Big companies like Netflix, YouTube, and iTunes maintain tight control on online content distribution, but a new cryptoapp called LBRY may well change the way information is shared on the Internet.
LBRY is the first fully encrypted, open source content distribution service built on a blockchain. The platform allows users to publish material and connect directly with consumers, bypassing the middleman. A built-in credit system allows content creators to monetize their work.
Jeremy Kauffman co-founded LBRY and serves as the CEO. He said Bitcoin was a major part of the inspiration behind the concept.
“The true insight of Bitcoin is that it allows us to build a decentralized, censorship-proof ledger system that can still be trusted. Our insight, shared by others, is that ledgers can record things beyond account balances.”
At first, LBRY’s attempt to wed Bitcoin and data transfer didn’t seem that novel in comparison to IPFS and others. But LBRY’s true innovation isn’t combining crypto and data, it’s how it handles names and metadata. Kauffman again:
“In LBRY, the fact that the name ‘wonderfullife’ returns the 1946 film ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is stored in the blockchain. This makes metadata censorship impossible.”
Content uploaded to LBRY is encrypted, broken into multiple pieces, and then distributed to a network of host servers. Hosts are rewarded with LBRY credits for providing bandwidth and disk space. Nobody can access the complete content without the publisher’s decryption key. Users can get a copy of this keys by transferring credits to the publisher.
Publishers maintain complete control over their content with no licensing or other claims by LBRY. In fact, LBRY doesn’t even have the ability to enforce such claims.
“We’re developing the network, but we don’t own it. It’s open source,” says Mike Vine, LBRY’s Technology Evangelist. “We are creating an app that adds additional features to the network, but others are free to do so as well. It’s like a real estate developer laying out a subdivision, then turning over the streets to the residents’ control.”
Vine continued, “This is an indie artist’s dream: instant worldwide distribution, micropayments from adoring fans, and no loss of ownership.”
Kauffman and Vine both become animated at the mention of decentralization and the potential for shifting the locus of power LBRY offers to publishers and consumers alike.
Vine highlighted the recent move by YouTube to force video creators to sign the revenue sharing agreement for its new “Red” premium service under the threat of having their videos yanked. “The lesson is that if you’re using a system that has a higher authority, you’re always vulnerable,” he explained.
By contrast, LBRY seeks to decentralize content distribution to the way Bitcoin decentralizes money. By eliminating the centralization, there is no more risk of a powerful gatekeeper changing the rules of the game. The same holds true whether the counterparty is a central bank driving up inflation or a Youtube curbing access to painstakingly built-up audiences.
Of course, there are many players seeking to use blockchains to revolutionize their industries. The proof will be in the pudding – or rather, the ability for a company like LBRY to execute on their grand vision. The alpha release looks very promising, but time will tell whether LBRY can truly threaten the massive established media market.