insight on that question, we took a close look at the video streaming startup POP
The State of Streaming Video
the most obvious question to ask about the presence of blockchain-based
platforms in the streaming video market is why so many companies have targeted
this market for disruption.
Bennett, who founded POP Network in 2015 and has served since then as its CEO,
said in an interview with Distributed.com
that the problems that blockchain technology can solve in the streaming video
market fall into two main categories.
category centers on issues that impact content creators. Platforms like YouTube
and Netflix don’t reward all content creators equally. To be a successful
content producer on a traditional streaming video platform, you have to produce
the type of content that the platform seeks to promote and reward.
case of a platform like Netflix, that means creating professional-quality
content that Netflix will pay to distribute — a prospect that is beyond the
reach of most ordinary people.
like YouTube are more democratic, in that anyone can upload videos and
potentially profit from them by claiming a share of ad revenue. However, the
ability of content creators in this context to generate income from their work
depends on producing the type of content that the platform’s algorithms will
requirement limits the freedom and opportunity enjoyed by content producers on
conventional video streaming platforms.
quite censorship,” Bennett said. “But content creators still don't have the
ability to be in control of their own personal economy.”
second group that is disadvantaged by traditional video streaming services,
according to Bennett, is viewers. Their experience is a passive one, he said,
because they have little ability to choose which types of content they consume.
somewhere decides what gets made, and you either like it or you don't,” said
that most streaming video services offer viewers little opportunity to pay only
for the content they actually want to see. If you subscribe to Netflix or Hulu,
you pay a flat fee that gives you access to hundreds of shows and movies, even
if you’d prefer to pay less in exchange for the ability to stream only certain
Blockchains and the Disruption of Online Video
Network and about a half dozen other blockchain-based startups are all vying to
disrupt conventional video streaming.
At a high
level, their strategies look similar. Using cryptocurrency-based payment
systems and peer-to-peer content distribution architectures, the companies aim to
eliminate the need for centralized video streaming servers, while also allowing
viewers to pay content creators directly for content that they want to consume.
enough to imagine how, in a general sense, blockchain technology can solve the
woes that both content creators and viewers experience with traditional video
puzzling question is whether this market needs so many different
blockchain-based startups — and how each of these companies seeks to
differentiate itself from the others and gain a competitive advantage, not just
over traditional video streaming services but also over other blockchain
said that POP Network, for its part, seeks to build a unique value offering
based on two main features.
is the company’s digital token, POP. POP Network is certainly not the only
streaming video startup to offer a digital token. But unlike most other tokens,
POP is designed for sidechain transactions. Bennett said that this architecture
gives POP an important scalability advantage.
super, super efficient, allowing for high-frequency transactions,” he said.
“You can theoretically make thousands of transactions without needing to hit
second standout feature of POP Network, according to Bennett, is the platform’s
as the delivery and consumption mechanism for streaming video.
advantage that POP Network seeks to gain in this respect is a simple user
lot of other projects in the space, we don't require plugins, downloads or
applications,” Bennett said. “The peer-to-peer video system works directly in
the browser, without any additional software. That allows us to have a really
broad distribution. We want something that works wherever people watch videos.”
Network’s WebTorrent approach is also notable because it means that the
platform does not use a blockchain for content streaming or distribution.
Instead, it uses torrents, a more traditional peer-to-peer technology. This
makes POP Network different from platforms like Livepeer.
Both of these
features of POP Network — the sidechain transaction system and the WebTorrent
client — are relatively specific technical characteristics. Whether they will
suffice for attracting a critical mass of users to POP Network and away from
traditional streaming video services and other blockchain startups remains
there’s no denying that POP Network operates in a tight market. It faces stiff
competition from deep-pocketed traditional streaming video companies, as well
as a host of other blockchain startups.
technical dimensions of the POP Network platform are different from those of
its blockchain competitors, but it does basically the same thing: Enable
peer-to-peer video distribution and a cryptocurrency-based rewards system. Is
it different enough to survive and thrive? That question will likely take a few
years to answer.