The vast majority of Internet services as we know them are what we call centralized Internet services. These are a couple of major organizations that decide what content can be talked about and uploaded.
This is why decentralization is becoming a matter of importance. We are seeing it in finance with cryptocurrency, but it doesn’t stop there. We are seeing it with that content, giving everyone an equal voice. This leads us to wonder what a decentralized video platform is and what it means for society.
The idea of P2P streaming goes back to the early days of torrenting. Torrenting was one of the early ways of bypassing content censorship and is one of the earliest forms of peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. They operate through independent servers, allowing users to share files directly with one another.
Each member of these networks is known as a peer. The communication protocol, which can come in various forms, is what breaks the files into digestible bits so that they can be exchanged between the two parties.
Files are then uploaded from the seeders directly to the downloaders, who are known as streamers. As long as the seeder has an active upload connection, the leechers can download that file without having to do so through a centralized platform.
The more people who join that network as both seeders and leechers can result in faster download times. This is due to the torrent interlinks which show the IP address of the swarm (the network). This is just the beginning of P2P, especially with how it relates to video streaming.
Decentralized Video Streaming Services
All of this brings us to the aforementioned decentralized video platform that allows users to share those video files. There are any number of services out there, but without a doubt, the biggest among them is known as Livepeer.
What makes it different is that it is hosted through the Ethereum blockchain. You may know that name as a giant within the cryptocurrency market, but the blockchain has been shown to have a purpose in video as a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). This allows services such as Livepeer to be able to facilitate both live and on-demand video streaming.
Services such as this are a video transcoding development platform. This is not the same as a video-streaming website in the vein of YouTube. The platform is able to not only scale but meet the streaming video demand, which allows the service to adapt to things like available bandwidth and device screen format.
How Does P2P Video Streaming Work?
Let’s get into the technical aspect of how a decentralized video platform works. When you access a network like Livepeer, you are actually accessing nodes that are dedicated within the Ethereum blockchain to that network’s protocol. The nodes are referring to computers that hold the data blocks within the blockchain. This is what makes up the infrastructure in a P2P network.
Within that system, there are Broadcaster nodes. These are what send the video streams so that they can be transcoded. From there, Orchestrator nodes receive the video, contributing with their CPU/GPU and bandwidth to not only transcode but distribute the video. The Orchestrator gets Ethereum coin as a fee, which is paid for by the Broadcasters.
What makes it different from torrenting is that the Seeders use their own Internet bandwidth and computers for the purposes of video streaming. It is also worth noting that an Orchestrator has to stake a certain amount of LPT tokens to prevent potential bad behavior. Should they inadequately transcode or maliciously corrupt videos, then their stake is slashed.
Is This Better Than YouTube?
With more than a few different alternatives out there to choose from, the question comes down to whether or not they are better than the giant in the industry, YouTube. That said, there are some questions about regional content-locking and even heavy censorship from some of the alternatives, making them anything but a truly decentralized option.
There are a few major names that have the infrastructure needed to continue service as a decentralized platform. As was the case with cryptocurrency in its infancy, more and more users are getting on board with the concept of a decentralized platform. As more users become integrated and begin preferring that platform, it will lead to more and more people weening off of the major centralized services like YouTube.
The key is the nodes in the blockchain. As the increase in the volume of video uploads continues to climb, each node will become incentivized to contribute to the overall processing power that will be required to run the decentralized platform. There are also blockchain tokenomics that offer transparent and direct monetization of these services.
The goal, in the end, is to have greater availability of these decentralized services that reduce or eliminate content restrictions, censorship, and regional content-locking. The key is consistently delivering a safe alternative to those centralized networks that have long had control over the marketplace.
This will take some time and regular use by both Broadcasters and Orchestrators as well as a willingness on the part of the consumer to find a different option.
The concept of decentralized file sharing is not a new one but is finally gaining some measure of mainstream traction. It was long considered to be used only by a small section of the internet looking to circumvent the centralized services.
With more and more decentralized platforms coming to light, it has allowed users to find and share video in new ways. Most importantly, it is free. There is still a lot of development left to be had, but it is a trend that is gaining steam.