The State of Decentralised Video Q4 2017

Tubes and Flixes will never be the same. Here’s why.

Dec 18, 2017 · 15 min read
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1. Online video in a nutshell

The process of streaming on-demand video can be divided roughly in three major phases. One has to store content; multiplex it (adapt the data to make it suitable for reproduction under varied conditions, which can happen at different points, even before storage); and distribute it, or make sure the video gets from where it is to where it’s going to be played. Digital advertising providers, metadata tracking tools, licensing software and other niche-specific services can be plugged in at basically any point of the value chain, making room for almost infinite verticalisation. A tentative scheme is drawn below.

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icons by Amazon.
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The infographic we did draws inspiration from Variety’s piece on the mediaverse.

2. Market Landscape (tech mapping)

The intention of this exercise is to inform aspiring developers seeking for exciting projects to work on, and platforms/businesses willing to integrate/support any of the mentioned technologies. Investors, this is not advice. If you find any projects missing, please drop a line on the comments.

2nd layer infrastructure

() Swarm: a native layer for distributed storage, along Whisper (for communication), that’s part of the original Ethereum web3 stack.

Application protocols

Paratii: a protocol and standard media player with embedded wallet for tax-less video sharing over IPFS, in the browser.

Services / Tools / dApps

Basic Attention Token: Brave is an open source, “privacy-focused browser that blocks malvertisements […] and contains a ledger system that anonymously captures user attention to accurately reward publishers”. Basic Attention Token is the tokenised “unit of exchange between publishers, advertisers and users, derived from — or denominated by — user attention”.

On Ƀitcoin

PopChest: a video platform with traditional streaming that avoids ads and allows for micropayments over the Bitcoin network between creators & audience.

On Bitcoin Cash

Yours: a “Medium with a paywall”, where users earn cash for good content, and can embed things in their pieces, including video (built on Bitcoin Cash).


WebTorrent is a popular streaming client for torrents, written in JavaScript, using WebRTC for peer-to-peer transport whenever possible. It’s not technically a DSN (as defined here), but can be used for data distribution in combination with extra incentive layers on top. This is exactly what Flixxo does, for instance, on its community-targeted video platform. Just as well, WebTorrent can be used in its “pure form”, relying, to some extent, on the altruism of nodes. Popcorn Time! is an example of such approach.

DSNs (decentralised storage networks)

IPFS (by Protocol Labs) a peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol based on content-addressing that aims to replace HTTP.
Filecoin: it’s native currency and incentive layer, under development.

So, the question is: how do all these interact?

Or, put differently: should there be winners and losers among these technologies? Well, it’s early to say. Most are in development, experimental, or, at most, beta phase.

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Jake Brukhman’s protocol silos.
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Will Warren talking token abstraction @ DevCon 3.

3. Monetisation

“It may seem weird, but I’ve been eagerly awaiting the day when I see ads in my viral video”

Nick Gonzalez, Tech Chrunch writer, 2007.

The quote seems totally out of context 10 years later, with adblockers’ already installed on more than half a billion devices worldwide. Youtube has consolidated a monetisation model inherited from the analog world. Content is distributed by infrastructure providers who intermediate access to the audience, and take revenue cuts to cover operational costs, preserving network effects by isolating user data in privately monetised silos.

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2007: when Youtube was a startup and putting ads on amateur videos was still an experiment.
  • 2. Pay-per-view (or micropayments): as in iTunes, users pay for the right to watch something. This can be adapted into a rental model, as in Blockbuster, where users pay to have this right temporarily, or distilled down to a pay-per-chunk model, where users pay for exactly the amount of content they consume.
  • 3. Time-based subscription (SVOD): users pay for a month, say, for access to a pre-defined catalogue of content.
  • 4. Non-determined subscription (ndSVOD): users commit an amount periodically, as in SVOD, but not in direct relation to a pre-defined catalogue - instead, like Brave does (or Medium, with its claps), this amount is distributed according to some measurement of user engagement or attention expenditure.
  • 5. Private channels: sell a stream of private session, or special ephemeral catalogue of content. In looser frameworks or slightly different contexts, it can also be called Patronage or recurrent financing (where you pay a subscription as if it was a freemium).
  • 6. Attention measurement: this can be attached or not to non-determined subscription models. The basic idea is to track audience attention non-intrusively, and to distribute some form of compensation to the agents who attract or influence the allocation of such attention.
  • 7. Pay-to-comment (per-per-interaction): users pay to comment. It sounds non-inclusive, but if its under the control of the author, acts a filter for how much trolling he’s willing to tolerate vs how much conversation he wants to promote. And a new conversational market opens up if you can tip comments, upvote them, and so on. Comments can be generalized into interactions, and a whole range of specific micropayments can be thought of: imagine you’re playing mime over a one-to-many live streaming channel, and you want random people to bet on the game with tokens; or you’re a teacher running a video-based decentralised Math Olympiads, and willing to take in test responses from any student in the world who stakes an entrance fee, then competes for a decentralised reward).
  • 8. Affiliate model (or investment): explicitly stake tokens or reputation in a piece of content/creator (or simply bring more audience to it) in order to earn a share of his future revenues.
  • 9. Non-invasive ads (see to earn): a subtle subversion on 1., presumes (A) action by the user to display an ad and (B) the trigger of a small payment to him in exchange for his attention (e.g. “want to earn 5 ETH? Click here and see a suggestion of movie to watch on Friday night”).
  • 10. Token curated registries (TCRs): an emerging cryptonomic primitive, a TCR is basically a list with “an intrinsic token to assign curation rights proportional to the relative token weight of entities holding the token”. In the context of video, if content consumers desire high-quality curation, and content producers like to be included in well curated lists, “a market can exist in which the incentives of rational, self-interested token holders are aligned towards curating a list of high quality”.
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A subjective classification of some monetisation models, plotted according to estimated revenue potential, consumer friendliness and practicality of execution.

4. What’s next?

Next is seeing all this come true. Some folks on reddit are already talking about “the dAppening, a movement of consolidation expected to happen along 2018 with the main net releases of a batch of long-awaited dApps.

  • Anonymization: the public nature of blockchains makes privacy a sensitive issue. How can media buyers (be they advertisers) know who they are targeting without everyone else in the world knowing about user’s private data? Even if we don’t want ads, how can we build content engines aware of the users they’re dealing with, without letting them overexposed? A useful reference here is Brave’s use of Anonize-ZKP to convey ad attributions without leaking private information.
  • Cryptoeconomic experimentation is in its infancy. Some sandboxed approaches to rewarding curation activities have been tested and there’s a handful under development. Another heavily discussed issue regards the ability of networks to provide sufficing incentives for audience itself to moderate abusive or inappropriate content. Self-tokenization is also becoming a big deal. If the internet brought self-publishing to a global scale, will web3 make self-tokenisation the next big trend in digital media distribution?


Decentralising video and putting revenue in control of…

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