Launching the Livepeer Network

After 18 months of research, design, development, and testing, we’re excited that today is the launch of an alpha version of the Livepeer network on Ethereum’s Mainnet. Learn more and participate!

Livepeer is a decentralized video broadcasting infrastructure platform. Any broadcaster or developer who wants to broadcast video can send it into the Livepeer network, and the network will take care of transcoding and distribution so that the video can reach users on all different device types and connection speeds.

Users who do work for the network, either by running hardware and software or participating in the quality assurance and security protocol, are rewarded by collecting the network fees paid in ETH. For more background on Livepeer, check out:

The rest of this post will give an overview of what the launch of the network encompasses, an overview of the Livepeer Token and its role in the network, and some information about the initial generation of token.

Snowmelt Phase — A Livepeer Alpha

The initial release of the Livepeer network is codenamed Snowmelt. It is intended as an alpha, or developer preview, and as described in The Livepeer Network Phases, it contains the following features:

The Snowmelt phase is the very beginning of a functional Livepeer network — emphasis on functional, and not on performance or robustness. It is intended as a developer preview and integration period, allowing transcoding nodes to get set up, tested, and demonstrate the value that they can add to the network through scalable transcoding. Incentives for transcoding are battle tested for the first time. The interface to use the network will be command line tools and developer APIs. Users can use the Snowmelt phase to lay the groundwork for their video-enabled decentralized apps, or output production video through gateway nodes and traditional CDNs, or decentralized storage platforms for later playback.

As far as end users are concerned, this alpha version of the network will be functional for video broadcasting— you can use it to broadcast and encode video, and you can begin building applications that make use of Livepeer’s infrastructure.

The secondary function of this launch, beyond just testing video infrastructure, is to begin to test the economics and security of the Livepeer protocol. There are a number of parameters which will need to be tested and tuned over time in order to create an efficient and cost effective video infrastructure. This alpha period will allow the real world conditions to be observed, tested, and updated quickly with real economics on the line.

Testing both the functionality and economics of the network will be incredibly valuable during the alpha phase, but one of the tradeoffs that the community is making is that at this point there will still be centralizing elements in the alpha protocol. Read about Livepeer’s Path To Decentralization to learn more about what will be centralized, and how this will be decentralized in the future.

The Livepeer Token

Before getting into the details of the Livepeer token, it is worth mentioning that the service provided by the network — video broadcasting — is priced and paid in Ethereum. In fact, in the future it could be priced and paid in a stablecoin, such as the Dai Stablecoin, for predictable pricing. The Livepeer Token (LPT) on the other hand, is used by the keepers of the network — the nodes who do work in order to make the network run securely and efficiently.

The main use of LPT is to stake it in order to have the right to do work on the network. Staking means depositing some token into a smart contract (also called “bonding”), which is locked up for a period of time before it can be withdrawn. This serves as a sort of “performance pledge” which can be penalized or taken away if the user does not act honestly. Users who stake have the right to do work in two ways: they can either 1) do the work themselves or 2) stake towards someone else to do the work.:

  1. Users who stake can opt to run transcoding nodes on the network. These nodes contribute significant hardware (CPU + GPU) and bandwidth, and can charge broadcasters for the service of transcoding their live videos into all the formats and bitrates requested, and then serving them to the network.
  2. Users who do not wish to run their own transcoding nodes can instead delegate their stake towards other candidate transcoders. These users are providing the service of vetting and QA’ing all the transcode candidates to choose honest, high performing, cost effective ones.

Users who do work on the network will earn fees in ETH, and increase their allocation of LPT resulting in more future work. For more details on the relationship between fees, inflationary token, delegates, and transcoders, see the details in the Livepeer Whitepaper or the wiki post on delegation.

Decentralizing The Network and The Livepeer Token Genesis

The Livepeer Protocol will have its genesis on Ethereum’s main net on approximately April 30th. Over time the majority of token will be earned through doing work on the network as a delegator or transcoder. However, as a staking protocol where nodes need token in order to do work in the first place, there must be a starting point. The genesis state will specify the rules for generation of 10,000,000 initial LPT. This initial token will be generated and released to the crowd, team, early supporters, and community in a gradual rollout over the next 36 months.

As the network is in alpha during the Snowmelt phase with some failsafes and centralized ability to update parameters by the development team, very little of the token will be initially generated. As the protocol is tested, upgraded, and decentralized both in technology and governance, more and more of the initial 10M token will be distributed, culminating with a fully decentralized, trustless live video network.

The mechanism that participants in the network will use to generate initial token is called a MerkleMine. The MerkleMine will have a 3 month slow start period, in which all Ethereum accounts with greater than 0.1 ETH as of block 5,264,265 will be eligible to generate their pro-rata portion of token. And then following the slow start period, all Ethereum accounts will be able to MerkleMine until all initial token has been generated. Learn more about the MerkleMine here.

The economic model of the Livepeer network incentivizes active participation, and the protocol will allocate token into the hands of active participants — keepers, developers, and node operators. While the MerkleMine will ensure open access to Livepeer across all users who end up wishing to attempt participation later.

For those looking to participate in the network launch, some good next steps are to:

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