LBRY: The Decentralized Sharing Platform
LBRY is a sharing platform that uses blockchain technology to enable users to publish material and get paid for doing so. People using LBRY’s service can monetize their published material with its built-in payment system. The concept melds together the great technical advantages of both Bitcoin and BitTorrent services for people looking to share content.
Also read: There’s no Ledger Like the Bitcoin Blockchain
Founders Jeremy Kauffman and Mike Vine wanted to decentralize the way things are shared and published throughout the internet. The two believe there is no system that services the needs of individuals by rewarding the artist directly and provides no room for improvement. The traditional organizations and platforms that provide various forms of online media from books to music and film have all monopolized the state of the market, and it’s getting harder for an artist to grow in this stagnate arena. With no point of authority, LBRY’s system gives individuals control over their media instead of being subjected to rules they never agreed to.
“The lesson is that if you’re using a system that has a higher authority, you’re always vulnerable.”~ Mike Vine, LBRY
Bitcoin.com got together with co-founder and CEO Jeremy Kauffman, and his fellow co-founder and technology evangelist Mike Vine of the LBRY team to discuss the platform. The two give our readers some insight to the project and the current centralized systems within our online world. We discuss the emerging decentralized solutions coming around the bend that give back to the people and offers inclusion for everyone — rather than the monopolized markets of today.
Bitcoin.com (BC): What is LBRY.io in simple terms?
Mike Vine (MV): LBRY is a content sharing platform. If you have a film, a song, or an eBook, you can publish it and share it very cheaply on LBRY. If you’re looking for content, it’s so easy to find, your Grandma can do it.
BC: What gave you the idea to start this project?
Jeremy Kauffman (JK): LBRY is a synthesis of many factors. The most obvious inspiration is Bitcoin, and seeing the power of the blockchain in reaching consensus without a central authority. The second obvious inspiration is BitTorrent, an absolutely brilliant protocol with an, unfortunately, flawed incentive structure.
We were further inspired by the fact that governments, ISPs, and media companies seem to want to treat their customers as something between supplicants and criminals. LBRY is also inspired by Airbnb and Uber, as LBRY empowers small-scale entrepreneurs and increases the efficiency of under-utilized resources.
It was inspired by the love of markets and an appreciation for how they facilitate human flourishing. It is inspired by economics, the Coase theorem, and too much time listening to EconTalk. It is inspired by the awful behavior that the biggest torrent clients demonstrate towards their users.
It is inspired by the fact that there has got to be a better way to find, buy, and sell something as simple as a number.
BC: How did you get into Bitcoin and blockchain technology?
MV: The Free State Project has concentrated a bunch of libertarians in New Hampshire. This created fertile ground for Bitcoin to get rolling here. I got involved right after I made the move in 2011. I was initially a skeptical of how Bitcoin could retain value, but my good friend Erik Voorhees patiently addressed my concerns. (Nice having a future Bitcoin Titan as your personal tutor.) Once I got it, I got it – and realized blockchain technology will be as disruptive as the internet. Now it’s just a question of making it accessible to the general public through specific applications, like LBRY.
BC: How does LBRY help people monetize their publishing material?
MV: LBRY has a built-in payment system with its own cryptocurrency called LBRY Credits. When you publish a piece of content, you can set a price for the user to stream or download it. Most of that payment goes to you, and a portion goes to the hosts who store the files. No one else gets a cut.
LBRY Credits allow publishers to earn micropayments. It’s seamless to charge a penny per download – no users having to input credit card information or pay processor fees. In this way, it’s like Bandcamp but with better content discovery and a much more flexible payment model.
BC: What are some of the current flaws within the system today that LBRY helps solve?
The risks of this came to the fore just last week with YouTube strong-arming publishers into its new “Red” premium service. Another example from a different industry is a few years back when Facebook starting throttling Page owners’ access to their own followers – many of which they had paid to accumulate. The lesson is that if you’re using a system that has a higher authority, you’re always vulnerable.
LBRY is an open-source protocol, like the ones that form the backbone of the internet. LBRY Inc. supports the development of the protocol, but it doesn’t control it. With the advent of the blockchain era, I think the internet will fulfill its promise of radically decentralizing the flow of information. We hope LBRY will be a big part of that.
BC: How does this service resemble BitTorrent?
JK: It resembles BitTorrent in the ways that the data is actually transferred. LBRY is driven by a distributed hash table quite similar to the one that BitTorrent uses. It was also inspired by BitTorrent in that BitTorrent is generally a community of people interested in sharing access to information and knowledge. LBRY shares the same goals and extends existing torrents as a way of bootstrapping it’s network.
MV: LBRY can actually accept torrent links as key values on the blockchain. So out of the gate, it will function as the world’s easiest torrent client. Instead of sending someone a complicated hyperlink, an independent artist can just say “Go to LBRY and type in hipster shorts to find my films.” But we expect LBRY’s built-in content hosting model to supplement or replace BitTorrent over time because of better incentives for everyone involved.
BC: How do you feel right now about the current state of the Bitcoin protocol and community?
MV: Bitcoin looks healthy to me. It’s certainly getting harder to change the protocol, resulting in the current XT dispute, but that’s a good thing. What Bitcoin has going for it is tremendous momentum and network depth.
So far, there are many interesting projects to create a real Bitcoin 2.0, but they all seem to lack concrete and significant benefits to everyday users. Those benefits would have to be significant enough to deal with the massive transaction costs of shifting everyone’s focus away from Bitcoin.
All of the LBRY founders believe that altcoins shouldn’t be pushed for spurious reasons. Jeremy and Jimmy put a lot of thought into whether this project could be layered on top of Bitcoin, and decided it was better off with a separate blockchain (“LBRY Credits”). But we’re trying to build an application using blockchain tech, not create a better cryptocurrency.
I do think that niche or purpose-built cryptocurrencies like LBRY Credits can survive and have value. In fact, over time, it might be the case that one of these purpose-built altcoins becomes the default digital asset of choice for monetary uses precisely because it has an end-use within the application. To draw parallels to the precious metals world, gold is mostly money because people desire it as money – like Bitcoin – but silver and even more so platinum derive a significant portion of their value from industrial demand. Some people buy silver and platinum because they want the comfort that its price has a “floor” based on commodity value. LBRY Credits may come to be seen that way too.
BC: How does LBRY’s fully decentralized nature makes restricting content impossible?
MV: Not having a central controller makes a network extremely resistant to censorship. The most authoritarian regimes in the world have a woeful time trying to keep their subjects off the internet, and they ultimately fail because it’s a decentralized network. In fact, the internet was designed in part to allow networks to survive a nuclear attack. Peer-to-peer networks are resilient because there is no head to cut off. LBRY Inc. does not control who uses the open-source LBRY protocol or even how it evolves over time. That means no one needs our permission to post their works, set their price, or reserve their LBRY name. And it means that even if your content is controversial, you don’t have to worry about some corporate service provider bowing to pressure and pulling it down.
BC: Do you think Intellectual Property is handled well this day in age? Can blockchain technology change this way we look at this subject?
MV: “Intellectual property” is a misnomer. What exists is a bunch of government-granted monopolies restricting access to information. It’s not property because property involved claims over rivalrous resources – which information is not. Like the “positive rights” claimed by the New Dealers, there is no way to define “intellectual property” without it involving overriding someone’s actual, physical property.
For example, imagine Tom and Bob both own a patch of wooded land. Tom cuts down some trees and builds the first log cabin. Bob sees this and cuts down his own trees to build a similar structure. Should Tom be able to make Bob tear down his home because it was Tom’s idea in the first place? I say it’s really none of Tom’s business what Bob does on his own land with his own trees.
Right now, copyright law says that if your computer receives a number and renders it as a picture, you can be accused of stealing that picture – even though the original creator still has it. I think that’s just a misuse of the concept of theft.
Of course, it’s the world we live in. LBRY is not intended to circumvent IP laws. It is intended to take power away from media conglomerates that make their living creating artificial scarcity by putting control in the hands of independent creators. This was, of course, made possible by the invention of the blockchain – which is what allows this system to be truly decentralized.
BC: What more can we expect from LBRY?
MV: LBRY is well-positioned to be the first mass-market cryptoapp. (We’ll have to come up with a less scary name for this category.) Bitcoin has inspired a lot of programmers and financiers, but its penetration with everyday people is still minimal. That’s not a knock on it; these are still the early days of this technology. Yet the road Bitcoin has to travel to become the currency of choice for most people is a long one. LBRY’s road to being run on a majority of home computers and TVs could be much shorter. LBRY will provide an immediate upfront value in an foolproof package. As the content offerings expand, it could become an irresistible draw to customers of the current $2 trillion media market. In short, this could be big for us, for blockchain tech, for the media market, and for people who don’t care about anything I just mentioned!
BC: What’s the overall goal or mission of LBRY?
JK: To create a global, decentralized network that makes creating, sharing, and accessing knowledge and information easier than it ever has been.
Bitcoin.com would like to thank Jeremy and Mike for chatting with us about their unique project. We’ll be sure to keep in touch with the team and keep our readers informed of upcoming developments. The concepts of decentralization are moving forward in every direction and shaking up monopolies and traditional systems; LBRY aims to be a disruptor as well.
What do you think of the LBRY project? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of Pixbay, LBRY, and Redmemes