By the time this newspaper is launched, slightly more than a week will have passed since YouTube abruptly deleted a shitload of crypto-related videos from its platform. On the 23rd of December 2019, thousands of YouTubers – many of which are earning at least part of their income through crypto-related videos – received emails from this world’s second largest social media platform notifying them that some (or, in some cases, all) of their content has been taken off the internet.
The ban lasted 4 days and led to heavy speculation as to why YouTube decided on this unannounced course of action. Admittedly, this was a great time for some of us conspiracy theorists out there, as wild theories were floated on Reddit and just about anywhere slightly zany people (or maybe, very knowledgeable geniuses) love to leave comments on. Christmas being just around the corner probably contributed to some of the most outlandish and far-fatched theories, providing some free entertainment to those who weren’t too concerned about freedom of speech or cryptocurrency, whilst leaving many others to experience a range of -ations in just a few days, including desperation and frustration.
The crypto-ban ended when YouTube began reinstating videos, eventually declaring it was all a mistake. Crypto news site Decrypt even cited a YouTube spokesman: ‘With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.’
Wrong call or not, YouTube’s course of action has proven to be a boon to alternative social media channels – mainly ones that use blockchain to serve up their content. These decentralized video platforms provide video makers platforms to spread content without needing to worry about their videos being thrown off the ether for arbitrary or even whimsical reasons. According to Jeremy Kauffman, the CEO and founder of the open-source content-sharing and publishing platform LBRY, access over the previous 24-hour period increased 100% day-over-day, with many disgusted YouTubers migrating to LBRY, often citing the 100,000+ videos and 17.000+ channels YouTube removed between June and December 2019.
This is not to say YouTube didn’t rightfully ban some of the videos we’re talking about: some content definitely was in violation of its guidelines. On top of that, large platforms attract a lot more legislative scrutiny than smaller peers, as the SEC (‘Securities and Exchange Commission’) and certain other agencies have demonstrated themselves to be quite hostile to crypto-related businesses and transactions. Facebook already banned crypto-related ads in January 2018, citing concerns about scams and Twitter deems crypto ads or tweets violate the company’s Restricted Financial Products and Services.
Think about how comfortable you would be if someone was breathing down your neck while you were trying to have sex with your boyfriend, girlfriend or genderless sex partner – unless you’re more of an exhibitionist, of course. Possibly YouTube erred on the side of caution, reacting too fast in order to avoid legislative problems. Understanding the reasons why doesn’t make something right, though, and YouTube’s ‘crypto-purge’ definitely has left a lot of people feel unfairly targeted by the video mammoth, which originally cited ‘harmful or dangerous content’ and ‘sale of regulated goods’ as reasons for removal.
On the surface, a 4-day ban doesn’t seem nowhere as bad as the 3-month ban YouTube owner Google put on bitcoin and cryptocurrency ads, delivering a serious blow to bitcoin prices until September last year. However, in a sense, that decision being reversed (probably because U.S. regulations on cryptocurrency like bitcoin and Ethereum did become a whole lot clearer) makes it even more difficult to understand YouTube’s crypto-purge. Google and other social media platforms – such as Facebook – have seen public opinion move against ad-funded business models over the last few months. They’ve been looking for additional financial services in order to bolster their income, with Google going so far as to partner up with Citygroup in order to launch its own ‘smart-checking’ bank accounts, which will likely force bitcoin developers to improve their interfaces and overall user experience.
Despite regularly censoring and/or banning creators, YouTube is set to remain in the driver’s seat for a long time, since videos published there reach a far bigger potential audience (about 1.9 billion of viewers) than they would be able to anywhere else. Monetization is a huge motivator as well: some YouTube channels generate 6 figures a year, a number that’s increasing by 40% yearly.
YouTube is faster than blockchain-based databases, as those tend to be notoriously slow. Moreover, the lack of a clear set of policies doesn’t always benefit the users of decentralized platforms. They are more prone to spam, draw more trolls and form a more fertile hunting ground for scammers. Also, copyright and intellectual property is often more difficult to prove and there’s a whole set of privacy issues YouTube doesn’t struggle with nearly as much as decentralized open-source platforms do. Even though it’s possible to find a lot of controversial topics (read: honest-to-goodness lies) on YouTube, the various providers have a far more difficult time to monetize on them – and that’s the way it should be
So where does that leave well-intentioned video content makers who like to post videos on cryptocurrency? Unsurprisingly, they’re receiving a lot of support from decentralized channels as well as exchanges such as Binance (the largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume). We fully expect the rank & file numbers of many alt channels to grow, albeit be it at predictably slow pace. Here’s a list of some of the alternatives!
Decentralized Alternatives to YouTube
Bitchute: Founded in 2017 to allow video content makers to avoid rules enforced by popular larger platforms – such as YouTube – this site’s claims it uses peer-to-peer WebTorrent technology seem to be shaky at best. The problem with Bitchute is the amount of far-right content available. There’s a lot of hate speech on Bitchute and it’s no wonder to our newspaper that conspiracy theory channel InfoWars migrated to this medium after being banned by YouTube. As for our newspaper: we don’t like to give hate speech a forum and would like to caution possible users of Bitchute, as there’s a lot of disinformation on it.
Bittube: Maybe more than any other decentralized blockchain channel, Bittube is very outspoken about its goals: to become a full-blown YouTube alternative, hopefully even eclipsing the iconic social medium itself. Additionally, this censorship-resistant platform wants to remove the need for advertising, providing payment to content makers and viewers alike, simply by producing, uploading and watching videos. It tries to accomplish this through BitTube Coin (or ‘TUBE’), while videos are stored in the IPFS (the ‘Interplanetary File System’, a peer-to-peer HTML-replacement protocol). As it lives entirely in your browser and doesn’t need additional software (unless you want to broadcast), Bittube is definitely worth taking a look at. As with Bitchute, make sure to avoid hatemongers, since you’ll be supporting their causes by watching their bullshit, but with lots of upcoming premium features and stricter guidelines on the horizon, Bittube might just be the kind of channel many YouTubers were waiting for.
DTube: In many ways, DTube is just as similar to Reddit as it is to YouTube. It runs on a blockchain-based mainnet and allows anyone to reap rewards by actively using the app, engaging with content creators and posting content. Just like Bittube, it runs on IPFS, but it is developed on the STEEM blockchain. Users can upvote videos, which earns their creators money, but unlike YouTube content, videos posted on Dtube stop being monetized after only 7 days. Also be warned: Dtube looks almost exactly like YouTube, but it’s less table and the upload process is a lot slower. Like, a lot. Lastly, and we can’t stress this enough: avoid the asshole climate change deniers, eugenics proponents, freaky conspiracy theorists, fascists and racists. Pretty please.
LBRY: Imagine a Bitcoin-BitTorrent chimera with an interesting incentive structure and you might get an inkling of what LBRY stands for. LBRY (which is pronounced just like ‘library’) is not just a video sharing platform, but a full-fledged content distribution protocol and marketplace, featuring ebooks, songs, videos and more. It’s based on open-source code and uses blockchain. Exchange is done through LBRY credits (or ‘LBC’), which is stored in its own official app and/or the recommended Coinomi mobile wallet. When publishing content, makers can set a price for users to stream or download whatever they’ve put out there, with most of the payment going towards the creators (or whoever uploaded the content). Micropayments of a penny per download are definitely possible, which makes users feel like they’re spending almost next to nothing, while still rewarding the content makers.
Livepeer: Livepeer is built on a p2p infrastructure that interacts through a marketplace secured by Ethereum. It’s designed to be a scalable and cost-effective solution to the high transcoding costs that come with having to deal with a lot of uploads in a limited amount of time. Users can become ‘Orchestrators’ by running software that allows them to contribute their computers’ resources in service of transcoding and distributing video for paying broadcasters and developers. Fees are turned out in the form of cryptocurrency or – interestingly – stablecoins pegged to the US dollar. They do need to acquire tokens to do so. Delegators, on the other hand, are token holders who participate in the network by ‘staking’ tokens to Orchestrators whom they believe are doing a good job. This works just like putting down a deposit as the tokens become locked for a certain time, after which they can be taken back or transferred to another Orchestrator. In addition to those fees, Livepeer mints new tokens over time, which are split amongst Delegators and Orchestrators. Sounds complicated? Let us know, we’ll happily write an entire article about how this is supposed to work.
Minds: Contrary to our previous examples, Minds is much more an alternative to Facebook than it is to YouTube. It pegs itself as a ‘crypto social network’ which rewards contributors with tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. Tokens can be used to advertise content across the network – a boost system which is purported to be ‘anti-surveillance’. It’s a lso supposed to have a more organic reach than Facebook itself does. Premium subscriptions are available for 5 tokens per month and provide access to exclusive content, the option of becoming a ‘verified’ member and the possibility to banish boosted posts from the feed. Even though it, too, has been (mis)used by the alt-right, the site, commandingly, banned several accounts associated with neo-Nazism.
STEEM & Steemit: STEEM is a database platform that’s much like Reddit with an in-line crypto currency payment system. It rewards content providers and curators with digital currency, allowing users to ‘buy ownership’ of the platform. Assets come in three shapes: STEEM (proof of stake), STEEM Power (where buyers commit to hold the investment for 13 weeks in order to get a greater piece of the platform’s growth in value as ‘interest’ and increase their influence) and STEEM Dollars (which works a lot like convertible notes). Steemit is a blogging and social media platform designed to share information, opinions, photographs, videos, and so on. Users get rewarded by commenting, posting and upvoting posts.
VideoCoin Network: The Videocoin Network is a decentralized video network which helps users to encode, store and distribute content – it turns all cloud-based video services into an algorithmic market using a blockchain with a native protocol token called the VideoCoin (or ‘VID’). Like other video networks mentioned here, it’s peer-to-peer and open-source. Miners enter into competition with other miners to provide computational power and/or storage space. Tokens are earned by storing videos and delivering videos, providing CPU time and relaying storage on third-party servers.