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The Rise of Live Streaming and How Livepeer Can Help a Socially Distanced World

When we started the Livepeer project over three years ago, we knew that video, and internet enabled streaming, would play an increasingly important role in society. With the rise of accessible bandwidth, cameras attached to every mobile device, and better applications emerging, we saw that video could be a real enabler for enhanced participation in the world economy. It would be an important communication tool, it would be increasingly used for learning and education, and it would continue to entertain. Looking ahead, combined with digital first currency, new applications would become possible that could even enable people to participate in the economy and monetize their expertise or skill, regardless of location.

We theorized that this explosive growth of streaming would require an open infrastructure, that was accessible to developers and platforms, and was as cost effective as possible — enabling new types of applications to find fit, growth, and effective business models, without succumbing to the closed, restrictive platforms due to the challenging economics of building a user-first streaming application that scales. The current infrastructure was arbitrarily expensive at scale, yet the do-it-yourself option was overly complex and difficult to operate.

While we expected the trending rise of streaming to continue gradually over the next 2–4 years, recent events due to society’s forced distancing due to the spread of COVID-19, have accelerated this pace tremendously. Rather than a gradual rise over a couple years, we’re looking at a steep acceleration over a couple months. It is happening now. And the current infrastructure and costs structures are buckling under the pressure. You can see this in examples like Zoom warning their investors that despite their enormous growth, they should expect their costs to increase even faster as they hurry to keep up, or the EU requesting Netflix and Youtube to stream content in standard definition rather than high definition to avoid overloading the networking capacity.

Meanwhile, there are countless examples of businesses and individuals actually turning to streaming in order to keep up with their daily obligations, and to continue to keep their economic engine humming. The rise of distance learning platforms, remote event hosting platforms, and streaming monetization platforms are a testament to this. The music class that kids are attending are streaming their performances and requesting digital payments in return. The only sports society can tune in to for entertainment and a sense of community are the e-sports being streamed through services like Twitch.

The world needs video streaming, the infrastructure is buckling, and the costs are rising. If a huge, successful service like Zoom, that charges the world’s top businesses per user fees are struggling to keep up with the costs of infrastructure, imagine how a mission driven entrepreneur, trying to create a better educational streaming or e-health platform must feel as they try to make their product a reality. Livepeer can help.

Livepeer is the open video infrastructure that the world needs. This is the reason why I work on Livepeer each day. While at the moment we are at the very beginning stages of offering a scalable and cost effective transcoding offering, and we may have other processing heavy video services like object detection coming soon, it’s helpful to zoom out and remember the mission of building the world’s open video infrastructure. Through a combination of open source software, community built by the cryptoeconomic incentives, and the open marketplace created by the network, we have every opportunity to fulfill the promise of this great infrastructure that is urgently needed today, and will continue to be even more urgently needed in the months to come.

We may not be able to control all the tough things that the world will face through this crisis. We’ll have to remain adaptable. But somewhere out there there are video platforms that are critical to society through these tough times, that are struggling to scale or keep up with costs. Somewhere out there teams are building the new wave of tools that will enable economic opportunity in this more remote-first distanced world. They need an open infrastructure like Livepeer. We’ll be working quickly and flexibly to meet their needs, and give them the infrastructure solutions that they require to fulfill their visions.



A decentralized live video streaming platform built on Ethereum -

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Doug Petkanics

Building live streaming on the blockchain at Livepeer. Previously Founder, VP Eng at Wildcard and Hyperpublic (acquired by Groupon).