On October 28th, 2015, Google will roll out a new ad-free viewing program across YouTube, coined YouTube Red. They are offering the subscription deal to viewers at a price of $9.99 per month, and they are integrating it with the current Play Music on-demand service. The new service will be replacing the existing Google Music Key, and gives users a simple way to watch or listen to Youtube video and Play Music content on-demand without ads.
With the new Red deal in place, YouTube plans to split subscription revenue with the creators and right-holders of content that viewers consume through the service. According to TechCrunch, YouTube has already gotten the majority of content producers to sign on to the program. At the launch event, a representative of YouTube also told reporters that YouTube is paying out “the vast, vast majority of revenue.”
Although the new program is seen as having the potential to provide users with a useful feature that could improve their experience, it hasn’t come without its critics and downsides. YouTube is essentially pushing the new deal onto ‘partner’ creators who rake in a percentage of ad revenue generated from viewership. They either have to agree to accept the conditions of the new subscription deal, or have their content hidden from the public — if not deleted all together.
Google says these seemingly harsh conditions are for the benefit of consumers; the company wants people to be able to subscribe to the service knowing beforehand that it will be worth the price. Robert Kyncl, the Chief Business Officer at YouTube, explained that 99% of content would be available anyway, as the vast majority of content producers have already signed the agreement. However, the issue is that they didn’t really have much of a choice, otherwise they would lose out on the new subscription revenue, previous revenue from ads, and possibly even their fan base.
This is the major downside of centralized institutions controlling access to productive ventures. Intermediaries perform an important function in the economy by taking on risks that we don’t have to, and by making production of goods more efficient — and therefore cheaper and more abundant. However, there is no doubt that their existence can still have a stifling effect on interpersonal relationships. The best way to counteract this negative presence has been through the wonders of technological decentralization. Decentralization, of course, is the opposite of centralization and implies a more direct connection among peers rather than through a common intermediary.
Bitcoin has had this effect on the financial sector, and has only been limited to the extent that it has been accepted as a form of payment by others. It has acted as an alternative to the current financial system, and the fiat currency that currently dominates it. Other applications of peer-to-peer technologies have recently been considered as well, from gambling and online markets, to decentralized space exploration. However, as interesting as it may be, most other applications of P2P technology are either in beta form or still only exist as an idea.
So, it should be no surprise that decentralized alternatives to Youtube are currently few and far between. However, one such alternative does exist: MediaGoblin. MediaGoblin is a decentralized media sharing platform that touts itself as an alternative to YouTube, Flickr, SoundClound, and the like. It’s a free software program that anyone can run on their computer and, as its decentralized nature implies, allows peers to be both the suppliers and consumers of resources.The software was initially released 2011, with the stable release coming later in 2015.
Although this is a step towards a feasible alternative to centralized media sharing sites (such as Youtube), a more comparable alternative would have to be monetized. Although it does provide similar functions as Youtube, it would still mainly attract hobbyists or people who enjoy creating media content for recreational purposes. To expand the market you would need a way to attract people interested in getting revenue, rather than those providing media in their spare time.
One possible way that decentralized media sharing could be monetized is through the blockchain. If a program like MediaGoblin were to integrate the blockchain into its software, it could turn the concept into a profitable activity. The blockchain makes cryptocurrencies possible by helping to digitally process payments without a need for banks. It does this through the mining process, which gives monetary incentives to people to confirm transactions by automatically rewarding them Bitcoin, or some other form of cryptocurrency. If the same process was integrated with media sharing, it could become competitive with Flickr or Youtube. Once a monetized system was functional and scalable, then everything else would likely fall into place as the result of any comparative advantage that would originate from its dispersed platform.
Decentralized media sharing platforms are just one of many possible applications of peer-to-peer technology, and as more decentralized systems become operable, the closer we will get to a future where everything is decentralized.
What do you think of YouTube making content creators agree to the YouTube Red subscription deal? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of TDC Video, YouTube, Google, MediaGoblin.