Type of site
|Online file hosting index|
|Country of origin||Vietnam|
|Users||98 million at peak|
|Current status||Offline (clones and copy sites are still available)|
123Movies, GoMovies, GoStream, MeMovies or 123movieshub was a network of file streaming websites operating from Vietnam which allowed users to watch films for free. It was called the world's "most popular illegal site" by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in March 2018, before being shut down a few weeks later on foot of a criminal investigation by the Vietnamese authorities. As of July 2022[update], websites imitating the brand remain active.
The site went through several name changes after being shut down from different domains; sometimes the name appeared as "123Movies", and other times as "123movies". The original name, and URL, was 123movies.to, which changed to other domains including 123movies.is before redirecting to gomovies.to and later gomovies.is. It was changed to gostream.is, and then to memovies.to, before changing to 123movieshub.to/is and remaining there until shutdown.
In October 2016, the MPAA listed 123Movies in its Online Notorious Markets overview to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), stating that: "The site has a global Alexa rank of 559 and a local rank of 386 in the U.S. 123movies.to had 9.26 million worldwide unique visitors in August 2016 according to SimilarWeb data". In October 2016, Business Insider reported that 123movies.to was the "most-used pirate website" in the United Kingdom.
123Movies included HD, HD-RIP, Blu-ray and camera qualities of films. The video hosters and players it used included Openload, Streamango, and MyCloud. During its existence and shutdown period, the site was covered by TorrentFreak regarding its features, uptime/downtime, shutdown, and reasons for shutdown.
In December 2017, the creators of 123movies launched another streaming site dedicated to anime, named AnimeHub.to, which remained online for months after 123Movies's shutdown.
In March 2017, TorrentFreak reported that the US ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius, had been in talks with the local Minister of Information and Communications, Truong Minh Tuan, about shutting down illegal video streaming sites operating from Vietnam, and listed 123movies as one specific site.
In October 2017, the MPAA listed 123Movies (and GoStream.is) in its Online Notorious Markets overview to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, stating that while the site was technically hosted from Ukraine that: "The site takes numerous steps to hide the identity of the operator, including using Cloudflare, but there is strong reason to believe the operator is still in Vietnam; content is uploaded using cyberlockers from numerous email accounts originating from Can Tho University of Medicine and Pharmacy".
In March 2018, the MPAA said that the site was the "most popular illegal site in the world", stated it was operated from Vietnam and estimated that it received 98 million visitors per month. On 19 March 2018, a note on the site's home page announced its shutdown, and urged users to "respect filmmakers by paying for movies and TV-shows".
In October 2018, the MPAA's update on Online Notorious Markets to the United States Trade Representative, said that the closure of 123movies, 123movieshub, gostream, and gomovies, on foot of a criminal investigation in Vietnam in 2018, was "an important development" in combatting illegal film piracy services. However, the MPAA report also noted that numerous copycat sites had emerged in at least eight other countries. In November 2018 TorrentFreak reported sites connected or similar to 123Movies such as WatchAsap had also been shut down by the FBI, but were re-directing to other file sharing sites. While the website was blocked in India, numerous clones proliferated in India in 2018.
123movies, now redirects to Gostream.is, the latest iteration of which is a very popular streaming website that embeds popular movie and series content from third-party cyberlockers. The site has undergone changes in 2016-2017, rebranding as gomovies in March 2017, and then the domain name registered as gostream in July 2017; it is believed this is due in part to highprofile pressure. Gostream currently has a global Alexa rank of 477 and a local rank of 170 in the U.S. Gostream (and its associated domains) garnered 18.45 million unique visitors in July 2017 according to SimilarWeb data.
An important development in 2018 was the shuttering of a ring of piracy services that had operated under the names 123movies, 123movieshub, gostream, and gomovies following the launch of a criminal investigation in Vietnam and significant industry engagement. Since its closure, many copycat sites have emerged. This ring of piracy services had been blocked in at least eight countries prior to its shut down and efforts are underway to shut down the copycats as well:
"Right now, the most popular illegal site in the world, 123movies.to (at this point), is operated from Vietnam, and has 98 million visitors a month," said Jan van Voorn, executive vice president & chief of Global Content Protection at the MPAA.
The site has a global Alexa rank of 559 and a local rank of 386 in the U.S. 123movies.to had 9.26 million worldwide unique visitors in August 2016 according to SimilarWeb data. The site is currently using a chain of reverse proxy services in the United States, Iran and Romania to curb rights holders' ability to identify its precise host.
The 123movies.to website is by far the largest target on the list. The site is currently the most used pirate site in the UK, and attracts millions of daily visitors around the globe. While the looming blockade will result in a temporary reduction in traffic, 123movies is already anticipating such measures. The streaming portal currently features a message alerting people that they have an alternative .ru domain available that may help to bypass blockades.
"Right now, the most popular illegal site in the world, 123movies.to (at this point), is operated from Vietnam, and has 98 million visitors a month," Van Voorn said, quoted by VNExpress.
According to a message posted on the site, it will close its doors at the end of the week. At the same time, the operators are now urging their users to respect filmmakers by paying for movies and TV-shows.
TorrentFreak points out that 123movies.to, one of the newly blocked sites, is actually the most-used pirate website in the UK.
123movies has previously attracted the attention of the office of the US Trade Representative, having been listed in its latest Notorious Markets report which highlights markets engaging in and facilitating substantial copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting. Last year the US Ambassador to Vietnam also requested the local Government criminally prosecute 123movies and other piracy sites running from the country.