached to this post are inexplicably gone... I'm re-attaching and re inline-tagging them now but ... who knows if they'll stay?
I recently posted a deal about a subscriptions sale that RD was having, and got a little itchy reading through the comments. I wrote this whole post so that a reader would have the appropriate background to understand what "debrid" services actually do, since many MANY people seem to look at them like the blackest of magics. Real-debrid and similar sites adjust the video stream links for some, but not all, Host Sites. Why some? Well you probably have, at least once, tried to download a file from a cyberlocker type Host and been greeted with two buttons: one for "SLOOOOWW" download, and one for "FAST!!!" ... the FAST! link is reserved for paying members of that website.
When you pay for premium membership to Real-debrid/etc, you're getting access to the fast lane of MANY cyberlockers all at once. (RD lists their supported hosts here .) I don't pretend to know anything about the business side of how they arrange this, but it's pretty neat and works well. A user can copy/paste a URL for a desired file into a box/form on the RD website, and behind the scenes, RD would began a fast-lane download on your behalf. I'm not sure about other sites, but all RD downloads come from RD servers, rather than those of the individual cyberlockers.
Hopefully you see now why RD will not magically create streams out of thin air -- they have to exist somewhere first. ...And that 'somewhere' needs to be a Host Site that offers premium service. ...And that Host Site needs to be one that is supported by RD/etc. Many cyberlocker Host Sites will ONLY offer premium downloads, and that is the one single way you will see *new* sources in your streaming addon, rather than just faster access to many of them. ... it's not an all-powerful downloading panacea but it's a definite improvement!!!
Bringing it back to the start of this post, every user has the power to check if Real-debrid is working or not... it's quite simple to look at Covenant's results and pull up the video in question with a web browser. It's just as simple to copy/paste that link into Real-debrid's website and get the debrid-ized link for direct download and skip Kodi altogether. ...and that is exactly what you should do before blaming RD for not doing something you think it should be doing.
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