🎬 Introducing Paratii.video

An embeddable video-on-demand player built upon Ethereum.

Little more than a year ago, we realised Ethereum presented the most concrete possibility for freeing our beloved craft of story-making from the perils of oligarchic story-sharing platforms (in other words, to liberate creators from profit-slashing distribution channels). Incentivised decentralised storage networks (DSNs)— a central component for serverless content distribution — were on their early clunky days, but the promise of a free market for spare disk space and bandwidth was strong enough to make us believe in a future on which creators and their audiences own the networks they belong to, and earn back all of the value they create.

Today we are happy to announce (and invite collaboration on) Paratii: an embeddable video-on-demand player reliant on Ethereum + decentralised storage, designed to put revenue 100% in control of content producers, under customisable monetisation models.

Why story-sharing can be improved

The so-democratizing internet revived the utopia of a free digital medium of exchange for stories, but memory didn’t fit in pockets until recently, so users have always turned to those who could afford serving data in order to communicate with the world. The habit of offering content in exchange for free hosting (and, in some cases, a fraction of the revenue they generate) led independent content producers to rely heavily on private networks and service providers. As of 2015, more than 50% of all transatlantic data flows ran through networks of this kind, while video’s share of global internet traffic already surpassed 70%. Facebook and Google now account for practically half of all money spent on digital advertising worldwide, a concentration hardly ever approached on other electronic and even print channels.

It might still be “better than the Washington Post and The New York Times being the arbiters of truth”, as Naval Ravikant recently noted, but oligarchy generates disproportional bargaining power, and can be seen as fruit of misaligned incentives.

Advertisers also perish under this circumstances, suffering from increasing prices, decreasing results, and an ever growing amount of evidences that at least 1/4 of all reported online video audience is fake.

The inability to be flexible in regard to business policies and monetisation models (among many other factors) has hit strong enough on media empires as for the music recording industry (Napster & co.) and the Hollywood industry (BitTorrent & co.). In the mid term, even giants of the current siloed landscape of digital content distribution may see themselves under the threat of systems that achieve higher efficiency and profitability for value creators through disintermediation. There will probably emerge many — instead of a few monolithic — major decentralised alternatives to patch up broken parts of the online video distribution and monetisation value chain.

A brief reminder: why does cinema / TV / Youtube matter?

Sight and hearing correspond to more than 80% of humans’ sensorial input processing. Eyes and ears have a lot of impact on our individual worldviews, and video is the perfect scalable medium to tap into this potential. Tight control of global distribution channels inevitably narrows the range of narratives reaching the public, and defeats the purpose of “making people aware of the world”.

Internet’s promise to exterminate middlemen was replaced by the dominance of new data overlords camouflaged under the guise of sharing economy platforms or social networks. None of them took disintermediation to is extreme consequences, turning their platforms into an effective socioeconomic network that redistribute all wealth created back to its participants. And the reason why is straightforward: the model has been paying off pretty well, so far. Ten years ago, if someone told you the entire world would have one taxi dispatcher, you’d would have laughed. If someone said the whole world would have one big TV channel, you would too (in our version of history it has 3).

What are we up to, after all?

We are building a dApp that should be as familiar as your average embeddable video player. Browsing, discovery and content upload are supported within the embed, making for an user experience that’s replicable regardless of the environment on which the player sits on. Through it:

  • Creators will be able to upload videos from their browsers to a decentralised swarm, and maintain personal/collective playlists. They’ll get rewarded not only for the commercial appeal, but also for to the perceived quality of their content. Revenue has zero built-in taxation by a for-profit entity :)
  • End-users won’t note much difference in Paratii’s player, besides the fact there’s some neat navigation inside the embed. They’ll be able to interact with the player on any suitable webpage, application or device, unnoticeably taking part into a fair system that rewards them for the attention they pay.
  • Attention marketers (advertisers, media investors, sponsors), interfacing with an off chain orderbook, will be able to buy attention for their content with PTI and to trade future contracts, relying on unforgeable registries for auditing. By paying directly to value creators, they’ll avoid piling profits for middlemen.

Currently, the application has a meteor.js front-end, fetching content chunks through an implementation of js-ipfs (via a modified gateway) and WebTorrent, with and integrated light wallet and the ability to transact tokens / pay for videos, still on a private testnet. The vision is to gradually decentralise the tech stack along the lines of a community-driven governance system, while also deepening integration with native Ethereum subprotocols.

The player is built to be embedded in any web page or integrated natively into dApps, being usable as a white label “fee-less” tool for publishers or as a go-to decentralised video channel for creators and end-users.

We are guided by a few simple principles:

  • Use of peer-to-peer networks to minimize file distribution costs and unlock more value for content producers and their audiences.
  • No monetisation model should be imposed: a customisable scheme should allow the coexistence of AVOD, TVOD and SVOD business models, as well as the application of new tokenised forms of crowd-sponsoring.
  • No intrinsic value cuts for maintaining centralised for-profit entities.

Paratii has a native token conceived to oil the engines of value exchange within the network and to protect producers’ earnings from the fluctuation of external markets / monetary policy decisions. Expenditure for media inside Paratii is to be paid for with this token, while multiple forms of contribution to the network are rewarded through its issuance.

In a decentralised fashion, tackling issues such as that of content property and copyright violation (a recurring Achilles’ heel for peer-to-peer content distribution platforms) involves considering an infinite range of incentives that can be laid out. As for this matter, we believe properly leveraged crowd wisdom will almost always outperform censorship or central regulation.

In-browser, peer to peer streaming

Decentralised storage networks are like torrents on steroids: you have the network effects of a peer to peer community, but also tokenised incentivisation to natively curb free riding and optimize cost efficiency.

Tabs with an active Paratii player will automatically — albeit temporarily — become a node in the IPFS network. They can connect to nearby peers over WebRTC or to bootstrap nodes via a modified gateway with js-ipfs, being accountable for download / upload.

Not only DSNs are automatically scalable, on them, allocation of expenses is fundamentally different: given that value exchanges are triggered and executed on a peer-to-peer basis, media delivery does not need to be paid for by a central account or a single agent, and users of the networks can “pay” for accessing content by making content accessible themselves.

Paratii is committed to the Ethereum ecosystem, of which Swarm forms an integral part. Some aspects make it probably the DSN of choice for Paratii in the long term. However, technical restrictions (the player needs a javascript implementation with webRTC support) might delay integration in favour of frameworks that are more readily compatible.

A fair economic game

Traditional video-on-demand platforms must accrue profit on top of the operations required to maintain their networks. Paratii presumes (1) all value generated flows back to the system; (2) the value of a video does not trace back to its creator only, but to all those responsible for most major interactions with it. To enforce such requirements, we propose a redistribution pool (see below) that’s funded from newly minted PTI, together with an onus derived from direct (pay-per-view or advertising) revenue.

For video makers, the effective onus will generally be lower than the nominal one, since part of the redistribution pool is allocated back to video makers themselves on basis of the perceived quality (rating) of their content. The effective onus can even be negative, making a creator earn more than the direct revenue generated from her content (in case his content is very well evaluated).

A high level overview of Paratii’s basic value redistribution engine.

We also propose a mechanism referred to as communication market, which allows creators to tweak the rules that affect their income. More important than getting into details here is highlighting that, instead of defining a monetisation model from the beginning, like most video-on-demand platforms traditionally do, Paratii leaves this decision to each content producer, whereas subsequent interactions triggered by viewers, advertisers and other parties can increase or decrease everyone’s final earnings.

PTI = a token with utility

PTI tokens encapsulate the essence of story-sharing, once producers are rewarded with PTIs through an equation that takes into account their audience and the perceived quality of their videos. Whenever advertisers want to buy media, or end-users want to invest in content (we will talk about both cases on later articles), their unit of account is also the PTI.

The decentralised content monetisation landscape

Three decades of developments in peer-to-peer communications and public key cryptography brought us to a very interesting convergence point, on which cryptoeconomic incentives can lay the ground for increasingly autonomous and decentralised networks.

It’s very illustrative that some of the big figures of the open source and p2p communities are currently onboard the blockchain wagon: Brendan Eich is pursuing the establishment of a basic measurement unit for attention, at Brave / BAT; Bram Cohen has reportedly been working on proof-of-space concepts for a novel cryptocurrency; and there’s many more cases.

Even though initiatives of the type share common ancestors (Napsters, Torrent, MojoNation, etc), the scope of each wildly varies, and no one can foresee which will stand the test of time. As an example, Youtube was not the first video sharing platform, for those who weren’t grown up yet. Few expected subscription services to become so big in the early days of online content monetisation. And an equivalent amount of surprises and turnarounds may stand in the way of crypto networks, still.

At Paratii, we are betting on a near-future of token interoperability, reliable DEXs, functional state channels and integrated zk-SNARKs on Ethereum— a set of features not fully in place yet, but which will allow our software client and its underlying system to stand out on the shoulders of the open protocols it’s built upon.

If this is the right approach? Only time will tell. There are a few alternative ones analysed here (and an updated panorama is on the way). We see most of them as complementary.

The people

What began as a pair inside a Brazilian film production company has grown to a team of 10+ contributors distributed over 3 continents. We have a business cluster in Brazil and development is spearheaded by the Italian side of the team, with a strengthening northern African accent. More about us can be found here, and we’re always chatting on open rooms :)

What comes next?

We are excited to share a first public release of the Paratii Blueprint, a document in which we outline our business case, current tech stack, basic incentive structures and future plans.

The vision for Paratii is ever evolving, and we want you to be part of the process. All feedback + suggestions + critique + advice is welcomed. To share your thoughts or to learn more about Paratii, come chat with us on Gitter. Looking forward to see you!