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PeerTube, the “Decentralized YouTube”, succeeds in crowdfunding (quariety.com)
576 points by Roccan 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 298 comments

What the people who want decentralized services don't realize is that the content creators want centralized services (whether they realize it or not).

In the old days we needed YouTube because you needed a Flash encoder if you wanted to make video accessible on the web to everyone. Now anyone can host video on anything. You can throw even throw some comments on the bottom if you want.

But what those who create want is an audience. They want a community. There is a cycle of drama on YouTube that everyone feeds off of. Hell, some of the most popular videos people make are videos of people complaining about YouTube. Make a normal video, get a few thousand views. Make a rage video about how your normal video got demonized, get a million views.

How many attempts at decentralized social networks have failed? All of them.

Your assumptions are completely wrong. Content creators simply want a platform for gathering an audience. Youtube wants to play as many ads as possible. Let's not pretend that somehow those interests align perfectly in the product we know as youtube.

The audience generation mechanics are an important ingredient for replacing youtube, but youtube has gone from being a free service that had little user generated content and focused on gray area "Napster model" hosting of copyrighted content.. and then gradually found content creators and introduced interruption advertising (full screen commercials).

There are a lot of holes in youtube's profit model. Imagine what youtube could be if it didn't have the dark patterns everywhere (young kids get served algorithmically generated disturbing content!).

It's so refreshing that an alternative model is getting some traction. Also, it would be fairly easy to just slurp up the best content from Youtube since most is in the public domain.

I'm not wrong.

We have moved towards a world of centralized services because that's what people want. To many people it's the centralized services that "are" the Internet: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—that's it. YouTube is the lowest common denominator of video. You aren't going to "fix" its problems with a more complex decentralized network.

If you want to solve the problems with YouTube you have to do it with another YouTube. Build another centralized service that fixes the problems that YouTube has, because that's what people want. Not a federated network. Creators want do less work for a larger more consistent paycheck.

Have we learned nothing from literally every single project the that has tried to "free" us from the evils of the centralized services? Here ya go: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_software_and_pro... Slowly they all go from Active to Dead or Stalled.

YouTube's audience doesn't care about anything at decentralized network has to offer. It's just entertainment for them. They just want to watch videos and shitpost in the comments.

> We have moved towards a world of centralized services because that's what people want.

No, nobody cares about centralization. Centralization is a mechanism that provides some of the values people do care about; convenience, indexing, free hosting, simple interfaces.

But it's a mistake to conflate centralization with the root cause that makes many of these services fail. If centralization was actually what people cared about, Google Plus would have beaten Facebook. After all, it's way more centralized than Facebook is. But it's not more convenient, better indexed, or simpler.

It's also a mistake to look at the list of failed efforts and say, "well, decentralized just doesn't work." Bear in mind that the list of failed centralized social networks is actually a great deal longer, and the chance of any one of them succeeding is just about as grim. The reality is that most social networks fail, period.

There are some compelling reasons why from an architectural standpoint centralization might make it easier to succeed, but the average person on the street can't even tell you what these words mean. They don't care.

And if a decentralized service comes around that's more convenient than the alternatives, they'll switch. Because they don't care.

I agree completely, but I am very pessimistic when it comes to decentralised publishing platforms. The architectural hurdles are not insurmountable but I think the legal ones are.

Individuals or small organisations simply can't afford to take on the potential liability that comes with letting arbitrary people upload arbitrary stuff to their servers.

If some hosts carry the controversial stuff and others don't, then those who do will be targeted, censored, persecuted and/or sued out of existence, and they don't have money to defend themselves because all the money making stuff is hosted by others.

That's not all bad though: it means that as a host, you have some legal representation at all.

On youtube? Your video is just taken down because it was flagged, or someone made three bogus copyright claims on your channel, or some algorithm thought your video of art is nudity. In these cases, you have zero legal recourse at all, even if you wanted to pursue it. Youtube's solution is not to protect creators, but to simplify their own legal logistics.

But you're not wrong about liability, hosts will need some solution. One part will be that PeerTube will probably build in features to help hosts moderate and manage legal documents like DMCA. Another common solution to dealing with liability and risk is insurance.

You're absolutely right about having no legal recourse at all on youtube. That's a very important point.

But for individuals acting in a personal capacity that doesn't matter. For them youtube is the no recourse, no financial risk option. People upload random stuff, not everything completely legal but often not interesting for copyright holders either (e.g very old episodes of TV shows). Sometimes it gets taken down. No harm done.

For professionals, relying on youtube is risky though. They could lose their entire audience over night if they get suspended.

So it sounds like decentralisation could work for professionals, but of course the catch is that without the huge volume of random stuff uploaded by non-professionals the platform doesn't have mass appeal because it's not the go-to place for video search, and that means professinals won't find the large audience they are looking for.

Insurance doesn't work in this case. It only works if the likelihood of getting sued is low and you cannot be accused of having broken the law knowingly, neither of which is compatible with working in a grey area.

There's a spectrum from "random home video" to "professional". At the "home video" end, the risk of getting sued is low, and built-in tools to help handle DMCA etc are enough (e.g. enable automatic takedowns). At the "professional" end they can afford to have a lawyer on retainer. That leaves the middle: where people are trying to make nicely produced videos, but they're not big enough to afford keeping a lawyer on retainer.

Let me try to make a case for how insurance could fit in here. Insurance like this is often predicated on the insured meeting various conditions. I could see a forward-thinking insurance company offering terms like these:

1. Require the producer to pre-declare exact claims of all source material for both music and video. For example, "1:02-3:55; Public domain music. Sourced from ...", "0:00-0:10; Licensed stock intro. License details ...", "5:07-5:15; Fair use news clip. Source at ...", "0:15-15:35; Original footage. Taken with X camera at Y location on Z date.".

2. Perform random audits on videos including tracking down all claimed sources to make sure they're documenting their sources correctly.

3. Offer running video through a ContentID system that can automatically check claimed sources with an internal database of known content. By opting-in, you can reduce your rate.

I think these bring the risk down to similar levels in other industries that insurance companies currently serve. Figuring out the exact rates, plans, kinds and amounts and limits of coverage, rates for different content etc etc etc is all the job of an adjuster. For example, fair use claims might have a higher rate of being contested, so maybe using them would be restricted and/or more expensive. It's in the insurance company's best interest to reduce the number of lawsuits and claims, so they will pursue anti-SLAPP judgements (and lobby for them!) to recoup legal costs of frivolous suits, thus reducing frivolous claims. The producer will have a well-known coverage and be able to manage their risk.

If the pre-declared claims sounds onerous to you, I could see video production tools being able to read specially formatted claim metadata embedded in any source and automatically outputting a properly formatted list of claims with timestamps embedded as metadata in the output. As long as the producer uses properly tagged sources it can be automatic. In fact, this could even be backed up with cryptographic signatures to allow in-place verification that you've purchased a particular license.

Another benefit: My apartment requires me to maintain renters insurance. Similarly, you could provide your cloud provider with proof that you maintain this kind of insurance, in exchange for them promising they won't disconnect your account due to copyright claims (and forward them to your insurance company instead). This combats the "walking up the stack" problem discussed in other threads.

>There's a spectrum from "random home video" to "professional".

Non-professionals are not just uploading home videos (which often contain copyrighted music by the way), they are also uploading stuff they have downloaded elsewhere (music, TV shows, etc). That's the key issue.

Your insurance idea sounds a lot like what Google is already doing and it brings back a lot of the downsides of centralisation. It's very onerous/expensive to run and therefore requires significant monetisation to cover the cost. It also carries the risk of false positives as everything would have to be automated.

The insurance company would disproportionately "punish" hosts that carry the more controversial/risky content unless the platform as a whole is the insured party or all hosts are forced to pay everyone elses insurance premiums.

This would create a disincentive for hosts carrying uncontroversial content to join the platform in the first place (not just for financial reasons but also political ones). They would create their own far more restrictive platform with much cheaper insurance premiums or simply upload to a centrialised provider like youtube.

The incentive to subsidise controversial/risky content is to be the go-to place for video search and monitise the heck out of it. It's simply a centralised business model.

> "punish" hosts that carry the more controversial/risky content

Free speech is a completely different topic. If you're conflating copyright infringement and free speech when you're thinking about insurance, I can agree there's no way it could work. Let me clarify: coverage would be limited to copyright infringement claims only. Covering free speech with insurance is completely a non-starter, they would be opening themselves up to a new universe of risk, even suits directed directly at themselves. That said, the insurance company would be highly incentivized to discourage the abuse of copyright infringement laws to quell speech: these are separate concerns (from their perspective), so reducing such abuse would be good for them (and us!).

Think about what happens to controversial speech on centralized platforms now: some faceless moderator unilaterally decides -- without option to appeal -- whether to take your speech down from their platform permanently (it's their platform after all) and possibly ban you. In a decentralized platform you have the option to defend it with whatever resources you decide.

> Non-professionals are not just uploading home videos (which often contain copyrighted music by the way), they are also uploading stuff they have downloaded elsewhere (music, TV shows, etc). That's the key issue.

With a decentralized model like PeerTube you have to change your conception of who accepts and hosts uploads. You can't just upload to "The PeerTube" like you can YouTube, you have to upload to a federated instance. PeerTube makes hosting your own instance much easier and cheaper. Many will create their own, some might use one hosted by a family member, others might sign up for a more public instance. In each case, the instance will be more and more like the centralized model. But that's ok, because now there's a gradient. You have the choice to manage your own instance (or any available middle ground), with all the benefits and downsides that come with publishing your own content (except hosting costs of course, that's the point).

My point is that with this model, you have the choice to moderate it and defend it manually yourself (professionals, activists), or defer it entirely to a third party (basically the current centralized model). But there's a large gap between these, where some kind of insurance-like service could help bridge.

Chiming in to say I agree with this viewpoint -- I think conflating centralization as the only way to provide the convenience, indexing, free hosting, etc is definitely what happens when people say that decentralized solutions can't work.

Two big blockers that I rarely see discussed for the decentralized future coming to pass:

- (D)DNS for the 1+ persistent devices per/user (IPV6 support/rollout basically)

- Lowering the barrier to entry for running a server on a users' behalf

If we really want the internet to be a web, we need to make it easier to run servers that act on behalf of users/hold their data, that they control.

If you'll indulge me, I've had in the back of my mind a project for a long time, a <$30 home-server (I'd call it "the tube" or "pipe") that has a cheaper but good-enough set of functionality that you get from the internet giants today:

- Document management and storage

- Backups (connect your local "pipe" to a backup storage provider)

- Chat/Messaging, SIP + Video conferencing

- Local networked/mesh services spanning from blogging, social networking, ecommerce, whatever.

I'm very much of the I-just-want-to-write-software so I preoccupy myself thinking of what tech I'd use to make it happen, but I think this is the kind of project that people need to really embrace the internet as a sparse group of interconnected nodes.

I also think that humans are ready to accept this kind of structure -- we already have it! People can understand that if you want a storefront to be up all the time, you need to have something run it all the time, the power to run it just isn't in their hands yet.

Of course, startups are hard, hardware startups are harder, and consumer product hardware+software startups are pretty hard, so it's much easier said than done. Decentralized systems absolutely can work, but the amount of work, fore-thought, and careful construction with consideration for generating network effects and making it easier for people to run and use -- basically good product design -- is just missing in the open source world, because it's hard.

>>> No, nobody cares about centralization.

Great so it is not an important aspect of the problem. You just proved to yourself why PeerTube does not matter.

I don't know whether you are right, but I don't find your argument persuasive.

You could have made a parallel argument, before Youtube, about how people wanted only professional content, why a service for user created content would never work etc, because that's all that had worked, up to that point.

Just because all the decentralized projects have failed so far doesn't mean they are doomed.

Its really early days yet. Youtube is just over a decade old. HBO is 5 decades old. Clearly decentralized services are harder to build and get right. But that means there's still plenty to figure out, and plenty of potential.

> YouTube's audience doesn't care about anything at decentralized network has to offer. It's just entertainment for them. They just want to watch videos and shitpost in the comments.

People change, they grow in sophistication. E.g. look at Facebook - at the start it was full of spammy viral activity notifications for crappy games. People got sick of that and it was forced to change. Now its full of other crappy stuff, but which people are getting sick of now too.

>You could have made a parallel argument, before Youtube, about how people wanted only professional content, why a service for user created content would never work etc, because that's all that had worked, up to that point.

I remember in the early days people in the entertainment industry dismissing youtube as a useless piracy website which could never deliver any worth while content by itself.

This was in 2006 when the only real use for youtube was to watch music videos because of the 10 minute video limit.

A lot can change in 10 years once the base technology is in place.

YouTube, launched in early 2005, actually instated the 10-minute limit in 2007 or 2008; I remember watching plenty of full TV shows in the first couple of years, and I remember that one of the most popular and constantly recommended were episodes of "Chappelle's Show" (noted in the Viacom lawsuit that could have destroyed YouTube, had Google not owned it by them) and there were also uploads of the Comedy Central version of "Who's Line Is It Anyway?" and 1980s and '90s SNL episodes. Then there was the 10-minute limit, then 15 [0]--and there were tons of broadcast-TV uploads that were divided up in such segments (such as the very popular "MoxNewsDotCom" channel's uploads of the 2008 U.S. election debates)--and then by the end of 2010, YouTube started allowing videos of any length, and I recall seeing novelty videos of some repeating loops for several or dozens of hours [1][2].

[0] Undated, but still showing up: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/71673?hl=en&co=GEN...

[1] "THE LONGEST VIDEO ON YOUTUBE - 596.5 HOURS" - Dec 14, 2011 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04cF1m6Jxu8


We grow down in sophistication in tech. Everything goes to the lowest common denominator, then it falls further. The web used to be sophisticated and it was only for nerds.

I think your argument is mostly running into selection issues.

If its the middle ages and the only people who have learned to read are the very most educated part of the the population, then the average printed material is going to be intellectual. As the reading population expands over the next 1000 years, and the average book hence becomes less scholarly, you might naively conclude that everything is becoming 'lowest common denominator'. But overall, education standards + sophistication are rising hugely.

Sure, when only nerds could access the web, it was super sophisticated. And it had to get easier to go mainstream. But that doesn't mean the mainstream trend is to always dumb down forever, as you are arguing.

Apple mouse used to have only one button, but now look at the power of the multitouch UX almost everyone uses on their smartphone daily. Look at Gmail compared to Hotmail v1, Youtube compared to cable TV etc. Its easy to forget how powerful and sophisticated they are. People have learned to do really sophisticated things, create, communicate etc.

Sure, things dumbed down since only CS grad students used the Internet. But now that growth is slowing, I bet tastes are going to increase in sophistication again.

That's great. A simpler way of explaining it is that sophistication tends to follow a U-shaped curve: initial complexity for the early adopter set, simplification for mass adoption, then a different kind of sophistication as the masses become more educated and savvy in the use of the new system.

This only applies to surface complexity though. Under the hood the web today is many orders of magnitude more complex than the web in the 1990s.

What do you mean? Should refinement equal surface complexity?

> We have moved towards a world of centralized services because that's what people want.

We have moved towards a world of centralised services because decentralised ones are—by definition—difficult to monetise for the platform/software-maintainer(s). What people want is irrelevant when all potential options have to be initially well-funded: the choice is too restrictively limited to perform an honest comparison.

> To many people it's the centralized services that "are" the Internet

That's because they dominate, because they're profitable for the central host.

> If you want to solve the problems with YouTube you have to do it with another YouTube. Build another centralized service that fixes the problems that YouTube has

The problems with YoutTube are caused by it being centralised, so this proposal is paradoxical.

> they all go from Active to Dead or Stalled

It's a difficult challenge. It's David v Goliath. Many fail.

> YouTube's audience doesn't care about anything at decentralized network has to offer. It's just entertainment for them. They just want to watch videos and shitpost in the comments.

YouTube's audience want to be able to find entertaining/useful/educational/whatever content according to what they've come to Youtube looking for, and promptly leave after having been entertained/educated/generally fulfilled. Youtube is not incentivised to give them this; in fact it's strongly incentivised to make what they're looking for as difficult to find as possible so that they'll spend hours and hours binging vacuous addictive content looking for something but never quite finding it and getting no satisfaction from the experience.

This is not something that's unique to YouTube, it's a property of any model whereby the profits of the host/platform maintainer are tightly linked to users spending as much time navigating the platform as possible (see also Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest infinite scroll psychology).

> [YouTube is] incentivised to make what they're looking for as difficult to find as possible so that they'll spend hours and hours binging vacuous addictive content looking for something but never quite finding it and getting no satisfaction from the experience.

What you just gave is an imaginary description from someone who evidently doesn't use YouTube. I remember seeing Google presentations (on its official YouTube channel) in 2007 and 2008 where executives were saying that the goal of Google Search is to get you to what you're looking for as quickly as possible, and that's one reason that Google Search became the leader in search, and its very name is a verb for looking up something online. YouTube does the same exact thing, and the way they hook you into watching more are the automatic "related video" and "subscribe" overlays in the video player itself, and then the long column of related videos and, for any professional video, a pre-made playlist that is based on the viewing selections of other viewers, in the left column (on desktop browsers) or under the video (on phones). If I'm looking up a video by a singer, I find a long list of results. If I'm looking up funny bulldog videos, I find the same. If I'm looking up burger-cooking tutorials, I find the same. If I'm looking up clips from a certain TV show, I find the same. You're saying that YouTube doesn't do that? Try looking up some things on it and see for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/

I use YouTube a lot. Looking up a clip from a TV show or movie, a movie trailer, or a specific old TV ad works fine. Searching for a specific how-to works. And that's where YouTube's searchability begins and ends. Looking for content of a certain variety is essentially impossible. YouTube's categorisation is vague to the point of uselessness. There's almost no metadata associated with videos (even algorithmically) and most of it isn't exposed as a search facet.

I follow a number of channels on YouTube that I enjoy: finding similar channels is no easier than it was before I discovered them. YouTube doesn't intelligently recommend me similar things, nor is there any facility to look for similar channels unless the creators of those channels have gone and curated such lists manually. The "because you watched" recommendations on YouTube's home feed are always of the same variety, with weak relationship to what I follow, rather than genuine similarity.

Some examples:

- I watch an educational video about repairing an old engine; YouTube gives me tonnes of promotional videos about car brands instead of educational content by other makers/fixers.

- I watch an academic critique of the Bechdel test; YouTube gives me Hollywood trailers and popular movie clips

- I watch a documentary clip about traditional food in Italy; YouTube gives me BuzzFeed millennials tasting things

The latter recommendations are not because that's the only content, the former content exists, it's just not pushed by YouTube because it doesn't lead to addictive content consumption cycles.

>in fact it's strongly incentivised to make what they're looking for as difficult to find as possible so that they'll spend hours and hours binging vacuous addictive content looking for something but never quite finding it and getting no satisfaction from the experience.

Reddit and Original (as in when it was college email addresses only) Facebook are / were really good at this.

You may go to either one with some idea of what you want to check out but hours later realize you went down a rabbit hole that never ended.

I'm not too sure Youtube is anywhere near as good as Reddit is or Facebook used to be but some people are right in saying that some of the changes Youtube has made makes it easier for a user to snap back to reality and realize it's time to get off of Youtube because it's not serving you anything you want to watch -- because like you said it's hard to find by design.

Actually I am finding content is getting stale. I used it for mechanic videos, how-tos, product reviews, and tech videos. Since they cut the "low" end and there is little incentive for people with a couple dozen mechanic vidoes to make $150...I am seeing more and more videos at 6-8 months with nothing new. Tech videos yes but smaller channels are dying and I am finding less of what I need.

> We have moved towards a world of centralized services because that's what people want.

Almost there. People want INTEROPERABLE services. If that occurs because one place has a monopoly, that’s okay. If everyone can participate across any platform they choose that has the features they want (privacy, a close knit community, etc) that’s better.

Ease of user interoperability trumps nearly everything else. Most users don't care about your conceptual and moral motivations as an engineer. All we need to do is change the tech serving the problem underneath without necessarily changing the user-facing solution too much. It's such a simple idea yet people seem unable to grasp it; and end up whining about issues that have minimal relevance. There's a gap in the thinking somewhere. Plus, please carry on arguing about why I need to view 3 advertisements simultaneously (yes, use the YouTube mobile app). Engineers who have been reading the news and seeing the results of our latest technological models for the past 10 years don't want the same broken manure that is good for the bottom line but bad for people. Literally stop thinking about the bottom line for one second and focus on the people and maybe you'll see sometimes it's not about choking every last bit of stink out of the old model but completely changing the game. Apparently these are broken dreams though.

> YouTube's audience doesn't care about anything at decentralized

You're speaking for quite a huge number of people about their preferences vs. something that does not exist. "Content creators" didn't care about the internet, until they did. For that matter, apparently I'm not a member of the "audience", either.

Maybe you're right. I'd need to see some argument other than "because I think so", and look at these failures[1], though.

As far as bald assertions, here's mine:

Video consumers on average don't know what the word "federated" means in the context of networked services. Nor do they care. They don't know that email is federated. They know they hit "send", and their words pop up in grandma's inbox.

Users don't care about the tech under the hood. They want the payloff. If the economics of federated content networks work, they will take off once someone figures out the proper feature set, placement and happens into a bit of luck.

If not, we're doomed to sharecropping on FaceGoogazon and this whole conversation is pointless.

[1] I have here a list of social network failures that prove nobody wants to use social networks. QED.

You listing out a bunch of decentralized, protocol based solutions means that there's competition in the market, which is evidence of a new market that is GROWING. The opposite of a dead market. Youtube is also a the result of such a competitive market. There used to be dozens of video hosting platforms. The same applies to almost every other company. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Ebay, etc. all grew up in very competitive markets. Competitive markets means that there's demand.

Decentralization does one very important thing. It makes it more profitable, and cheaper to make content accessible to your audience, while giving you the freedom of making money. That is to say decentralization amplifies the ability of computers to make work what Youtube and Google require billions to do. It DISTRIBUTES that workload among many independent workers, and lets the market decide how valuable their input is.

Secondly centralized solutions can exist in a decentralized environment. Content distribution should always have been decentralized, making profit on content is the centralization problem. You're getting content distribution, and profitability mixed up.

Umm, I don't think I agree with you on the idea that decentralization decreases costs for contract distribution.

Distributing content to millions of people requires massive investment.

The total cost would likely INCREASE massively, as my home computer is much worse at acting as a CDN than Google.

Sure, the costs get DISTRIBUTED, to places where maybe you aren't the one paying for it. But SOMEONE is still paying that money. And they are doing much less efficient than a centralized service with thousands of engineers.

You don't run your website, necessarily, on a local home computer, why would you assume the same for this?

So it's not decentralized then?

I thought that was the entire point.

But even if it is not literal home PCs, and is instead some sort of middle road between massive company and home PC, my point still stands.

Your 10 person company hosting content isn't going to be able to stream it live to 20 thousand people. That takes lots and lots of money and engineering talent to do right.

Is this not the archetypal battle of modern software? It makes me think of Eric Raymond's classic book "The Cathedral and the Bazaar". At which point the other side rolls out the Linux precedent - the decentralised success.

I believe the world very much does want decentralised services, it's just that such services have quite different measures of success.

> Build another centralized service that fixes the problems that YouTube has,

Then just create a huge PeerTube instance, and you'll get the benefits of both worlds.

Plus, you'll pay for less bandwidth than Youtube.

> Have we learned nothing from literally every single project the that has tried to "free" us from the evils of the centralized services? Here ya go: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_software_and_pro.... Slowly they all go from Active to Dead or Stalled.

I think the issue is none of them have commercial backing and are some "fringe nerd project. The problem is unless it's a nonprofit (good luck with that) there is no commercial interest in producing a decentralized platform. (See Google and Facebook killing off XMPP for a small example of this)

These centralized services just happen to be the current iteration. There will be others. It's hard to do make decentralized software well and up to now hasn't been the main thing so we have centralized software.

Before TCP/IP there were many competing networking 'standards' put out by various vendors, some were local nets but others also did routing, but TCP/IP has superceded them and many application protocols are created just for the purpose of interoperability and decentralization.

You're making an assumption-- namely that federated or decentralized systems must be harder to use than centralized ones.

Present decentralized alternatives usually are. There are numerous reasons. Some have to do with unsolved or inadequately solved problems in distributed systems engineering, but most are I think more pragmatic.

The two largest reasons for distributed/decentralized/federated services sucking are (IMHO):

(1) Most of these things are developed by geeks who lack an appreciation for the critical importance of user experience and lack expertise in areas like GUI and UX design. The result is products by geeks for geeks and that fail to get much traction outside small geek-centric markets.

(2) There is no good economic model, which means that there's no incentive for developers to do the parts of software development that are not fun. Solving grand problems is fun, but fixing a trillion trillion edge case UI/UX and platform bugs is not. Supporting users definitely is not. But those are the things that take something from a niche or nerds-only product to something regular people will use. Centralized platforms have two economic models: charging directly for use or monetizing the user through surveillance capitalism. (The latter is more common.)

You are correct. The outpouring against your position is simply defense of the premise that "centralized is 99% bad, decentralized is 99% good".

If that premise isn't true, if being decentralized doesn't always lead to a promised land, what then, does that mean for the companies or projects that promote decentralization as their main reason for existence?

As always, people need to defend their jobs and more importantly, their source of income.

Another point of decentralised services is cutting out the middleman and this is what should be appealing to content creators.

Not really. Content creators often look for middlemen to represent them. That's why they join networks that works directly with YouTube.

Most of the views to people who do YouTube as a job. When you look on that trending list, 90% of those videos are people waking up and going to a job. The last thing they want is more bosses and more logistics.

> That's why they join networks that works directly with YouTube.

They usually join networks more out of necessity than choice (from memory you get access to more "perks" if you're with a network). Many YouTubers bemoan the existence of multi-channel networks because they take a lot of power away from content creators (even more than YouTube already does).

> When you look on that trending list [...]

These days it's pretty obvious that the trending list is effectively all paid promotions. It's not uncommon that content that has already gone viral is nowhere near the trending list (and the trending list is instead videos advertising new movies). In the "old days" of YouTube, the front page was hand-selected content that someone working at YouTube thought people would enjoy. These days it's all run by opaque algorithms.

> The last thing they want is more bosses and more logistics.

Given how many YouTubers are complaining about their current bosses being completely awful, I'd think the last thing they want is to continue with the status quo.

> Content creators often look for middlemen to represent them.

Oh boy. Bees are looking for badgers?!

Content creators are looking for support and high reliability. "The middleman" can sometimes deliver those things... Until they suddenly boot you out, because their algorithm determined, that your videos don't deliver enough bucks in advertising revenue to keep them afloat.

Of course, "the algorithm" is merely poor excuse for carefully orchestrated scenario, which might have as well resulted from manual intervention (and most famous precedents are indeed backed by staff-approved decisions). Google have put great deal of effort into pretending, that their services have no support teams and no living humans behind them, but in practice places like YouTube are censored to hell and back, — and all of that censorship happens at expense of "content creators".

You are making the argument that because centralized systems have been proven to be able to solve certain kinds of problems in an acceptable way, that it follows that centralization was the magic bullet that made the systems successful.

This argument is analogous to saying that because all wars that have been won to date have been fought using swords, that all future victories will be won with swords.

In the myopia of any era, such statements seem trivially true, yet they are shown to be false again and again.

Let's break down what Youtube actually consists of: It's a hosting platform for videos, a security model, a content recommendation/discovery platform, a piracy/abuse prevention moderation system, an advertising platform, and an affiliate platform (content creators make some of the ad revenue).

All of these can be created as federated systems. There are some significant inefficiencies that give a federated system a bit of a disadvantage, but building it in a decentralized way also offers tremendous advantages.

Such a system will certainly replace Youtube at some point in the future as long as each of the mechanisms Youtube offers is available and performs with similar quality to what Youtube offers.

We've seen some fairly remarkable examples of distributed cooperation (blockchain systems) that many would have thought impossible a few years ago. Critics of such systems still point to centralized control as the inevitable way of humanity, but get proven wrong every day as decentralized systems gain credibility.

Credibility is the key. You are right that the average person who wants to flip around and watch funny content doesn't care how the system was built, but average users do care about the massively annoying ads, the freemium model and the myriad dark patterns that try to squeeze every last penny out of the ecosystem.

Analogous to how Microsoft took a big nose dive soon after reaching "peak annoying" with its tiered OS offerings, $1000 office suite and many other gimmicks that signal impending disruption, Youtube is getting very close to this pinnacle.

The little gimmicks that gradually autoplay you toward the most viral content and ads are pernicious dark patterns that create psychological pain for users and even though they are viewed as successful by the "engagement and profitability metrics" approach, they are creating a bigger and bigger void for some other service to fill.

The problem is, Youtube has created a category leading centralized product, which is now very easy to replicate. Just as Bing was able to easily steal much of Google's search market simply by copying many years of Google R&D in a few months, playing trending videos with interruption marketing is now a known product and any missteps can result in massive loss of market share. Google knows this and will not take risks to expand the platform's features.

So all it takes for a federated model to succeed is some insight into the things that the market wants that Google is too blinded by dopamine-fueled ad watching to worry about building.

Your axioms are completely wrong.

Content creators wants as much money as possible, and Youtube wants as much money as possible.

>Content creators simply want a platform for gathering an audience

content creators want to get paid. If all the content creators wanted was a platform to gather an audience, being demonetized wouldn't be the end of the world that they all seem to claim it is.

those ads youtube plays don't just fund youtube, they fund the content creators too. the interests of the platform and the producer are pretty closely aligned there.

It's really grinding when the top comments of any sort of alternative thing to come out are always so negative. Long list of reasons why this will never work out.

It's easy to be negative. It's more difficult but more fun to be inventive and industrious.

To the peertube devs: don't let negative comments like this grind you down. Peertube has some great ideas and I think it can succeed.

It's really grinding when any criticism isn't addressed but complained about for being pointed out.

It's not criticism. It's reactionary conjecture about why people are using YouTube without any evidence to back it up.

This. If everyone in the tech industry adopted a "X works and many people use it, so we shouldn't try to make Y work" then you can say goodbye to progress. Specifically, some of us don't want the internet to serve as an interactive billboard, where our interactions with billboards are monitored. 99% of users probably don't care but being part of the next generation of software engineers I want to build things that influences people lives more positively than the previous generation of tech. I honestly question the moral integrity of my fellow technologists. There's a massive gap some commenters are missing between looking at the outcome of a model and the technical or conceptual changes it could undergo over time. Just because something has been working for 5/10 years doesn't mean it's the only proven way nor do we need to enforce it as the "proven ©" status quo for everyone else because we're too afraid of technical changes.

Conversely, if we aren't sufficiently critical of new projects, we risk wasting incredible sums of money on things that never could have worked.

Our industry has a long history of that kind of waste. Exhibit A is the dot-com bubble, but there are plenty of modern failures too. If we want to maximize innovation, we cannot be too suspicious of novelty, but we also can't let it blind us.

Making the assumption that new technology or "innovation" needs to involve larges sums of money, especially if we're talking about software, seems strange. Which is what these types of developers want to move away from, talking about money, advertisements etc... Why have nerds and geeks spent vasts amounts of time writing software for free and why are we continuing to do it? For money? Maybe I need to take my blinders off but it doesn't seem like it. IMO so many people are missing the entire point here. We're not talking about making money here we're talking about changing money. This is fundamental. People need to take a step back.

This is a crowdfunding announcement, so I think asking whether the money will be well-used is not unreasonable. And I think it's also reasonable to point out how much money our field wastes on new things. This may be free software, but it's still software, and it's directly competing with one of the world's largest tech companies.

Wasting incredible sums of money and effort and resources is our way of life. We distrust each other, we compete, we hoard, we waste.

Here's a crowdfunded, decentralized YouTube. Crowdfunded. Decentralized. I don't see why everyone is using private business and investment lingo. People seem to be missing the point entirely. Also, if your startup fails and you didn't actually learn anything or made anything remotely usefull, that's a waste. This doesn't seem like a "waste". It's crowdfunded. The type of people supporting this probably couldn't care less if it "fails". I repeat myself verbatim: I don't see why everyone is using private business and investment lingo.

Sure. But for it not to be a waste, they really do have to learn something. What hypotheses are they testing? What can this project tell us that we can't learn from the history of decentralized efforts?

I'm not saying that there isn't anything. Just that new efforts should be making new mistakes.

(Also, the reason to use investment lingo is that investment is the field that specializes in examining cost-benefit tradeoffs for resource usage that hopefully leads to human benefit.)

I also do not see this as a waste. I was just replying to the parent. It's silly to label this a waste when so much we do is wasteful to no end.

I don't think you can place the burden of evidence on one side alone. Enough people have experience with YouTube as users, creators, or both that it's not wild to think that many people have reasonable intuitions about why YouTube dominates the market.

And if we are going to demand evidence of critics, I think we should also demand evidence of promoters of things like this, who often seem guided by a Big Idea rather than any evidence of user needs or proven ability to solve those user needs.

The top comment of almost any post on HN is negative.

The most popular videos on YouTube and the most clicked articles on the web are generally those that complain, troll, mock, criticize, or fear-monger. Humans seem to be biased toward paying attention to criticism and negativity. Maybe it has evolutionary roots. If you ignore good hunting advice you'll probably live, but if you ignore the person telling you there's a mountain lion in that bush you're cat food. The paranoid probably passed on their genes a bit more often than the optimistic.

You also see it in the arts. Dark edgy music is deep and profound while happy dancey music is trite and stupid... in spite of the fact that dark edgy music is often no more musically interesting or innovative than the happy dancey stuff.

I've noticed this and wonder why it is... Maybe developers /engineers are prone to seeking out, trying to identify constraints?

It's definitely a lot easier. To argue that an idea is flawed, you only need to find one possible reason it wouldn't work. If you are correct, you are cheered for it.

To argue an idea will succeed, you need to know and understand the whole concept, and be able to analyze it for flaws. And then you could be proved wrong by someone mentioning a single issue you didn't see before.

Even if you did see the problems people mention, to defend your point, you have to explain why each of them don't apply, which can be a lot of work.

And then, anyone deciding whether they agree with you or not would have to do the same thing, in order to be right in their opinion, so you get a lot less people willing to upvote you.

In that way, comment systems are focused on the negative and aren't a good space for creativity and coming up with new ideas. Now, please, tear into this and tell me where I'm wrong ;)

I definitely was. It's much easier to appear smart when being critical than when being positive.

One of the things that helped me was the notion of Appreciative Inquiry. Basically that when you are dealing with new things, you first look for the good points that you can amplify, not bad points to beat on.

That said, I think coding is a powerful push back toward the negative. Code breaks so easily that we're thoroughly trained to be on the lookout for the next failure point.

There are also large mega-corps who have vested interests in ensuring that their products don't get eclipsed by these kinds of solutions. Don't underestimate the shilling force.

There probably less incentive or pressure to comment if you agree. If you disagree, you presumably have an opposing view and rationale which you may be compelled to share.

Criticising a technology for it's tech is one thing. Claiming that "X won't work because Y always works" casually but authoritatively isn't really criticism. And you can see a lot of people here getting upset over casual but massive sweeping statements like that without backup.

And that doesn't mean it's not very valuable feedback.

What part of that is valuable feedback that the PeerTube team could act upon in any other way than to say "Fuck it, this person on HN said that our project won't work out. Let's all pack up and go home."?

Having worked in TV for 15 years, I can say without a doubt the top comment is correct in many, many ways.

Content creation and hosting is a small problem compared with distribution and marketing. That's much of the reason why it's taking so long for software to eat entertainment. Distribution to interested parties is a process that took Hollywood half a century (and YouTube and Netflix) decades. Keep in mind, Netflix started by focusing just on distribution.

Good news is always good, but there's a difference between gaining access to tens of thousands of euros and getting to a first video distribution with 20 million views, for example. That's when people who work in content/entertainment will turn their heads and take notice.

I mean, it does have some great ideas. They just aren't ideas that YouTube's audience or content creators care about.

You're right! It's incredibly depressing and deflating when the most popular comments are always, always so negative. So down.

Yet, is it perhaps possible that there might be something to be learned from the comments? Each is an exciting new opportunity for readers and developers to learn and perhaps even improve!

youtube is great for building an audience, but not nessesarily good for keeping it. A lot of niches have great success with patreon, but great trouble with keeping their videos on youtube (and in some cases keeping them in their subscribers feeds even when they are not taken down). The issues range from youtube's automatic enforcement of content guidelines (which appears more or less random), their ever increasing strictness (explosions are suddenly bad?) to their aweful copyright system that enables serious abuse of false copyright claims.

I suspect most content creators will stay on youtube for the audience, but there is lots of potential for backup channels to move off of youtube to some other, better provider. And as enough content is mirrored (and eventually vanishes from youtube as it gets taken down), the decentralized service becomes gradually more interesting to viewers.

Exactly. Youtube isn't a means to monetize, necessarily, that comes with audience regardless of platform. If a majority of people switched off of youtube, and began doing their content independently the monetization would inevitable have to follow the content creators, regardless of platform. That's the problem here. Youtube is not necessarily good for content creators, but rather gives a centralized platform for ad agencies to sponsor their products.

However the future is in platform being irrelevant, and acting only as a communication protocol for data. This will allow for both building communities, and since it's only a protocol greater freedoms for content creators, and also greater freedoms for companies to sponsor content creators as they won't be restricted by another organization's policies.

Youtube will ultimately just be major news network spam, with reduced diversity. You can already see late night show spam, and news organizations getting preferential treatment on the platforms. These organizations will never be adequate for the internet due to their bureaucratic nature.

Fake news.

I'm sorry, have you been on YouTube recently? You're talking about it as though the last time you saw anyone talking about the behind the scenes of being a YouTuber was 2009. Things have changed in the meantime, and not for the better.

>youtube is great for building an audience, but not nessesarily good for keeping it.

I wouldn't make that youtube's fault. People just grow out of content or like other content.

And the overzealous community guidelines and copyright strikes are a result of hundreds of lawsuits against youtube by the movie industry, and a need to appeal to advertisers for their platform.

Youtube barely makes any real income, just barely.

People seriously seriously underestimate the amount time and tech that has gone into youtube.

PeerTube/alternate youtube will also be subjective to the same things and similar things will happen.

Copyright system has to inspect billions of hours of video in a day, you can't expect people to do all of that. Will the alternative that isn't already a huge company have the assets to deal with all the copyright infringement? To have the enourmous CDN and advanced AI filtering algorithms that is better than youtube?

People seriously seriously underestimate the amount time and tech that has gone into youtube.

Sorry, but "yawn." More has gone into nuclear weapons and I'd send those into the sun in a heartbeat, sunk-costs be damned.

It's not about sunk costs; it's about being able to redo all the hard parts ... that a small startup would not be able to do it and a large company would fall prey to the same short comings youtube has right now

You're saying they don't follow SOLID? ;)

> I wouldn't make that youtube's fault. People just grow out of content or like other content.

YouTube constantly messes with the subscription feed.


> People seriously seriously underestimate the amount time and tech that has gone into youtube.

No, we're perfectly aware. It's just a huge chunk of that time is used on actively bad tech, that does bad things. Not out of incompetence, but out of user and creator hostile decisions they make time and time again.

> Copyright system has to inspect billions of hours of video in a day, you can't expect people to do all of that.

Don't host more on your instance than you have the resources to check. If people want to upload a whole lot, they have to do it on their own instance, and be culpable for what they upload to it. What is so hard about it?

There are billions of people on this planet, each could say something any second that would land them in jail in multiple jurisdictions. No need to centralize all speech and check it centrally, is there?

> To have the enourmous CDN and advanced AI filtering algorithms that is better than youtube?

Hmmpf. They couldn't even really deal with ElsaGate, 99% of which consists of videos using the exact same music. Indeed, people found more manually, and then YouTube failed to act on the reports. They have a worse performance than many little hosters would have in aggregate, I'm pretty sure.

The hypocrisy will be hilarious when people start ripping yt vids and putting them on pt, given how yt was born off pirated content and hid behind "safe harbor" laws to build a browsable catalog. The first clip that came from yt will be met with scathing rebuke from Google's legal team.

> The first clip that came from yt will be met with scathing rebuke from Google's legal team.

Unlikely unless Google owns the copyright.

You do not assign your copyright to Google in order to publish your video on YouTube. That will not hold water. Rather, you declare Google an irrevocable license to use and publish your video on their platform.

I think what GP was getting at is that people will rip and re-host other people's videos.

That already happens plenty on Youtube itself, so I don't think it's crazy to assume that you'll start to see PeerTube instances that take someone else's channel and just mirror it.

Now, is that PeerTube's problem? Not really, it's between the copyright holder and the uploader. Is YouTube going to try and raise a fuss? I kind of doubt it, the press would have a field day pointing out the hypocrisy.

But the laissez faire attitude of content creators (and Youtube as a platform in general) might ironically make it attractive to hosts who want to fill up their instances with content quickly.

Nothing about any of that couldn't happen on a decentralised/federated network. The drama could obviously happen, though likely about different issues to those on YouTube. The discoverability could happen on a decentralised system, as could ad money/subscription payments, recommendations or anything else.

Nothing about what makes someone successful on a site like YouTube needs it to be centralised to be possible.

It's not impossible, but I think it's way, way less likely. The thing with YouTube alternatives is that they have to be at least as good as YouTube. Creators will only go where their audiences will go, so a site that doesn't offer a good user experience will immediately be off the table.

Discoverability is way harder on decentralized systems, as is providing recommendations, stability, etc.

Sometimes HN/reddit gets so starry eyed when anything about decentralized/distributed/open-source systems comes up that any sort of critique of the product becomes like a personal attack. A few months ago someone posted a decentralized "facebook alternative", where you had to download a bunch of stuff, and connect with an FTP client just in order to make a post. My grandma's on facebook, but she's not going to understand how to connect to a MySQL database.

People think that defending decentralized/distributed systems at any cost makes them better, but I think it just makes them untenable in the long term. If you enjoy using a product, then prosthelytize all you want for it, but if you like the idea more than the product, then the product probably should change or evolve.

> A few months ago someone posted a decentralized "facebook alternative", where you had to download a bunch of stuff, and connect with an FTP client just in order to make a post.

That's the irony with decentralized services.

Your entire architecture depends on people participating in it. When you make it as humanly cumbersome as possible for people to actually participate, you will not have any infrastructure.

I've seen worms and botnets that were better architected than that. Recruiting and participation were done right, and made easy ;)

This is a pet peeve of mine.

I've been a developer and sysadmin since the early 90s. I know how to do almost any sysadmin-type task on every platform, even exotic embedded stuff and niche OSes.

These days if something takes me longer than 20 or 30 minutes to set up it goes in the trash. The only exception are things that are very very high value or that I simply must have to do my work. The need has to be burning for me to wade through a multi-step convoluted install/maintenance process. I also instantly discard "Rube Goldberg machine" style things (lots of disjointed dependencies) and messy haphazard snot ball things.

It's not because I can't deal with it. It's because I view it as a sign of bad design and bad implementation and a preview of what using and maintaining the system will be like. I also have outright contempt for what I view as the mentality behind it. I don't want to reward the people who create these things with my attention.

It's not really that hard to design systems that are at least somewhat easier to use. Getting to iOS or Facebook ease of use is hard, but getting to something that isn't painful isn't too bad. I really do think the main reason so many projects are so painful to install and use is that nerds actually have a fetish for it. There's still this obnoxious residue of "real men don't need UX" in computing. It's always been there... I remember the phrase "point and drool" for "point and click" back in the 90s implying that people who "need" GUIs were somehow dumber than those who did everything on a green screen with text.

This mentality desperately needs to die. It's a major factor holding back open source, open systems, and decentralized computing. Not only does it prevent regular people from using these systems but it also holds us (nerds) back by wasting our time.

I'd been becoming gradually annoyed with this mentality for years, but the thing that tipped me over the edge to outright contempt for it was switching to Apple around 2007. I was so much more productive. I realized that all that hard to use "real hacker" stuff was preventing me from doing better things. I was spending hours futzing around with already-solved problems like drivers and graphics resolutions and package woes instead of doing new things. With a computer that "just worked" I could spend almost 100% of my time innovating.

I still use Linux on the server side but I don't really love it anymore. If there were a cleaner easier to use alternative I'd switch as long as it didn't come with onerous costs or limitations. I've been checkout out FreeBSD. Alpine Linux is also nice since it strips out a lot of over-engineered trash.

Yup. Especially the "Rube Goldberg Machine" comparison.

You want me to go through how many steps to do X? Might as well write it myself... (almost)

>The thing with YouTube alternatives is that they have to be at least as good as YouTube. Creators will only go where their audiences will go, so a site that doesn't offer a good user experience will immediately be off the table.

Why do you assume they have to choose?

A creator could upload to YouTube to get access to their audience, but then also encourage people to use PeerTube to get their videos.

Exactly just think about the current platform this comment is hosted on. There's no reason hacker news couldn't function as a decentralized platform. In fact it pretty much does considering the only things that are really hosted/centralized are hyperlinks, comments on those hyperlinks and a little metadata. The core of the product is already distributed among the users who themselves curate the content. The real issue is how fast you get to see the content, and for a video service that should offer 4K video I think centralized services are the only solution that are performant, right now, that doesn't mean decentralized services couldn't be just as performant if not more so. But for all intents and purposes it should be easier to build an audience on a decentralized service, specifically a niche audience that is more likely to engage and support your content. There also isn't a reason why centralized services couldn't step in and build infrastructure to support certain aspects of an otherwise decentralized network, after all that is the internet in and of itself haha!

IF you wanted to, how would you implement decentralized discovery?

Podcasts are, for the most part, decentralized and seem to be still booming in popularity. I don’t see why a decentralized video platform couldn’t work too.

Really? I don't agree here.

I've never seen any that weren't being pushed to one of the major podcast apps - and thusly centralized. I mean, the whole term comes from the fact that it was originally downloadable to your iPod through iTunes. None of the podcasts I've ever found could really be considered decentralized - they might have a webpage somewhere, sure, but if they're not in Apple's iTunes/Podcast app, I'm not going to find them. Honestly, I haven't found a decent alternative on Android - I know there are several but none have as robust a catalog. I even use iTunes on Windows for podcast searching.

It's a very centralized market around specific aggregators. Could it weather a transition to a decentralized market structure if Apple were to disown it tomorrow? Maybe, but it would take a lot of energy to get there.

Believe it or not, but people without iTunes are also listening to podcasts.

I've yet to come across a podcast I wanted to listen to without an RSS feed available through a website. For discovery there are several good alternatives to iTunes, for example https://player.fm

> I've yet to come across a podcast I wanted to listen to without an RSS feed available through a website.

That's because podcasts on iTunes just point to an RSS feed hosted elsewhere. iTunes doesn't host the audio files; it's just a directory.

Yes, but the feed is always (in my experience) available as a link from a web page (hence decentralized and not dependent on iTunes).

Most people don’t know how to go to a podcast’s website, copy the link to the RSS feed, and then paste it into their podcast app. They just search for the podcast in their podcast app. So, if you produce a podcast, you need to be in the major podcast directories to get traction. Thus, in effect, podcasts are highly centralized.

This feels like moving the goalpost to me. If PeerTube succeeded, but most of its videos were being linked and shared on Facebook and Reddit, would you call it centralized?

It's fairly common for me to see people share direct links to a podcast's website if they want to share a specific episode. And even from the point of view where iTunes is a centralized indexer, they're still very clearly pointing at a decentralized service.

The biggest podcast aggregation service in the industry decided to rely on a decentralized model rather than hosting files themselves. That doesn't count for anything?

The fact that every single podcast app is using a distributed protocol (RSS), including Apple, doesn't count for anything?

Note that my original point was not that podcasts are centralized. I merely took issue with somebody else claiming that podcasts are decentralized. They’re decentralized for distribution. But distribution is the easy part on the internet. It’s aggregating attention that is the hard part. And that part of the podcast market is entirely centralized.

> But distribution is the easy part on the internet. It’s aggregating attention that is the hard part.

ATM for video the content hosting, distribution, discovery, indexing, consumption, and commenting are all centralized. Let's say PeerTube brings the video world inline with podcasts and knocks that list down to just discovery and content indexing. That would be a really big win. That would be way more decentralized than what we have now.

If you're right, and solving all of those problems are the easy part, then PeerTube will probably be an incredible improvement to the video ecosystem.

Podcsts may not be perfectly decentralized, but they're pretty stinking close. Services like iTunes are basically card catalogues at this point. The podcast app I use doesn't even include iTunes ratings, reviews, or suggestions, so they've obviously made the decision that these aren't features their users care about.

My experience with podcasts is I get recommendations in a decentralized manner from friends, family, social media, and online articles. Then I go to one of several centralized card catalogues and search for the podcast by the name. Then I add the decentralized source to any podcast app (all of which work with every podcast regardless of who developed them) and use RSS to download a file to my physical device, which makes it easy for me to back up or mirror the file to other devices if the source ever goes down in the future.

If 99% of my experience is decentralized, does the centralized 1% that basically boils down to a list of urls and a regex expression override that? Especially keeping in mind that nearly every podcast app still provides a mechanism for you to bypass that list whenever you want, and any good podcast app allows you to search for a podcast across multiple preloaded sources at the same time?

Maybe this is a better approach: what happens to the podcast market if Apple stops shipping a podcast app?

The priors that come to mind when trying to answer this hypothetical is what happened to independent blogs when Google shuttered Google Reader and what happened to news companies when Facebook tweaked their algorithm to show less 3rd party content. In both cases, distribution was decentralized (blogs host their own RSS feeds and news sites host their own content), but attention was centralized (people accessed blogs through Google Reader and news through Facebook). In both cases, the decentralized distribution failed prevent a massive decrease in traffic to blogs and news sites. And that’s because competition for attention is fierce, so aggregating attention is hard.

I guess?

Neither of those things are dead though (news is struggling with the adblocking apocalypse, but that's a different category of problem). I kind of get what you're saying, and I agree that Facebook and Google are powerful, and that we should look for ways to distribute that power more evenly.

But at the same time, to me those scenarios kind of look like distributed architectures doing the jobs they're supposed to. I mean, Google Reader's shutdown hurt bloggers less than Live Journal's did, right?

Another way of looking at it: think about what happened when Microsoft bought Github. A bunch of people panicked, but for the most part, it was fine - because Git repos are decentralized. And a bunch of people came out with hot takes that said, "Git's not really decentralized, because Github is the part that matters."

But... no, for the most part it's decentralized, and we saw the benefits of that architecture.

If you have a decentralized core you might interface with or feed off of a few centralized services, but you will be more resilient and better equipped to deal with their failures. You don't have to be perfect to reap most of those benefits.

If iTunes stopped distributing podcasts, that market would suffer. But I'd still be able to directly share episodes on Twitter and Reddit, and there are at least 2 other preloaded sources on my listening app that could be serving the same purpose within a day with zero change to the way I find new podcasts or download them. The big change for people like me would be that when searching, I would click the second button on a list of sources instead of the first one. It would definitely hurt the health of the network (mostly just for iPhone users), and you can make an argument that it would disproportionately hurt the health of the network, but it probably wouldn't kill it.

But suppose Apple or Google stopped distributing an app store. That market would instantly die, for basically everyone, and no one would be able to do anything to save it.

You may choose to go through a big integrated directory-and-player system, but the content is read into Apple Podcasts via feeds of a standardized format hosted across the internet, and your device is also downloading the audio content from arbitrary third-party servers. Because of this, I can---and do---quite happily pull down those same feeds and content directly to my own Android device via my app of choice.

By the same token, people can choose to watch videos on YouTube/Dailymotion/Vimeo; or they can seek out self-hosted videos on the same topic all over the internet, which they can either stream or download to their device of choice. The presence of an extremely small minority does not change the real centralization of the marketplace as a whole.

I think the situation with podcasts is different, because I'm not required to go through Apple Podcasts to get to the same content from the same underlying sources. To access videos on a YouTube channel, I'm required to go through YouTube.

This doesn't mesh with my experience at all. Are there podcasts that you can only get on iTunes or one of the other platforms? I haven't ever come across one. Can you give me an example of a podcast I can find on Apple's Podcasts app but not on Overcast (on iOS) or PodcastAddict (on Android)?

iTunes essentially acts as a public database for podcast feed links. You can use their–admittedly inflexible–API to populate a list of podcasts in an app or website you create. Or you can use a number of other public feed lists.

If iTunes suddenly stopped supporting podcasts (which they won't), then another popular public database will materialize.

The real debate here is what does centralization mean in the realm of content distribution? I mean people will always gravitate toward popular platforms that offer nice features like commenting, profiles, rating, etc. but that information is all secondary to the podcast protocol. If a single server hosting a single podcast's files goes down, the whole system does not stop working. Is that not decentralization?

Just because you use a centralized service to find podcasts doesn't mean all of us do.

I never use iTunes.

Agree with other commenter. Finding shows is not hard, many apps will take feed links various ways and have catalogs.

>but if they're not in Apple's iTunes/Podcast app, I'm not going to find them And I've never owned a single apple device in my life, or used any of their itunes software, and yet still manage to find plenty of postcasts to listen to.

Podbean is pretty good for searching, and they even have a creator platform as well.

But podcast creators all give off frequent signals that they wish podcasting were centralized.

Specifically, I'm thinking of how they all ask you to leave a rating on some centralized podcast aggregation service, usually iTunes. Many also specifically ask that you subscribe through iTunes. That's because rankings and ratings on iTunes are as essential to their monetization strategy as Nielsen ratings were to over-the-air TV.

Surely there is a Nielsen-like system to measure popularity, through direct downloads and aggregator data...? Leaving it to Apple is doomed to fail (see also: Apple AppStore).

Podcasts are lovely but the scale is miniscule compared to video.

And video podcast technology exists but is deeply underused (perhaps in part because people choose podcasts when their eyes are busy)

Suppose I want to use a podcast client app to watch what today is in my YouTube subscriptions. Why not just use YouTube? I'm not obligated to read the comments. There's also a pattern that goes: Post a video to YT, then post a link to reddit.com/r/mychannel (or an alternative, or on several alternatives) where users can watch the video as an embed and then engage in discussion under whatever commenting/moderation system I choose.

> And video podcast technology exists but is deeply underused

It's almost invisible, but the Apple Podcast app still seamlessly supports video podcasts, but it gets harder to find with every update.

With the popularity of that app, I wonder why Apple doesn't push it more to create a Youtube alternative. I know part of the answer -- you have to do your own encoding and hosting (I think, info is hard to find), but you'd think Apple could step in and offer those services.

About the only video podcasts I've seen that are recent are a couple churches and some weird local real estate services.

Other than the much smaller scales podcasts operate on, are there any podcasts where the host has turned it into a living? There's a _lot_ of video creators out there who make those videos as their sole source of income now.

The Chapo Trap House guys make a 100k per month with their podcast.


For the vast majority fo audiences, podcasts are basically centralized under iTunes. The only difference is that the creators have to pay for the bandwidth. So it's like the worst of all worlds.

>Podcasts are, for the most part, decentralized

No, they aren’t. Of course anyone can put up a podcast, but the successful ones tend to cluster into podcast networks of like shows or join the big podcast groups like Nerdist, Wondery, or Earwolf. Or be a part of an established media company like NPR or Slate.

It’s easy to start a podcast but very hard to survive and expand alone.

Additionally podcast revenue is heavily centralized, which warps the kind of programming around the whims of the sponsors - who are often Amazon or a subsidiary company of another Fortune 500.

Within a margin of error I'd imagine virtually all tech centric web content has at some point been sponsored by Audible (Amazon), Squarespace (private), Dollar Shave Club (Unilever), or rarely one of a few VPNs like Tunnelbear or Private Internet Access.

Isn't the idea of decentralization for podcasts to create an open protocol that anyone can conform to at their choosing? It is the choice of the content creator in those circumstances whether or not they join together in a group. Just because clusters form in a decentralized system doesn't mean the entire system isn't decentralized.

Organisms do find it easier to survive in groups, but the main point here is that even these groups like Nerdist, NPR, etc. would still have publicly available working podcast feeds if somehow iTunes stopped working tomorrow.

> What the people who want decentralized services don't realize is that the content creators want centralized services (whether they realize it or not).

I agree. The current Youtube creators have built their models on advertisement, clicks, favorites, etc. etc. PeerTube will never be for them. There's simply no money in PeerTube right now.

That's fine however. There's a large section of creators, such as Blender, Education (think OpenCourseWare / MIT), Linux Conference publishers who will benefit from PeerTube.

In these cases, people don't want to make money. They want to publish videos and foster a community. Youtube is no longer compatible with the OSS values, due to advertisements, copyright takedowns and such. You never know when someone's ringtone happens to be a copyright violation which takes down a 60-minute talk about C++ or something stupid.

>There's a large section of creators, such as Blender, Education (think OpenCourseWare / MIT), Linux Conference publishers who will benefit from PeerTube.

That's what I'm hoping for. Educational and instructional videos are my main use for YouTube, YT happens to be where they are hosted, I care very little about anything else related to the site so for me PeerTube could potentially be perfect for my use.

Yep this is what I look forward to. Fewer Minecraft videos and more educational series.

There's no reason you can't build in monetization to peertube, and let the peertube host choose to enable it or not.

A monetization style I'd like to see more of is one where the videos are uploaded, but only a thumbnail or a clip is available by default, until a certain donation goal is reached, at which point the video becomes free for everyone to view, indefinitely.

This looks game theoretically like it will produce a Tragedy of the Commons outcome, but there are plenty of streamers out there who rely on tips while allowing the majority of viewers to be "freeloaders".

Of course, the incentives for donating during a livestream are different from the incentive to donate to unlock a video, but the software/UI could display prominently who it was that contributed to unlocking a video, and who are the major financial supporters of the channel.

Patreon seems like a good fit honestly.

Imagine if Patreon supported the PeerTube protocol. There would be an ActivityPub publication in two steps: once for the backers, and a 2nd time (time-delayed) for everyone else.

Only Patreon would be able to offer that kind of integration however. Hmmm... I think I might have to browse Patreon's Web API to see if a 3rd party could extend things actually... https://docs.patreon.com/#introduction

Hmmm... a 3rd party workflow along the lines of OAuth (log into Patreon to see my video) -> Share the cookie with a custom PeerTube server -> serve video-based rewards based on OAuth / Patreon database. It seems theoretically possible.

What the people who want decentralized services don't realize is that the content creators want centralized services (whether they realize it or not).

You need a centralized discovery service (this is where Tor, I2P, Freenet, IPFS, etc. all fail). Centralized content hosting is different.

And arguably, since discovery is a gatekeeper, it is where the money is.

Hosting is perhaps harder to monetize and definitely more expensive.

Why couldn't you make the discovery service decentralized as well?

Because the laws of physics (speed of light) makes a decentralized discovery service slower which means it's extremely inconvenient for typical users.

For example, go to youtube.com and see how fast it loads the main landing page with 20+ suggested video thumbnails. On my computer, it loads in 1136 milliseconds. The same centralized-system's speed advantage happens for video search results such as "3d printing".[1]

A decentralized system with DHT[2] or other peer-2-peer scheme cannot match that speed. Think about trying to query dozens (or potentially thousands) of p2p nodes to return a page of video thumbnails. If you try to "solve" the slow performance by "caching" results, you still have to cache it on a server somewhere. That "cache server" is an example of feature-creep towards centralization.

People will put up with decentralized's inconveniences for illegal things like bittorrent pirated movies. For the vast majority of mainstream content, a centralized service is too attractive for billions of web users.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=3d+printing

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_hash_table

The claim you make (that the speed of light) is the main limiting factor is incredibly undersubstantiated. Firstly, it is incredibly likely that the same query within you tube is handled by as many computers as it would have been in your DHT.

The difference between youtube and your DHT is that youtube doesn't need to do constant connection re-establishment. In a DHT -- especially one used for short-lived queries such as these -- the establishing of short connections can add a lot of overhead. This is a challenge mainly because of the protocol stocks in common usage on the network, not really a property of distributed systems in and of themselves.

>same query within you tube is handled by as many computers as it would have been in your DHT.

For the poster I responded to, and the topic of this thread (Peertube), decentralized means WAN (wide area network) and not LAN (local area network).

(I noticed you substituted "decentralized" with "distributed" which muddies up the discussion. The poster asking the question and my response used "decentralized".)

>because of the protocol stocks[sic] in common usage on the network, not really a property of distributed systems in and of themselves.

The overhead of network latency and multiple round trips is absolutely a property of decentralized systems. It's technically impossible to invent a protocol that can query thousands of home-based nodes to return a result that's as fast as a centralized system such as Youtube.

For the purposes of this particular thread, the "distributed network" means something like PeerTube with home nodes over ISP networks. We're not talking about the "distributed network" of 10,000 computers within Google and Facebook datacenters.

[To downvoters, please point out the technical flaw or show a protocol stack that removes ISP latency and round trips that makes it equivalent network performance to Youtube as tathougies suggests.]

> It's technically impossible to invent a protocol that can query thousands of home-based nodes to return a result that's as fast as a centralized system such as Youtube.

Yeah, but it's possible to crawl and cache all metadata, everything except the actual video and audio, centrally, and search it from there. Sure, that means you can't find a video 5 seconds after it was uploaded, but for practical purposes, it's not hard to imagine a bunch of solutions that would be good enough, especially considering search isn't that great on YT to begin with.

Why can't I search among subscribed channels and filter and order by 20 criteria? Because search on YouTube isn't that good, it's not even trying to be, just like on Facebook for example. Being quick at doing something crummy is still kinda crummy.

I always considered my favourite system to be one where the discovery system was centralized, but the actual content itself and the ability to produce it was decentralized. So, for instance, you'd have "PeerTube" as a protocol for uploading your videos to be discovered, then you'd use something like "Youtube" to view videos from multiple peers. This prevents a massive amount of lockin as happens with the current services, but also enables all the QoS you expect from modern websites.

Torrent works exactly like this, doesn't it? All it needs is WebTorrent to become more popular so you can stream videos directly from the browser.

>That "cache server" is an example of feature-creep towards centralization.

That's a tiresome slippery slope argument. "Better not install that proxy server or soon everyone will host all of their content on it instead of on their own servers!"

ToR is decentralized, it has servers. Bitorrent is decentralized, it has servers. Etc etc.

To clarify -- I don't mean that the service itself needs to be centralized. You just need a single place to find stuff.

Because it's a two sided network. Users go to wherever the best content is (or can be found). Content creators go to where the users are. It's most efficient for both users and creators for there to be only one discovery service.

You're right! You can do that!

It's possible that some things - like guarding against abuse - are sometimes difficult in distributed systems. But I'm sure these are mere matters of solvable technology...

I'm not sure that it is. And as it is, no one working on these systems seems to be interested in finding a solution.

I was being sarcastic. Stemming abuse in distributed systems has proven to be an intractable problem. Look at email.

Plenty of people are very interested in stemming abuse. So far, centralization is the most reliable way to accomplish it.

For the same reason we don't use the Usenet in place of the Internet.

This is a very silly way of looking at the world. The reason people prefer centralized services is because:

- they have greater capacity to add features

- they have more ability to have search and other discovery

Neither of these are inherent to a centralized service. All you need is a centralized website on top of a decentralized video host. Different websites can compete on features like search, while providing access to the same database of videos.

The fact that no one has succeeded yet is not proof that this is impossible. Moreover, this would be to ignore protocols like email and the web, which are decentralized, and which are very popular. Centralization has been preferred because we are in a period of very rapid change, where centralized services can pivot ten times before a decentralized service even gets started. People are beginning to realize the downsides of centralized services, change is starting to slow down, and decentralized services are now able to make headway.

This is a very silly way of looking at the world. The reason people prefer centralized services is because:

- they have a monetization layer directly linked to their users' bank accounts.

At the end of the day people need to pay bills in order to produce content for a living. Without that, you can't compete. With that, and you're not decentralized.

The biggest thing holding back p2p/"truly decentralized" networks (in my opinion) are NAT/Firewalls. You cannot reliably get past them on the inside without manual configuration. There's no way you can convince millions of people to try to port forward, and UPnP is very hit or miss.

If that was solved, lightweight applications like 1:1 messaging could easily be fully peer to peer/decentralized/trustless.

That is definitely a thing hindering adoption, but if there was really a big demand for decentralization, they would have been gone already. There are many more things holding back decentralized networks like the difficulty in filtering spam without easy coordinated effort, fixing network wide search and efficient monetization of content for creators.

Yes, there definitely are other problems.

For spam, you can have centralized blocklists that people can subscribe to. The iOS version of whatever would need it anyway to follow the App Store guidelines. If you feel you're being censored, unsubscribe from the list. Alternatively (or in addition to that), have everyone publicly publish who they blocked, and then trust what your friends or friend of friends blocked.

Network wide search is a problem, yes, but for chat (which I really want to be decentralized :( ) it doesn't matter too much.

Monetization for content creators also doesn't matter for chat.

So maybe I should rephrase my initial comment: Lack of NAT/Firewall bypass is the largest (and maybe only) problem needed to be solved for decentralized chat.

This is an interesting thought. Even more interesting was what I learned recently while trying to circumvent this issue.

Last week I encountered a similar concern in a project I am working on for UWP. I wasn't sure how to help the user open up the necessary ports. Then I discovered that one can submit in the UWP application manifest the port ranges that the app needs to function properly.

Whenever a user installs the app, the Windows Firewall tool opens a dialog asking if it should open the port ranges.

As someone who typically works in Unix derived environments, this was a delightful surprise.

> the Windows Firewall tool opens a dialog asking if it should open the port ranges

This is neat, but there are also network level firewalls and NAT that people are usually behind :(

How does bittorrent get around this? It isn't particularly troubled by nats or firewalls unless you live on a college campus.

The nice people you're downloading from have their ports forwarded. If possible, most clients try to use UPnP, but it doesn't always work.

I think you're on to something.

> How many attempts at decentralized social networks have failed? All of them.

When I've tried to build decentralized code, it's 10x harder.

IMO, the real problem with creating a decentralized replacement for a centralized service is multi-fold: You have to really understand the use case that you're trying to replace, and the nuances that drive the general public to that particular service. Then, things like search and quality control become much harder.

On top of that, "decentralized" isn't a feature that most people really care about, so your decentralized replacement has to have tangible improvements above and beyond the original service.

Remember: The web is decentralized, but we rely on a few search engines. Email is decentralized, but most of us get email from a few providers. The web and email had tangible improvements over AOL, Compuserve, ect.

I'd argue that the web is actually centralized but can host decentralized services.

IRC, gnusocial, xmpp, sms to some degree, ham radio, etc.

The absence of censorship I think will prove to be tangible enough to make products like peertube successful.

how many of those have never seen real use/adoption above hobbyists/diehards, though? irc and sms is about it from that list. it was a drag getting people to drop skype for telegram, despite telegram being (in my opinion) more user friendly. getting them to go to something like gnusocial would be damn near impossible.

decentralized youtube might be easier to get rolling, on the other hand. all it takes is sharing your videos through it instead of youtube. think about how most people found youtube -- someone linked them a video, statistically likely to be evolution of dance. no reason that can't be done with peertube.

People made this argument about cars when they were still riding horseback.

Let's not defend the worse thing here.

It's like people pretend the internet has been around for ages and things just are unable to change anymore.

i'm not sure that's a valid argument. cars have a clearly tangible benefit above riding horseback, even early automobiles. what's the tangible benefit to a decentralized system like this other than twitter/facebook/social media company not owning your data?

the parent comment to my initial post said the absence of censorship, but anecdotally the kinds of people i've seen going to "censorship-free" alternative sites are the kinds i don't particularly care to associate with. voat.co being the "shining" example

Handwaving away criticism by saying, "People in the past have been wrong about things before" isn't really addressing anything.


I already addressed it.

Without censorship, decentralized products can thrive. And they currently are.

HN's response was "but they're not very big!!!1!"

Until someone puts a bunch of kiddie porn up there. If there's not a reasonable way to take it down, that's a huge issue. Then the absence of censorship might lead to it's downfall.

There's plenty of kiddie porn on facebook, instagram, twitter. They hide it other images or scramble the images themselves to fool filters.

Or did you think that magically goes away because it's centralized?

GS instances have ways to block content instance-wide. So spam and porn filters can catch items and prevent all users on the instance from seeing it.

I don't know if ActivityPub specifies things like that in the spec yet, but moderation is of course a huge factor in the success of the fediverse. Lots of work is devoted to it.

Incredibly, nobody needs to be censored. The offending poster can be reported to authorities and handled from there without ever having to tell a user what they can and cannot post.

You're handwaving away things again. Other services are not relevant for this. We're not talking about them. If PeerTube gets the reputation for being the place with kiddie porn, no other creators are going to want to go there.

"Incredibly, nobody needs to be censored. "

This is flat out not true. Kiddie porn and spam, for instance.

"The offending poster can be reported to authorities and handled from there without ever having to tell a user what they can and cannot post."

Except you're still telling people what not to post. The problem is that you're not allowing for a way to prevent that in the first place.

How many centralized social networks have failed too? Most of them.

A lot of successful things have had similarities to previous failures. The first step is to actually try something new instead of sitting around nay-saying everything.

Personally my opinion Youtube can keep the the drama rage videos, or they can fall off the face of the internet. I just want educational videos and music without constant ads, and I don't want to create some entity with absolute power to censor content for the rest of the internet.

XMPP / Jabber isn't doing so hot though. I wouldn't call it a "failure", but Facebook / Google, especially with the "hangouts" thing cutting out XMPP support, definitely reduced XMPP's userbase.

Decentralized can certainly fail, or at least shrink over time.

> How many centralized social networks have failed too? Most of them.

That’s still infinitely more successful than decentralized social network attempts.

Youtube started banning politically inconvenient youtubers. And it's their right. That alone is a good enough reason for an alternative, centralized or not.

The end user doesn't care about the underlying technology, as long as it works.

Yup, but it has to work as in: provide good video recommendations, allow for low latency 720p streaming at the very least.

> What the people who want decentralized services don't realize is that the content creators want centralized services (whether they realize it or not).

Ideally you wouldn't decentralize the UI/UX, but the cloud server architecture it runs on. You could still maintain the same centrally accessible experience.

That's the thing people need to understand, the frontend (UI) can be seperated and decoupled from the backend. Where the servers that power those sites are plugins installed on peoples home routers or personal assistants. They scale in performance with each added user and installed plugin.

It's not just about UI/UX. You need a centralized backend to return recommendations in a reasonable time (if you need to query all the decentralized instances each time, it'll be incredibly slow)... which means that you go back to the scenario where a centralized instance is the source of traffic, decides what is recommended and what isn't.

I guess there's still one advantage in that scenario: somebody can build a competing recommendation service while using the same underlying videos.

Couldn't you store information about all nodes/content in every node? What would change is that the new uploaded stuff just isn't instantly available, only after syncing the new index with all other nodes. Not really a big problem, because most youtubers, especially the professional ones, shedule their uploads anyway.

Accessing your own node, the one your neighborhood or the next available one shouldn't be slower, the contrary I suppose.

Key seems to be to store the information or index on all nodes and syncing them.

I believe the people behind peertube know about that. That is why Peertube is so much on federation with ActivityPub. If done properly this would allow anyone with an account on a website using ActivityPub (like Mastodon) to interact with the author of a Peertube video.

Granted this a both a technical problem (that I believe solvable) and a financing problem. It is hard to compete with the GAFAM and their advertising departments.

Mastodon is going pretty well. I greatly enjoy using it and the conversations I have there.

I've heard of it but didn't realize people really used it? How/where should people learn more about mastodon if they're interested? How do you use it?

Am I the only one who finds the UI of mastodon nearly unusable? Then again, I also find tweetdeck and the twitter webpage a struggle to use.

There are other UIs for Masto e.g. https://pinafore.social/ or https://brutaldon.online/ The benefits of open source :).

It doesn't seem any worse than Twitter itself.

> How many attempts at decentralized social networks have failed? All of them.

This seems like a very, very premature assessment. Come back in 50 years and see if this is still true.

Usenet is still a thing, going on 40 years now. It may not be uber popular but it's far from a failure.

> Usenet is still a thing, going on 40 years now. It may not be uber popular but it's far from a failure.

Well, it’s not a failure, but it’s not far from abandon.

Quoting from Wikipedia [1]:

"AOL discontinued Usenet access in 2005. In May 2010, Duke University, whose implementation had kicked off Usenet more than 30 years earlier, decommissioned its Usenet server, citing low usage and rising costs. After 32 years, the Usenet news service link at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (news.unc.edu) was retired on February 4, 2011."

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usenet#Decline

I'm not sure that 'decentralized' in this case means decentralized in community.

I understand it more as decentralized hosting since it's P2P.

Now, peertube does state something about 'instances', so that might separate content from one accessable website. I don't know.

YouTube's big point initially was video hosting was expensive and YouTube made it cheap (for creators).

It is also is a centralized community so you can find a video on virtually any subject just from the search on the homepage. If peertube is able to do this in a similar fashion would aid it's potential adoption (though again, I don't know if instances hinder that).

PeerTube still needs to be build a user base, attract users and creators from YouTube. Getting creators to use both platforms would help.

Lastly though, since it's P2P I don't know if that means only popular videos would then load at a comparable speed YouTube or not.

> I'm not sure that 'decentralized' in this case means decentralized in community.

The idea of ActivityPub is to have a federated group of servers. Similar to XMPP and Email.

So you can create an account as Alice@serverAlpha.com, while I can create an account as Bob@serverB.com. When I publish a video at serverB.com, it will notify serverAlpha.com that a new video was published, which eventually tells Alice to check out the new video.

Thank you!

This is all new to me, so I don't know how it works. However, this does resolve my concern about 'instances'.

It makes me excited and hopeful then that Peertube could become something pretty great.

> However, this does resolve my concern about 'instances'.

On a surface level, it should. But given what I've seen over the past 15 years, no... it shouldn't resolve those concerns.

Consider if Google / Youtube became PeerTube compatible with ActivityPub next year. But then, there are additional features that only exist on Youtube's implementation (spam monitoring, Twitter integration, Youtube integration, etc. etc.). Something that makes people prefer Youtube over other hosts.

Eventually, Youtube can cut out ActivityPub, after it captures the ActivityPub marketplace.

See XMPP and Google Hangouts if you want a historical example. Embrace, Extend, extinguish is the name of the technique, and it is quite effective at killing open standards.



So the general community does need to be aware of it, lest another XMPP-extinguish effect comes around from the big players.

This one I think has legs. Quite a few content creators are upset with YouTube policies, and can drive users to PeerTube using other social services. Once you have a core group of users, others see that it’s viable and adoption rises.

I think you're confuning centralization with a walled garden. Because if what you said were true, then why would Disney be buying Hulu?

The larger of a content creator I am, the more I want to control distribution.

Having my content on a site with someone else's rules sucks, because I am at their mercy.

For example, with Disney owning Hulu, they can tell Google to go F-off, and never worry about their content being accidentally censored, deleted, etc.

For a smaller content producer, the value might even be more significant, even if the dollars are less.

Huge difference between a brand likey Disney able to pull off a streaming service and smaller producers. Smaller producers need demand, and for video demand = youtube.

I don’t think that right.

For instance, let’s say I’m a comedian and have a thousand loyal followers. Why couldn’t I just pay $20/month for a PeerTube hosting service with my own brand. Then I can just tweet out the links.

Why would I need YouTube?

As another example, let’s say I’m a white supremacist, and I have a hundred followers. I can email a link out to them and never worry about censorship by YouTube.

So demand can be small, and it still works. In fact, since I now have more control over the experience, it can be much more tailored than youtube.

No,that is most definitely not what I want as a content creator. I do not want just any audience (that is the realm of people who require attention for validation or exploitation). By the time I have created something I have already gotten what I am going to get out of it, sharing it is just a courtesy and I would rather just share with people who care enough to make the effort to search for something relevant to their interests rather than a horde of mindlessly clicking eyeballs

I think most of the content creators also want to be paid for creating the content. I've not seen how PeerTube intends to help with that.

I am not so sure, of course getting paid to do what you love would be great but so would be winning a lottery. Content that is a by-product of drive and passion is in my estimation largely distinct from passive income / rent seeking content. Plus if it is really that good (and most is not), a way will be found.

I think that's trying to hand-wave away the fact that many of these channels are the day job of the people making them.

> How many attempts at decentralized social networks have failed? All of them.

Looks like you never heard of Mastodon. It's thriving.

What the people who want decentralized services don't realize is that the content creators want centralized services (whether they realize it or not).

Where do you draw the line? Social networks are already decentralized, so creators have to crosspost to reach their audience on all platforms. Seems to be working, at least for some.

How many attempts at decentralized social networks have failed? All of them.

Practically every social network has failed in some way or another , decentralised or not. Very few of them have failed due to the tech though - tech seems to be the easy part in comparison to building a large enough audience to keep the network active.

But for most decentralized social networks, the selling point, the focus, has been that it's decentralized. Which tends to point to the idea that most people don't care about decentralization.

As a content creator, I disagree. Not all of us are driven to market our content on social platforms. I have my own peertube (as an experiment) instance running that allows me to control the entire viewing experience and that’s more important to me then views, likes, or subs.

There are more use cases for hosting video than monetized videos.

A few weeks ago Blender was having issues with YouTube trying to twist their arm. They would do fine an another network as long as it’s reasonably easy to use.

> How many attempts at decentralized social networks have failed? All of them.

PeerTube is to YouTube what Mastodon is to Facebook/Twitter. Could you explain how exactly -in your opinion- Mastodon has failed?

I think open protocals will really help in shifting people away from centralized services and towards decentralized or federated services. Activity pub, for instance is awesome. I think once we have open social protocals paired with cryptocurrencies, we might finally get to a point where federated/decentralized networks become attractive to an audience and to content creators and to developers. We can have borderless, uncensorable, and resilient social networks.

Anticipating some downvotes here because I mentioned cryptocurrencies.

That sounds like a way to end up with social networks made entirely of people who like cryptocurrencies. Sounds awful to me.

I think getting viewers wouldn't be a problem since videos are shareable and searchable in the all the ActivityPub networks.

You left yourself open here by not elaborating on how centralized services benefit from profiting companies with marketing campaigns who draw users.

Decentralized platforms will force these content creators to market their own platform.

If they do a good enough job at that (which I doubt, compared to Google) then they may stand a chance to reach "viral momentum."

> ... content creators want centralized services ...

Sure they do. Until their content gets nuked, with no recourse.

What the people who want Stanley-steamers don't realize is, what they really want is better buggy-whips.

Cites are centralized services. Communities can actually thrive outside of cities.

> But what those who create want is an audience. They want a community.

PeerTube seems to be aiming to provide exactly those things.

> How many attempts at decentralized social networks have failed? All of them.

This is why we have to keep trying :)

demonitized -> demonized is a great freudian slip.

Just a typo. I've got one of those shitty apple keyboards.


Am I wrong, or does this list videos across instances? As long as there is one search interface for many instances, and only one account needed to follow whatever instance they are on, what more centralization do you need?

I remember when Google Video still existed, and I wanted to try it out. I don't really make video, but I had random boring clips made with my digicam, and I uploaded one where slowly dropped a sugar cube into a cup of steaming, red fruit tea (the cube it absorbed the tea and fell apart). Just because in those days, signing up for free things and trying them out was something I liked to do.

Then I forgot about the video, and after a while I got an email saying it got removed because it violated the terms. Maybe they thought it was blood, heh. At any rate, I don't even make videos and I already know 100% that I don't want centralized hosting, to be at the mercy of some faceless entity that might click the wrong button and then be difficult about it. It was funny in my case, but it could have been something important or something that required a lot of effort.

> Make a rage video about how your normal video got demonized, get a million views.

Yeah, which means people actually do care more than you think. Those videos would also get more views on decentralized hosting, compared to bland ones. It doesn't mean people actually secretly enjoy being mistreated because talking about that gives them views.

You're not making videos, though. Thus, you don't really can't speak to what content creators want. And just because people complain about YouTube at times doesn't mean they want a decentralized service.

And when they complain about demonetization, I'm not sure how decentralized services are supposed to help there, because I've not seen much in how decentralized services are supposed to help monetize videos. I'm pretty sure they're not going to be serving ads.

As a content creator, once you've recorded and edited your content, you have to solve for a few kinds of things:

1) hosting, content delivery, authentication and access control, styling and UI, etc. 2) discoverability, which requires things like a search engine, recommendation engine, a community/social network, links, etc. 3) some degree of independence, and the freedom to decide what content to show, what content to monetize, etc. free from whatever agenda/motives a company like YouTube/Alphabet might have.

One way to look at it is that PeerTube starts to make (1) a lot more accessible without something like YouTube. (2) is where YouTube shines, but is possible via existing structures in the Internet if you're just using PeerTube (plus PeerTube has some sort of federation, though I haven't looked into it much). (3) is where PeerTube shines.

There doesn't have to be one answer for the entire market. YouTube is probably better for smaller creators looking to build their audience and be discovered, but once you reach a sufficient size, and don't need to rely on the YouTube recommendation engine for people to find you, something that offers greater independence and self-determination would seem desirable. Of course, I'm only talking about tendencies, a very small content creator may have a strong desire for independence, and a a very large content creator may be perfectly fine coloring inside whatever lines YouTube draws.

2 and 3 are inherently linked. If you want somebody else to recommend your videos, you're automatically under their control. Expecting a third party to promote your content without caring what content you produce is not realistic.

You could definitely build a recommendation system on top of PeerTube, but content creators will be just as beholden to the peertube discovery algorithm, and the assumptions and preferences it is built on, as YouTube's content creators are to the preferences and assumptions of the YouTube algorithm.

Even if your reasoning is strictly speaking right, the issue is very different in peertube and in youtube (or at least could be, i don't think they have a good recommendation system yet): peertube is a federation and not a monopole. Distributed systems allow to have a clean separation between the an exploration algorithm, its actual policy and the instance hosts. The policy can be very much user-specific, easily with a federated-instance granularity and could be run on an instance which has no link with the content it's searching.

What are the disadvantages of uploading to multiple hosts? Thus you can say benefit from YouTube's funding and discovery and use say Patreon for stable funding, and PeerTube (or Vimeo, &c) for alternative storage. Add to that a website with a nice RSS feed of your videos, and some social media; shouldn't you be ready to go as a professional video artist / content creator with a nice, redundant distribution structure?

Many content creators also want (4) a way to maximize revenue for each ad displayed. That's certainly where YouTube shines

People want viable services not "tech".

Red flag: both their concept as well as name have YT's brand name in it. The equivalent of calling your company "Uber for X". I'm all for decentralization where it makes sense - but this seems like they might be shooting themselves in the foot everywhere EXCEPT the tech (which, ultimately won't matter if they fail).

From the article: "Online since March 2018 in a beta version, the project should definitely take off by October, based on the money raised."

Beta + $60k + 6 more months time = Success? Against a practical content monopoly.

As a guy currently doing the start-up dance - this kind of optimistic naivety almost offends me.

They're not raising 60k to defeat youtube. They're raising 60k to complete a piece of software that does some of what youtube does in a different way. That's it. It's an open source project, they're not running on official peertube instance with the goal of being anything more than a demo of the software they're writing.

$60k is mind-blowingly low. I wouldn't expect much, if anything from this site.

It got to the top of HN. That speaks to a tremendous demand. Most startups fail not because of money raised but because they don't have product market fit. People want this product to exist, but... the question is, will they actually use it. lol.

> It got to the top of HN. That speaks to a tremendous demand.

No it doesn't. It might just mean that enough people found it "neat" or interesting, but nobody should mistake a HN frontpage spot for "tremendous demand". It might also just mean that they used the right hype buzzwords at the right time.

The audience of HackerNews is vastly smaller than the audience of YouTube.

PeerTube is not trying to replace YouTube. So the target markets don't have to overlap or even look similar.

If PeerTube is successful YouTube will most likely still exist and be dominant.

It's a decent audience, plenty of mainstream products started with a HN audience. reddit, dropbox, etc.

To put a number on that tremendous demand: 540 people found the idea worth discussing with like-minded people.

That would be a very good 1 year salary for Spain. In most parts of Spain (except the big cities) you can easily live 2 years with that. I expect France to be similar price-wise.

I like the idea of PeerTube, but there are many hurdles.

Anyone whose ISP/firewall/etc blocks all Torrent traffic is going to have a major challenge - which means that while part of what PeerTube has been so far is educational videos, they're not accessible in most school environments. That's a big challenge to overcome.

The other is pretty simple, and a reason I have not used PeerTube to watch a single video. If you're using my machine and my bandwidth to host or transfer your video to another person, you're going to pay me for it - upfront and at a rate I agree to. You're slowing down my connection and your website is causing me send data to someone I do not know. You're going to be liable for anything malicious that gets sent back; and if you're MitM'ing it to scan it properly, why are you wasting my bandwidth and storage?

> If you're using my machine and my bandwidth to host or transfer your video to another person, you're going to pay me for it

That's a bit ridiculous. No one is ever gonna pay you for that. You get something for free, the video you want to watch, and the deal here is that your unused upload bandwidth gets used to help transfer it to others. It's a social contract thing, and thinking you might get a better deal magically by refusing it won't make that deal appear.

> You're slowing down my connection

In which way? It is using your upload while you download a video. That does not harm you.

> causing me send data to someone I do not know

You never seeded a torrent? You never connected to an internet site you did not know the owner of? It's pretty much the same thing.

> You're going to be liable for anything malicious that gets sent back

Who is the you here? A Peertube instance won't be liable for malicious data, how would that even work anyway. Even if it were possible: The websites spreading malware with their ads were not liable either. This won't happen.

> if you're MitM'ing it to scan it properly, why are you wasting my bandwidth and storage?

Right, that would be a bad idea.

> thinking you might get a better deal magically by refusing it won't make that deal appear.

I mean, actually he trivially could get that deal by modifying the client a bit - but as long as the majority of people don't go out of their way to do that it doesn't really matter if there are leechers.

As long as there are a handful of people like myself who have big pipes and rarely use them to their fullest, who seed public torrents to 200x because why the hell not, you're not going to have a serious issue.

Honestly, if PeerTube wants to catch on, all it has to do is be easy to use and full of pirated content.

Just because you’re downloading something doesn’t mean uploads don’t affect it. In fact, upload often cripples bandwidth.


> It is using your upload while you download a video. That does not harm you.

An outbound connection is one of the very first things that happens when requesting anything over a network. Not to mention if you're doing any video chatting or gaming.

> That's a bit ridiculous. No one is ever gonna pay you for that.

There is a p2p network that does exactly that using cryptocurrency tokens. https://substratum.net/

Also FileCoin:


I think you should be able to limit the upload rate though, although maybe the browser should be responsible for that.

Any time you allow the browser to do something without user input, you take away more user control and put it in the hands of a browser developer. That's a mistake.

> Anyone whose ISP/firewall/etc blocks all Torrent traffic is going to have a major challenge - which means that while part of what PeerTube has been so far is educational videos, they're not accessible in most school environments.

Are you sure? PeerTube uses the WebTorrent protocol, which operates over WebRTC and consequently doesn't look like most torrent traffic. And the player can fall back to a plain HTTP download from the host server.

> Anyone whose ISP/firewall/etc blocks all Torrent traffic is going to have a major challenge

WebRTC is over port 5004, which is common for telecommunications like VOIP providers. VOIP isn't as common as port 80 (www), but I'd imagine that there's a good risk of outrage if ISPs start blocking the VOIP port.

> You're slowing down my connection and your website is causing me send data to someone I do not know.

This is a legitimate concern IMO. So the PeerTube federation needs to be clear and allow users to opt-out (or even opt-out default / opt-in for benefits) to stay on the moral high ground.

If you can't access the video via webrtc, it gets served as a regular video directly downloaded from the server.

So I have a friend who has a pretty popular YouTube channel and one of the things he complains about is that some users are stealing and them uploading his videos in bulk and moneytise them. The benefit of having a central authority is that you can at least complain about your stolen copyright, with a decentralized network it will seem like a very difficult task since there is no regulation, unless I am missing something

> uploading his videos in bulk and moneytise them

As far as I know, there's no plan to monetize videos over PeerTube, that pretty much remove that possibility then.

> that you can at least complain about your stolen copyright

Torrent exist, PeerTube won't create much more possibility to stole content. Considering it's free content too, there's not much incentive to get it anywhere else than it's original source.

> a simple “support” button allows videographers to direct their viewers to Tipee, Patreon, Paypal and other donation tools. But in the future, Framasoft hopes that ” people will be able to code their own monetization system “.

This article suggests that it already does have monetization support.

Visit a Peertube site in Brave and donate via BAT. Easy.

Complete copyright control is something content creators (and humanity) will just have to get over. Donation/patronage-based models are simply the future of intellectual property compensation.

> Complete copyright control is something content creators (and humanity) will just have to get over. Donation/patronage-based models are simply the future of intellectual property compensation.

I fear this may be true. The war was lost the moment it became effortless and free for anyone to make a copy of content by digitizing it. We're that last unit wandering in the wilderness still fighting because we haven't figured out its over.

Has your friend looked at watermarking?

Good, we need decentralized services, especially as content creators. Youtube will flag seeming anything as violating some copyright, no matter how fair it's use may be. It's getting to be excessive now.

Fanmade music Video's i watched two weeks ago are taken down and gone from the internet. There's a real cultural loss with that, the culmination of human creativity snuffed over servitude to corporations who blanket flag content because they can.

The web is decentralized, and I think something so critical to our records as a species should not be under the control of any one corporate entity.

What would process of taking down an obviously illegal video be on PeerTube?

Contact the peertube host. If they choose to leave it up, you can contact law enforcement / a court who can make a genuine judgement as to the legality of the content and take up approrpriate enforcement.

How do peertube hosts pick what to host? Do they manually curate everything?

Probably the same as email curation. If a spammer is caught, you ban them from your server. If other servers notice that spam is coming from a particular server, those servers disconnect from that server.

But Politics and Porn? These taboo subjects will be hard to deal with in a federated environment.

With Federated networks you can block an entire domain, so if you don’t like seeing it you don’t have to- but if you do want to talk about taboo subjects you can in your own space.

That kills the userbase however.

If your server builds a reputation as being a nanny state, your users will often exodus and go to another site.

As such, the status-quo eventually creates the loosest set of rules. See 4chan, Reddit, and other social networks. The fewer the rules, the bigger the userbase. Any effort to tamp down based on moral concerns leads to huge controversies (ie: /r/Jailbait, /r/TheFappening, and other controversial reddits)


It takes an extraordinary amount of effort to clamp down on a taboo subject. The "free speech" advocates are incredibly strong. Even "obviously wrong" subreddits like /r/CreepShots took an absurd amount of Drama before things got resolved.

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