The spirit of revolution is alive and well in video content.
The likes of DTube, a platform which runs on the blockchain network Steem, has already gained prominence for their bullish stance on content and a system where users can pay creators in digital tokens. And, amid the recent privacy scandals, concerns around censorship and as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter push back on ads related to crypto-currencies, they are not the only startup intending to take on YouTube by turning to blockchain.
“YouTube on the blockchain”, said Techcrunch in February, has become a “Holy Grail” in the crypto world. Streamspace, Stream, Flixxo, Viuly and Viewly are just some of the blockchain-based outfits already competing with DTube.
Asia-facing Lino, run by CEO Wilson Wei, is another that wants to change what it says is YouTube’s “monopoly” as a means of distribution. As YouTube has a fundamental interest in maximizing profit, says this line of argument, it will always have an inherent conflict of interest with their users. To fight this, Lino earlier this year landed $20 million via a private token sale managed by high-profile youth-focused Chinese tech-seed funder Zhenfund and plans to launch its blockchain solution this summer.
“We want to cut off all the middlemen,” Wai tells Asia Times. “YouTube as a platform controls all the means of production in the video industry, so if you want to create a video and monetize your video you have no choice. They have a monopoly in the market and it gives them huge bargaining power against all content creators.”
The Lino CEO points out that YouTube “get 70% of the ad revenue margin, and that is a big problem in the long term. They have zero potential to grow much anymore, so their major concern is how to squeeze more profit from content creators. That is a fundamental problem of platform against users.”
For Lino, the best way to achieve an equitable system is to design a protocol that is decentralized. “This makes sure everyone inside the community owns part of it. It works for the whole community and is not profit driven and is sustainable in the long run. Along with this, we need to maintain an open ledger, and infrastructure for content creators,” says Wei.
But the market is already crowded. Can Wai’s startup compete?
“All the YouTube rivals are [no more than] 5% of YouTube’s market share, so why can’t we compete? We need a democratic way of running content. The key is giving back the power to the content creators and the users,” he says.
In Asia, there is also the added problems of having Western companies trying to reverse engineer the intricacies of local markets and this, says Wei, is an advantage – not a challenge – to Lino.
“We are highly interested in the Asia market, especially in China, India, Korea and Japan. The obstacles we will face are more about each market’s user preferences. If you look at some of most successful Asia-originated tech giants, what they did well and how they beat companies coming from US is through their better understanding of users’ needs.”
Asia has been a growth area for crypto-currency, and Lino, which will adopt a token system, is bracing itself to deal with this. “There’s no doubt blockchain technology is still in its early stages, it will take time for people including regulators to better assess. But in general, the policy towards blockchain and tokens is much tighter than other regions, which could affect blockchain-based companies who aim to enter Asia,” Wei concluded.