BitTube — In Depth Review (TUBE)
BitTube was launched via their Bitcointalk ANN on January 31st, view it here. Originally called Interplanetary Broadcast Coin (taken from IPFS which we will discuss below), is less a coin and more a media platform akin to the likes of YouTube. Congrats to the community for winning our first “best of 8” poll to be selected, now on to the review!
Discord: Invite https://discord.gg/VbvFbFh , 2742 members and decent activity
Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/BitTube/, 392 subscribers
Telegram: https://t.me/ipbcenglish, 6777 members, good activity
Algo: CryptoNight Heavy variant
Max Supply: 1,000,000,000 TUBE, ~$35M marketcap at current prices
Current Circulation: 79,920,442 TUBE (~8% of total supply)
Top 100 Richlist: Not available (typical for CryptoNight coins)
Pre-mine: None* (see commentary)
Github: 21 repositories and 213 contributions in the last year.
Developer Fees: 3%, 9806 TUBE per day (~$344/day at current prices)
Wallets: GUI wallet, Windows & Mac OS
Exchanges: Upbit, Bittrex, TradeOgre, and Livecoin
Whitepaper: Whitepaper here.
Market Cap (on 8/21/18): $2,781,090/432 BTC
TUBE price (on 8/21/18): $0.034805/541 sats
Competition — We recommend checking out this article, while not impartial (written by an investor) it does a good job of listing other competitors and making direct comparison. At this point, we only feel comfortable comparing versus coins we’ve reviewed — and we’ve reviewed none of these competitors.
Block Reward: 438 TUBE, ~315k TUBE per day
Block Time: ~2 mins
Normally when reviewing an Altcoin, the fundamental utility of the coin is as an alternative currency to fiat, mimicking the utility of Bitcoin. Some of these coins have creative ways of adding value within the Cryptocurrency ecosystem (payment methodology, privacy, DApp platforms, exchanges, etc) but struggle to address themes that cross into the mainstream. Unique among the coins we’ve reviewed to date, BitTube strives to utilize their cryptocurrency to create a media platform where the Cryptocurrency plays a fundamental role, not merely a means to an end itself. Let’s explore this in more detail.
First, we encourage our readers to check out the official website of IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) here. IPFS was created at MIT and the vision was to improve on HTTP utilizing the bitcoin blockchain protocol to “create a better web”. There are ambitious goals at play: saving up to 60% of bandwidth costs, providing historical versioning, and aiding the reversal of the centralization trend across the web. This is game changing stuff that could change the backbone of the internet, but ongoing applications and development on top of IPFS will be critical to it being able to achieve these lofty objectives.
BitTube utilizes the IPFS Network to store its content, in a way that “democratizes data and returns it to the users.” The fundamental nature of IPFS is a Peer2Peer (P2P) network (a more sophisticated BitTorrent, i.e. node based vs seed based) which cannot be blocked by governments or organizations. There are pros and cons with this sort of setup and we’ll look to address two of the major factors that would come into play in a media platform like this, mainly (1) censorship and (2) illegal activities.
We’re mainly going to focus on illegal activities such as piracy/copyright violations and distribution of child pornography. When it comes to piracy, we’ve seen a lot of legal action that has impacted P2P networks going back nearly 20 years to the time of Napster. Any platform that launches utilizing a P2P network like BitTube, must therefore be diligent regarding how they address illegal activities on their platform or else risk being shut down by the likes of the RIAA or MPAA. We need to address this because a lawsuit from the industry would likely effectively shut down BitTube and crash its value. BitTube acts as a MetaTag DB search engine that merely displays links to foreign data stored on IPFS. BitTube states that they can never delete this data because they have no administrative access to it, and it’s the responsibility of the BitTube users that uploaded this content. BitTube also has created a proprietary AI-based pattern proof system, which can cross reference content and aid in determining copyright.
While the community will also police uploads of other illegal content such as child pornography to remove these items from the MetaTag DB. Removal of all this content will have to be manual and will likely lead to instances where this content is searchable via the BitTube site. Popularity of the platform and the responsiveness of the team will likely be the main determining factors on if BitTube comes on the radar of these industry associations or law enforcement, such as INTERPOL. If BitTube works with these groups and acts in good faith, we see little reason why it would result in legal issues — unless, again user volume dictates a “political” solution.
Censorship in social media is currently in the news due to the decision of Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. to ban Alex Jones from their platform. Regardless of what you think about the comments that Alex Jones makes, as a society we’re going to have to decide how we police hate speech as social media increasingly becomes the avenue of how people communicate with one another. A clear answer to address censorship and democratize content is to move away from corporate owned centralization to a decentralized approach. BitTube is working towards this objective, by utilizing IPFS, data is shared across the platform without the potential for censorship. That being said, it can still be removed from the website and made difficult to find without knowing the specific hash information of the content. While this isn’t a perfect example, it would effectively be like YouTube requiring content to be uploaded to Google Drive and then when an item is censored/removed they claim it wasn’t censorship because the upload is still available on Google Drive…but good luck accessing it. We fear that BitTube could still come under pressure to censor legal content. This is however less likely, because there are no large corporations sponsoring advertising on BitTube, therefore it would have to be the community that demands this censorship.
Content and Viewership
For BitTube to gain adoption, it must gain users from beyond the crypto space and begin to cross over into the mainstream. BitTube also must steal users away from the likes of Twitch or YouTube, which means it needs to (1) meet the needs of current YouTube/Twitch viewers, and (2) offer an improvement which will entice viewers to switch. Here are some of the main differentiators that we see might drive both users and content creators to the platform.
- No Commercials. Commercials are annoying, and they are commonplace in most modern media platforms that operate on a “no cost” model.
- Airtime, Paid to View. While originally BitTube utilized a percentage of a viewer’s CPU to mine BitTube while watching videos, they’ve moved away from this model in favor of their new Airtime model which calculates viewership rewards based on viewing time.
- Viewers. While a bit of a catch 22, if viewers are incentivized to use the BitTube platform, content creators will see the benefit of at least posting content on BitTube alongside positing on other platforms. BitTube has made this easier by offering a YouTube connector, which largely works well but has issues handling some older video types.
- Fair Distribution. On traditional platforms if you have many subscribers and live in a wealthy country you are likely to get paid more, per click, than if you have fewer subscribers and live in a poorer country. BitTube looks to equalize this, paying all content creators equally for their airtime. This may be a negative for people living in wealthy countries that already have a large following on YouTube.
- Payment. As seen above in how rewards are distributed by BitTube vs how other platforms do it, the goal is to increase payments to publishers of content while decreasing the amount that goes towards overhead. Airtime is still relatively new, and payments will vary due to the amount of usage on the platform, so it will take time to see if payments via BitTube are truly better than what can be achieved on other platforms. But below is a snapshot of some recent payments. If you look at the explorer for user mineyourbiz, who has some of the more popular videos on Bitube, you see these values:
First, there is a great article that the BitTube team posted that walks through the payment model and projections of payments as adoption increases — you can view that here.
Based on this, we can get a quick snapshot of what earnings have been as of late, but again this will continue to evolve based on the number of users and content on the platform. This shows that as a creator you can earn ~1833 TUBE ($62.35)/10k minutes of viewing, as a creator of content and ~857 TUBE ($29.16)/10k minutes of viewing as a viewer. While this doesn’t sound like a lot, mineyourbiz earns ~$91/day in passive income on BitTube, while likely earning a fair amount on YouTube as well. Again, these are dynamic numbers that are illustrative, but as a content provided you should do your own due diligence.
Problem here though is with adoption, the awards per viewer and per creator decrease — I think of this like Masternode rewards, the more Masternodes there are, the less revenue YOUR Masternode brings in. If BitTube’s price doesn’t increase enough to sustain increases in volume, it likely will result in a reduction in average earnings per hour of viewership.
Especially when it comes to CryptoNight Algorithm coins, it’s increasingly rare to have the entire team disclosed in the whitepaper. BitTube’s Headquarters is located in Tenerife, Spain — which is in the Canary Islands. Not only a beautiful location that would be appealing for potential workers, it offers a business-friendly climate. The talent pool on the island is somewhat small, but the location is such to be able to gain interest from strong candidates from across the world. The team itself is fairly large, as you can see in the picture and in the bio’s available to all investors. Due to the nature of BitTube, most of the manpower and development of BitTube is going to be focused on the platform itself and less on the cryptocurrency. The financials behind a project like this are going to be totally different from many cryptocurrency projects, it’s not a side project for a couple of talented developers, it’s a media platform bolstered & enabled by its cryptocurrency. We expect that most revenue from the team will need to evolve from the current ~$344/day in development fees to support this large of a team. We’ll discuss some of these concerns later as well.
We’ve seen in their ability to at least migrate to the CryptoNight Heavy variant that the team can fork their cryptocurrency and potentially incorporate advances that other CryptoNight coins launch, but we don’t expect BitTube to create these advancements themselves.
Pre-Mine/Fair Launch FUD
At launch of BitTube, there was some substantial FUD around a bug in the tail emission code that caused blocks at launch to reward 10,000 TUBE vs the intended reward of 454 TUBE — a more than 20x increase. This bug existed for the first 1636 blocks and amounted to 16,360,000 TUBE being distributed in the first day. With ~80M TUBE currently in circulation, this bug distributed essentially 20% of the current total supply in the first day. In fairness, the team quickly corrected this bug when it was communicated & it only existed for less than 24 hours after launch. Accidents and errors happen in many launches, so this error does not mean that anything nefarious took place, but we do want to call out a couple things:
- After launch, users reported the following “240 mil difficulty and 180+ miners after 12 hours from the official ann?”
- Also, via the ANN, the team stated that of the ~16M TUBE created during the bug — they held 4M of them.
Again, we cannot find proof of nefarious action by the team, it feels strange that at launch the team had 25% of the hashing power on the network during the “bug period” — when users were already commenting on the difficulty/number of miners. The other impact of this bug is that 75% of these coins (15% of total supply) was in the hands of early miners. Many early miners are notable speculators who quickly accumulate coins early when difficulty is low, and rewards are high, to dump as the coin hits exchanges and/or increases in price. These early miners will likely continue to put downward pressure on the price of BitTube as they continue to sell off their coins in this downward market.
While BitTube can make it harder to find illegal items that have been uploaded to IPFS via BitTube, it is not able to permanently remove this content. We mentioned Napster earlier in the review, it’s been shown via various lawsuits and raids that global law enforcement extends responsibility upon these platforms beyond their actual capability — but a better comparison point to BitTube would be The Pirate Bay. The Pirate Bay was merely a means of accessing and uploading content to the BitTorrent protocol, once someone started to seed a song or movie, it was nearly impossible for them to remove the content — due to its P2P network. We fear the same would likely be the case for BitTube — regardless of their ability to remove content, they may be forced to shut down https://bit.tube. Here’s an example, a quick search of recent movies pulls up a full version of “Ready Player One”. It hasn’t received many views (51 views) but the fact that it’s on the platform and uploaded by someone other than the movie studio, here lies the risk to the platform.
They’ve done a good job at finding ways to ensure that copyright holders are compensated for their work, but that assumes the artist/studio feels that this payment is adequate. Via their roadmap, the team addresses so called “premium” content of licensed popular videos and music. The stated plan is to make these streams available via a premium plan paid with BitTube. There are several issues with this: (1) YouTube has ads but largely doesn’t charge for most content, (2) This would be competing with the likes of Spotify or Apple TV, which have larger catalogs, but charge a fee, and (3) would require these artists and movie studios to be willing to make a deal with (or even be aware of) BitTube. If BitTube becomes just a platform for enthusiasts vs mainstream artists, it will struggle to gain a meaningful share of the market.
Finally, hosting IPFS nodes is somewhat difficult and expensive to pay others to do. Largely these nodes are being hosted by BitTube, and there are come claims of “Centralization” due to this. This is really centralization by necessity vs centralization for the sake of control — users can set up IPFS nodes themselves to support the network and decrease this centralization. We do find risk with these nodes being held by BitTube with relation to shutdown risk — action by a local ISP in Spain could substantially limit the network. Ideally, more BitTube supporter will host nodes and potentially the BitTube team could devise an incentive strategy to compensate these node operators.
If you look at our other reviews, we are strong proponents of developer teams having a solid strategy of how to monetize a coin to further enable its ongoing development. BitTube has instituted a per block reward structure of around 3% which is extremely fair and in line with other projects that we’ve reviewed. The development fee is help pay for the costs of a project like this: ongoing development, maintaining platform, marketing and exchange listing fees. Also, the project is implementing features that will move more towards paid content — we’ll talk more about this below. This revenue is said to allow BitTube to pay content providers more, but there is no structure currently in the whitepaper for how these fees will be utilized and how much will be kept by the development team. Much of these added payments appear to go directly to the developers, it will be interesting to see if they burn these coins or what the strategy will be.
We’re still working on clarifying this with developers, but it’s pending at the time of the review and we did not want to hold up the review due to this. Being able to watch videos on a mobile device via an app will be an important factor to mainstream success. We’ve read that there are difficulties on iOS with being able to access the IPFS network, due to some technical issues we don’t fully understand. We’ve asked the Discord channel about this and the response was that BitTube operates on a custom version of IPFS. We’re not sold on this answering our question, and it raises some other potential issues — but we’ll continue to research and report back.
UPDATE: The team responded that “the bittube custom IPFS is portable to any OS (i.e. linux and mac too) and acts as a gateway/search engine of its own nodes (fallback+users) and the wider ipfs nodes together. It was such a pain to get right that it apparently took the devs more than a year”.
Our feedback on this update is the following: All of this talk of “custom” ipfs concerns us a bit — we feel like it’s being used as a means to explain certain technical issues away. To our knowledge, the team has shared any of these details around the nature of this custom version of IPFS — therefore it’s difficult for us to confirm or deny. We believe there likely has been some customization — which allows the local nodes to act as the main gateways for bit.tube, likely speeding content delivery and reducing bandwidth. We struggle to bridge the gap to “this allows us to port to iOS, even though others have failed to do so”. Even if BitTube Developers were some of the best in the business, it doesn’t mean they’re capable of solving a problem that hasn’t yet been solved for ipfs as a whole. Also, the entire talk in the whitepaper is around BitTube essentially just being a MetaTagDB to the broader IPFS — no mention of a custom IPFS.
We are not IPFS experts nor do we have intimate knowledge of this custom version of IPFS that BitTube has deployed, they may be entirely correct in that their version of IPFS can allow them to do some interesting things that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. We look forward to learning more about this technology in future updates of the the whitepaper.
While these are not cryptocurrency focused technological advancements that we see with most coins, BitTube’s roadmap ahead is focused on ways content creators can increase revenue and views:
Mastercard — Coming in Q4, we really like this approach, as many coins try to put together a mobile payment network or get access to ATM’s, BitTube is utilizing Mastercard to enable users with more than 5,000 TUBE to spend it like cash. It’s somewhat like a debit card we imagine and I equate it to when PayPal offered Debit Cards to access your PayPal balance, but still a great way to easily allow users to spend their coins as easily as fiat. More details to come, look for a Medium article.
Transactional Video on Demand — Launch of a Pay Per View version of the platform. Viewers have access to the Library but have to pay (using BitTube) for views. This appears to also represent a transition away from paying viewers. There are substantial questions here — (1) will BitTube lose viewers (i.e. they’d prefer to just watch commercials vs paying), and (2) how will block rewards be distributed if more payments are going to content creators via TVOD?
Premium Subscription — Users being charged in BitTube on a time basis for a channel. This would be like the model used by HBO Go, where users would have to say a set price to get access to content for a specific period of time (i.e. monthly).
Retain Viewership Payments — Content creators can pay to essentially queue up or recommend other videos on their channel.
Promote Content — Pay for better placement in search categories to increase views.
Music and Videos from labels and studios — as we’ve mentioned, getting more popular content in a way that doesn’t violate DMCA, is likely key to the long-term success of BitTube. We theorize that many of the formerly mentioned roadmap objectives are a means to this end.
Pro’s and Con’s
Previously we created sections of the review called “Things we like about xxxx” and “Things we don’t like about xxxx”. These sections were more nuanced than merely everything underneath either header being positive or negative. We’re moving to a new structure of laying out all of that factors we see for a coin, then summarizing “Pro’s and Con’s”, and then making our verdict. Let’s look at our major Pro’s and Con’s for BitTube:
Verdict — Buy, undervalued project with a working product
The platform itself and how the cryptocurrency is incorporated into it is both BitTube’s biggest strength and its biggest weakness. The use case here for TUBE is extremely high, miners are helping to not only fund themselves but pay for content creator’s and viewer’s use of the platform. As more users utilize the platform, the value of BitTube will seemingly increase accordingly. However, there is another side of this coin, if BitTube’s price doesn’t increase accordingly with users, then the weakness of the cryptocurrency then impacts the payments that content creators and viewers receive. Consequently, it would drive users away, likely further impacting price — it’s a potentially dangerous cycle that investors must be aware of. We’ve seen how tied to BTC all Altcoins are, further weakness in price of BTC could be this downward pressure on BitTube, all with no fault to the BitTube team.
We also have questions around the upcoming changes to the platform which incorporate TVOD/Pay to Watch themes. BitTube has built a community around enticing new viewers by paying them a small amount of TUBE to watch videos, will these same viewers stick around when they must pay to view instead? There is a significant amount of time between now and when these changes are proposed, it will be important for investors to follow these changes and weigh how the community is reacting to it. The team at BitTube is large, which is great, however all of these employees need a salary and the current dev fees are not significant enough to support their salary on a long-term basis.
In the end though, what we’re really talking about is an Altcoin, with a working product, valued at a $2.8M Market Cap. BitTube is currently trading at its lowest prices since launch, which again, is largely a factor of the overall weakness in the market and potential dumping by early miners. The roadmap isn’t super exciting stuff, but all working towards the completion of the vision for the platform. Investing in BitTube is not a trust exercise that “someday these developers will launch something of value”, the platform is launched and actively doing what it promises. There are improvements to be made and risks to be weighed, but even after weighing all the potential negatives, it seems evident that BitTube is extremely undervalued vs other low cap projects. We could see top 200 potential for BitTube as it continues its development and market penetration.
At the time of this review, we do not have a position of TUBE nor do we plan on initiating one in the next 48 hours. We were not paid or compensated for this review in any way by BitTube or any of its supporters. We may, after posting the review, accept “tips” from the community in appreciation for our work. We did create an account on https://bit.tube during the review and the following is the wallet attached to that account.
Please see http://www.altlook.org/privacy-disclosures for more information.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Discord, Telegram, Twitter and Reddit