How Open P2P Protocols and Blockchain-Based Marketplaces Can Democratize Content Creation and Monetization

Blockchain, Opinion | April 1, 2019 By:

YouTube was invented more than a decade ago and has since grown into one of the largest social media platforms in the world. Predicated on streaming video content from content creators and self-publishers, YouTube has evolved into a monster platform with celebrity millionaires and everything from educational videos to bizarre viral trends.

The emergence of YouTube has undoubtedly been fueled by the drastically reduced costs of producing content in the era of the Internet and broader access to a community of viewers and creators. However, many aspects of YouTube and contemporary social media have not lived up to maxims of an ‘open and decentralized web,’ once the most compelling vision driving the growth of the Internet.

Censorship and demonetization are increasingly prevalent on YouTube following the implementation of Google’s 2018 advertisement policies, leading to simmering friction between creators and the massive platform. What was once a novelty of open and free creation, has devolved into unfair revenue practices, more control by the centralized platform, and stricter content approval procedures.

The ongoing trend with YouTube is not solely restricted to the video streaming platform either. Censorship of content is widespread on other social media platforms as they tighten their grips on controversial content, removing one of the most powerful elements of an open and free Internet.

Circumventing centralized control in the digital era is currently ongoing with blockchains and has been the focus of enormously popular open protocols such as BitTorrent — which fundamentally changed file-sharing and enabled the modern streaming capacities of YouTube and Netflix today. As Simon Morris detailed the impact of BitTorrent:

“BitTorrent fundamentally mattered because of its remarkable resilience — in spite of its incredibly disruptive influence on the media industry and the flood of illegal activity that it seems to have enabled, BitTorrent has proven to be unbelievably robust. Perhaps Bram’s crowning achievement with BitTorrent was therefore to be the proof of concept of precisely the sort of global decentralized utterly censor-proof network that Satoshi Nakamoto had in mind when he conceived of Bitcoin.”

Resilience via decentralization is critical to breaking the rules without fear of censorship, and blockchain-enabled marketplaces present a convincing case for building such an infrastructure of content distribution.

Technology stacks are definitively transitioning to open-source protocols. Combined with the power of decentralization that blockchains inherently afford, and the profound opportunity for a new generation of content distribution and monetization becomes evident.

Open Marketplaces and P2P Content Distribution Emerging

Open marketplaces are mostly relegated to the cryptocurrency space where they are ingratiated with native payment mechanisms, P2P transfers, and entirely open-source protocols controlled by nobody but the consensus rules of the community. They are built on open and P2P protocols, which like BitTorrent, are capable of redefining entire generations of content distribution and creation.

The hype around IPFS — the potential BitTorrent replacement — is real, and its existence as a basis for Filecoin presents an entirely new method for resilient content distribution across the web. And the prospect of P2P content delivery is quickly gaining traction with marketplaces and content platforms.

Open, P2P exchanges like Bisq have gained favor with core Bitcoin proponents for its decentralized, private, and non-custodial crypto and fiat exchange. Other open marketplaces like OpenSea and RareBits have become hotbeds for exchanging digital collectibles and non-fungible tokens without intermediaries.

However, where will the monumental impact of decentralized blockchains be felt in social media and content creation? Censorship-resistant version of Twitter, Peepeth, has failed to gain significant traction on Ethereum, but some other solutions offer a glimpse of new paradigms for content creation and monetization.

Overcoming the enormous network effects of social media giants like YouTube will be an arduous task, let alone convincing the users to shift to blockchain-based, P2P platforms that use cryptocurrencies. However, that has been the initiative of projects like LBRY, an open-source and free content platform similar to YouTube but controlled by nobody — offering monetization methods commanded entirely by content creators.

Built on a blockchain, users control their content, there is no censorship, rent extraction, or arbitrary rules. The entire platform is transparent, and content creators can keep 100 percent of their income; monetizing their videos, podcasts, or other content via micropayments based on per-download or per-stream views by their audiences.

Concepts like LBRY are essential because they provide legitimate challengers to YouTube and its business model. The focus on an ad-based model has, perhaps incidentally, made YouTube too prone to the whims of advertisers and sponsors who take hard-line positions on what constitutes controversial content. Moreover, many smaller content creators are continually left behind, grappling with the rigorous requirements for qualifying for the YouTube Partner Program and unable to sustain their content without an improved avenue for monetization.

YouTuber’s often only make serious money from building a business around their channel, rather than solely from the size of their audience and its corresponding ad revenue generation. Micropayments can usher in a new ecosystem of value creation, something that has long been hindered by high transaction costs of legacy payment rails and large cuts from the platform’s themselves.

The mainstream is acutely aware of the term ‘blockchain’ but is not presently aware of its capacity to empower open P2P protocols. BitTorrent redefined file-sharing an enabled the ubiquity of video streaming today. Perhaps the emerging combination of blockchains and open protocols can spark the transition towards the original vision of an open and free Internet, where ad revenue models are converted to organic ecosystems of micropayments and censorship is deftly fell by the inviolable nature of decentralization.

Overcoming the unprecedented network effects of major content and social media platforms today seems overly ambitious. However, from what history shows us, it is impossible to insulate established mediums on the Internet from better technology.