We had a conversation with STEFAN FURLAN, Director of Viewly Inc, a decentralised video platform, about new ways of supporting creativity, and how there’s more to video sharing than YouTube has to offer.
What was the problem you were trying to solve with Viewly?
Platforms like YouTube are essentially ad- based and I think ad-based solutions stupefy people. They’re pushing these pesky ads, and promoting a binge-watching culture. If you’re a content creator you’re trying to generate an audience that will follow your channel, and obviously, if the platform is only interested in how many videos the audience watch they will essentially ‘clickbait’ your audience away. With content creators and video sharing platforms, their goals are misaligned: we saw our opportunity here to create something different.
How does a decentralised video platform work?
There is the front-end where we want to create a better user experience, by allowing content creators to tie-in the monetisation layer. For example, you can watch a video and “like” it and in “liking” it you give the creator 5 pence. If you really love it you can donate £5 or you can make a patronage pledge, where you choose to give the creator £5 a month just to keep up the good work. It’s a more stable revenue stream, whilst simultaneously allowing them to create the experience that they want. If they want ads and they want to promote a product, they can agree on some form of sponsorship; they can integrate it into their videos in the way that they’d like, as opposed to the current situation where a video creator talks about something and an unrelated ad pops up. It just ruins the experience.
Is anyone already doing it?
Obviously, there are big names out there. We don’t position ourselves as competitors to YouTube because what makes one a competitor is not having a video player, it’s not the technology, it’s the market you’re after. The most popular video sharing platforms are after the most popular creators, they create millions of views and YouTube can play tons of ads on those videos, and that’s essentially what they’re after. Then you have the mid-tier level platforms where you have smaller content creators, and they’re producing quality content — on topics such as cooking, sports, music, travel, tutorials, and education. That’s who cater for; they usually have much smaller audiences and thus don’t have enough followers for these large platforms to be pro table for them.
Just a few weeks ago I was watching a tutorial where a guy explained one part of the blockchain technology incredibly well. If there were an option for me to donate money, I would do it – but there isn’t. That’s what we’re creating; the immediate option to donate, built into the platform so that when somebody watches a video, they can reward the creator immediately
What do you think about platforms like Patreon and Twitch, that support their content creators?
I think Patreon is really good. They moved away from the ad-based model and it’s more about finding high-quality content and consuming it in a healthy way – they avoid binge-watching. However, one thing about these platforms is that they’re usually fixated on one specific monetisation option which might work for certain content but other content might benefit more from another method. We were even talking with one of the big charity organisations and they said they wanted to create a video that might showcase some of the economic hardships around the world so people can donate to those. We want to give the power to the content creators so they can create the customer experience they desire.
Well with blockchain, you have this concept of distributed autonomous organisation. It’s like open sourcing the organisation the way you open source so ware. There is middleman.
You’ve mentioned crypto tokens when talking about this previously. How are they integral to the product?
We have a token for two purposes. First, we want people to have some form of currency to reward content creators, and secondly, we want content creators to be able to pay for the content distribution network. So they are essentially paying for the storage, but it’s not socialised, like on YouTube, where the popular users are subsidising the less popular users. With Viewly you pay for your storage and if it doesn’t add up then you delete the videos.
What are the risks involved with this model? How do you intend to mitigate them?
There are many aspects we’re starting to solve, that are important to get right. One is, obviously, creating this huge decentralised content distribution network. If you look at popular platforms, you have farms of computers and servers in hundreds of locations that enable you, when you go on YouTube and select a video, to actually play the video of your choice. We’re looking at how torrents work — focusing on peer to peer. So if you have spare storage on your computer, your computer sits at home connected to the internet and you just install the so ware that’s doing the job.
You’re earning some money because the content creator actually pays you to provide this. So creating this is the main challenge. As to how we actually do it, we have to think of the infrastructure. Another challenge is control over the content, how to strike the right balance – how to ensure it doesn’t suddenly become a centralised system where we act as an authority, deciding what’s good and what’s not. There are also digital rights to consider.
Right now, our focus for the next stage is actually on how to attract good content creators to come on to our platform. As well as how to attract viewers to the platform, to watch the content and support these creators. So this is our next challenge.
You talk a lot about how the content on YouTube is draining everybody’s brains, can you elaborate a little more on that?
Certainly. If you’ve watched videos on YouTube, then you’ll have experienced what I’m talking about. Perhaps you intended to watch one thing but two hours later you’re watching a mindless video about cats or pandas or something. You’re manipulated into consuming this empty content because YouTube, like all ad-based platforms, uses algorithms to discern your interest and then bombard you with similar content in order to show you more ads. The focus is a kind of binge consumption, where they encourage people to mindlessly consume videos.
On Viewly, if we have a content creator who has his own channel, we don’t want to clickbait the consumer away from his channel. We intend to have a landing page with sophisticated recommendation tools.
Both now, and in the future, how do you see the content creation landscape developing? I think we can look at history for a model. If we consider the Renaissance period, where visionaries like Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Bernini and Raphael thrived, we realise that it wouldn’t have been possible without patronage.
They were supported by wealthy families like the Medici and the Catholic Church; they were able to create without worrying about the commercial value of their work. We obviously shifted from patronage to community sponsored art, with theatres and galleries and so forth. Now, technically these things are free but we’re still paying, we’re forced to consume ads and, of course, we’re giving away our personal data.
We have a different approach. Ultimately what we’re trying to do is solve some of the problems caused by ad-based platforms. We want to use the new opportunities with blockchain technology to do things differently and to o er a platform to promote creativity and quality content, moving away from mass market consumption. solutions stupefy people, promoting binge- watching culture”