YouTube is certainly serious about
capitalizing on content. The company takes a 45 percent revenue split from ad
revenue, leaving the rest to content creators. That practice has incensed many,
including Jeremy Kauffman, co-founder and CEO of the blockchain-based content
distribution platform LBRY.
“You’re moving a stream of bits around,” he
said, arguing that YouTube’s margin is too high for the service it’s providing.
“What’s being charged is well beyond what would be charged to sell a physical
Kauffman has some other concerns over
YouTube’s centralized power, too, worrying that it can change the rules for content
creators who have no way to fight it.
Content creators have voiced their anger
over policies imposed unilaterally by YouTube in the past. Several were upset
when the service, under pressure from big brands, began pulling
advertising from videos because it deemed them inappropriate.
Other measures have seemed even more
draconian. YouTube forced
its content creators to sign new terms of service when it introduced its $10
per month subscription service. The alternative? It would turn videos private
or remove them entirely.
The blockchain can change all of that, said
“It allows us to build technology that’s
owned by the users rather than any one party,” he said. “That’s the problem
that blockchain [technology] solves.”
The LBRY protocol, for instance, lets
people publish online, making their content discoverable with a small payment
in LBRY’s own cryptocurrency token. Viewers pay creators in LBRY tokens to see
Under this model, creators are paid without
an intermediary slurping up the profits. Because LBRY is a protocol, the
company can’t exercise authoritarian control over what gets discovered. The
LBRY application is effectively a blockchain explorer. If someone wanted to
write an alternative client that only searched for content satisfying certain
criteria, then they could.
Kauffman isn’t the only one hoping to
subvert the traditional YouTube business model with blockchain technology. Decent hopes to do something similar with its DCT
token, while StreamSpace and Flixxo are also trying to bring blockchain
business models to video distribution.
There may be one barrier for ventures like
these, though: the living room. XBox, PlayStation and Apple TV dominate home
entertainment today. With mainstream users still taking the easy option and
selecting Netflix, iTunes and Xbox Video for their movies, will
blockchain-based video streaming services be able to make a dent?
Don’t underestimate the power of the internet’s
other users, said Kauffman in response.
“There are plenty of people to get traction from outside that circle,” he
said, claiming hundreds of thousands of users for LBRY. “As you get more
traction there's more desire for services to be on other devices.”
LBRY’s user base may be small potatoes in a
world where more
than 90 percent of U.S. teens watch YouTube, but Kauffman isn’t
“We recruited 4,000 YouTubers in specifically targeted demographics,” he
said. “A dozen [of which have] 500,000 or more subscribers.”
YouTube may not be rushing to adopt
blockchain technology and the likes of LBRY won’t dislodge it any time soon,
but they might just deliver something that seems less prevalent online in 2017:
the luxury of choice.