Explain Like I’m 5: VideoCoin (Part 2)

Devadutta Ghat
Mar 8, 2018 · 5 min read

In part one of this three part series about VideoCoin, we discussed what video and video infrastructure was. Here, we will see what decentralized video infrastructure means and understand the role of the Blockchain in Decentralized Video Infrastructure.

Just a reminder, I am ELI5'ing here, so many details are intentionally omitted or simplified.

What is centralization and decentralization of infrastructure?

Think about the water heater in your home. It’s usually a huge tank, with a heating element sitting at the bottom, powered by electricity or some sort of petroleum based fuel. This has not changed much in a long time (see image below)

Kerosene Powered Water Heater, circa 1917 [Source: Wikipedia]

This is a great example of a centralized infrastructure setup. There are a lot of advantages to this — You only need one heater for an average sized home and if there are issues with this heater, you can go and fix it in one place. But, this setup is far from ideal when you think about the disadvantages

  1. You have only one heater in your home, which means if this one breaks down, you have no hot water
  2. Not very energy efficient, as heated water flows through pipes and gets to your sink or shower, wasting a lot of energy in the pipes
  3. Most importantly, if someone else controlled this heater, there is no way for you to set the temperature on it to your liking

This is where decentralization comes into picture. Imagine replacing the huge water tank with smaller heaters right at the shower or right below the sink. Water is heated to your specifications right before it leaves the tap or shower. This is a a great example for a decentralized infrastructure setup and a huge improvement from a centralized water heater. But this does not come without disadvantages

  1. There are now many heaters to maintain and make sure it is working
  2. Now that there are many heaters, you need to be careful when you touch tap water, because someone may have increased water temperature without your knowledge.

Tying all this together,

Centralized Video Infrastructure is like the central water heater at your home. It hasn’t changed much in a long time, runs on a single server (or a single cloud), runs software that transcodes, stores and distributes the video. This is great and makes sense until you have a lot of video to process. It then starts becoming prohibitively expensive. Since this centralized infrastructure is now under someone else’s control, you are also tied to this particular vendor and cannot move out of it without inconveniencing your business.

Source: VideoCoin

Decentralized Video Infrastructure

Instead of relying on one central processor, we take a video encoding, storage and CDN tasks and distribute it over many nodes. Like with many small water heaters, encoding of one video is done over many different computers right before they are consumed.

However, this is not as simple as it sounds and that is why you need a management layer like the VideoCoin Network that can maintain these nodes, assign tasks, check status of tasks, re-assign tasks if there was a failure and negotiate a deal between buyers and sellers of infrastructure.

What is the Blockchain?

Lets say you are Alice, who needs to send $5 to Bob through a bank (I’ll leave out cash here as it is slightly more complicated), when you trigger this transaction, the bank simply updates a journal that subtracts $5 from your account and add $5 to Bob’s account.

The reason why this works is we are all programmed to trust banks and added government regulations makes it easy to trust them.

The Blockchain removes this central bank kind of authority by simply keeping a copy of the bank journal with everyone who has an account. It is in the open! What stops people from cheating? That is where Satoshi Nakamoto’s genius comes in.

What is Proof of Work?

I’m sure you’ve heard about Bitcoin’s mysterious sounding Proof of Work. The genius of Satoshi Nakamoto can be easily understood with one of the oldest forms of currency — Shell Money.

Shell Money from Solomon Islands. Source: Wikimedia Commons

People on Solomon Islands have used shells that are painstakingly ground into beads like the one shown above as currency since long time. Since making these beads take a lot of work, it is(was) extremely hard to create counter-fit currency as creating that would take the same amount of time and you are better off making the real currency.

Bitcoin’s proof of work is basically this. In order to prove that a journal entry is real, that entry is “polished” with a cryptographic function that meets a particular criteria. Counter-fitting a journal entry would take the same amount of time as writing a real journal entry, so you are incentivized to just do the real work.

What is the role of the Blockchain in Decentralized Video Infrastructure?

In an ideal world, we don’t really need the Blockchain to decentralize infrastructure. We could stand up software on many different computers and they would do encoding and storage on good faith and one could pay for their services after the fact. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world and we need the Blockchain to prove that someone did the the encoding and storage and pay them incrementally for just the amount of work they did.

And this is a great segue to the next part, where we will discuss Proof of Transcoding, Proof of Storage and tie it all together with a few distributed applications that can be built on top of VideoCoin.

PART 3 of this blog series is here: https://medium.com/videocoin/explain-like-im-5-videocoin-part-3-8a504c4d49a2

Thanks for reading!

Learn more about VideoCoin here -> https://videocoin.io/learnmore/


Powering the Internet's Largest Ecosystem

Devadutta Ghat

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Powering the Internet's Largest Ecosystem

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