BitTube: Monetizing the Attention Economy
The article was originally published on The Daily Chain, 29th March 2020.
“We won’t count on Youtube’s demise for our own success. We are trying to position Airtime, BitTube.tv and our other products as complementary systems that content creators can use regardless which platform they primarily operate on.”
Saber Maram, BitTube CEO, March 2020
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Over the last few years Internet users have become commodities. In this Age of Information in which we live, the more that is known about a user the more valuable they becomes as a commodity.
It is the burning desire of advertisers, marketers and propagandists, to know your deepest desires and innermost thoughts, in order to better realize their aim of selling you something.
Whether they peddle prams, pills or politics, knowing who and how to target their ads is a multi-trillion dollar business.
Privacy is hard to protect when the interests of the world’s largest business are aimed at divesting people of it.
Online censorship is also a growing problem. With moderation moving to AI, and with the new trope of combating “misinformation”, having censorship resilient platforms are increasingly inventions born out of necessity.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) — Alphabet Inc’s YouTube, Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) warned on Monday that more videos and other content could be erroneously removed for policy violations, as the companies empty offices and rely on automated takedown software during the coronavirus pandemic.
It would appeal to the vast majority of people to change the way the Internet economy is fueled, to drive out the monster which preys on their innermost thoughts, or at least to keep it at bay.
Would it be possible to create an Internet economy which doesn’t serve the interests of advertisers and the almighty dollar, at the cost of our privacy?
Since 2017 BitTube (TUBE) has been working on an answer to the problem described above.
A censorship resistant, privacy protecting, ad-blocking, content serving platform with a new economic model.
Readers will be surprised at the maturity of the BitTube ecosystem, and how many tools and features the platform already provides. Indeed I myself am at a loss as how to cover it all.
BitTube may remind some readers of Brave (BAT), but TUBE predates the latter, and began without ICO.
BitTube reshapes how web monetization should work. Browse privately, ad free and support every publisher you visit. Your time powers the new attention economy without compromise.
BitTube comprises four main products, which are all avenues to one core technology, AirTime.
BitTube’s principle products are as follows:
- BitTube.tv: A video streaming platform similar to YouTube, ,but censorship-resistant, ad-free, and integrated into Airtime
Browser Extension: (Firefox, Chrome and Brave) to participate in BitTube’s attention economy. Includes a wallet, ad-blocker and excellent VPN which I tested successfully even with a balance of 0 TUBE!
- BitTube Browser: A privacy-focused browser based on Firefox, with all BitTube features nicely integrated.
The streaming platform was released first, and served as a dry-run for the larger ambition of facilitating payments with BitTube’s monetization solution for all content creators anywhere online.
BitTube goes even further with its TubePay API designed to set up products for sale, as with its WooCommerce Payment Gateway.
Add BitTube payments to your WordPress store using our payment gateway plugin. Link it to your BitTube account and start accepting fast and commission-free payments. Allows for automatic conversion from local currency to TUBE based on real-time exchange rates.
There is so much here. I want to emphasize this. Each of these products merits lengthly review, a task beyond the scope of this article alone.
The streaming platform is growing steadily with over 40K registered users and many Crypto Youtubers migrating their content from YouTube faster than ever following YouTube censorship shocks.
Hooking your Twitter, Facebook and other social media profiles into the system and monetizing them, is made easy.
The concept of an attention economy can be traced back to the early 70’s, and t the writings of Herbert A. Simon , an American economist and cognitive psychologist.
In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.
Put simply, “Attention is a resource — a person has only so much of it.”
Rather than Internet users being commodities whose attention is vied for by advertising companies within an attention economy, they can instead be treated as oracles who arbiter value through interaction and attention.
BitTube uses a private blockchain based on Monero as the currency for a new economic model based on the principles of the attention economy. Content producers and consumers are both rewarded for their time.
AirTime is an ad-free monetization solution. It rewards publishers and visitors with TUBE tokens. Visitors/viewers who have the AirTime Browser Extension installed, generate AirTime for the publisher. Both parties receive AirTime rewards based on the time they spend on a web page or piece of content, such as a video. Publishers earn based on the total time that their visitors spend on their content or social account
The AirTime system is at the heart of BitTube, and uses blockchain to drive the monetary system.
All participants are rewarded for their attention, and all producers awarded for the time others spend viewing or listening to their content. Real-world products and services can be sold with payment systems and gateway API’s already available in the BitTube ecosystem.
When studied more closely Airtime is more complex than a simple quid pro quo, with reward levels being tiered by the amount of staking TUBE (the currency).
The staking increases the level of approved (counted) AirTime. It is for users that spend more time on the Internet. Staking for publishers (website owners) serves as a trust factor, so guest visitors (without the extension) can generate more approved AirTime.
The entire system is well conceived and thoroughly described in minutiae on the bittubeapp website documentation and FAQ.
Fiat on-ramps and off-ramps have also been considered. BitTube has wallet and exchange licenses. A user can buy TUBE via the extension at bittube.app, and sell via his profile.
WebTorrent and IPFS
Before rebranding to BitTube, the platform was called IPBC (Interplanetary Broadcast Coin). This reflected the platform’s interest in using a totally decentralized file storage solution to match its decentralized economic model. The solution was, of course, Interplanetary File Storage (IPFS).
The Internet has turbocharged innovation by being one of the great equalizers in human history — but increasing consolidation of control threatens that progress. IPFS stays true to the original vision of an open, flat web by delivering technology to make that vision a reality.
When I first streamed video from BitTube.tv I was impressed by the speed. As satisfying as it was watching the video on the website (much faster than any other crypto streaming service I can recall), I became suspicious that the video I was being served was coming from a centralized CDN, such was the speed.
It was my curiosity surrounding the speed of BitTube streaming that led to this article and interview. As it transpired my suspicions were well founded, and my concern subsequently assured.
BitTube abandoned IPFS in late 2018 and started the new platform based on web torrent. The bit.tube website that used IPFS was shut down on the 18th of November 2019.
BitTube.tv uses a CDN in these initial stages additionally to the decentralized hashes (magnet URI).
I was fortunate to catch up with Saber Maram, BitTube CEO. A very successful entrepreneur leading the company, he took time to answer some questions including subjects ranging YouTube, censorship, AirTime and the future of BitTube.
Interview with Saber Maram , CEO of BitTube
How much is BitTube inspired by Brave? How do they differ?
Not at all. The common goal of monetizing the web turned out as a happy coincidence. We first built the Airtime system for the old bit.tube platform exclusively. A few months later we realized we could apply Airtime to internet browsing in general to catch a much wider net. Whereas Brave have an advertiser-focused approach, Airtime is an ad-free blockchain-powered solution. The introduction of our BitTube Browser was primarily for independence, and secondly to use as a building block for developing BitTube’s decentralized infrastructure (like persistent storage nodes via webtorrent, wallet nodes, etc.)
How long do you hold funds for a publisher to collect?
The distribution of rewards happens in a 3-day rolling payout window after the Airtime is recorded. The minimum threshold is 1 TUBE.
What assurances can you give readers that the browser and browser extension are safe to use?
See here . These are standard permissions in order for extensions to read/modify a web page (incl adblocking). The AirTime extension only records session times per page, no other data is relayed.
The BitTube Browser is a Firefox fork. It has tracking removed (it is therefore a bit snappier) and has the extension pre-installed.
Nevertheless, we always encourage the motto “Trust, but Verify”. For those uncomfortable with extensions in general (which is warranted in some cases), feel free to use tools such as Wireshark and the browser console to verify that the extension is harmless.
Do you foresee a day when YouTube will lose its dominance?
If they continue on their current path, yes, but that could take up to 10 years. That’s why we won’t count on Youtube’s demise for our own success. We are trying to position Airtime, BitTube.tv and our other products as complementary systems that content creators can use regardless which platform they primarily operate on.
Recently Crypto YouTubers have had issues with censorship. What are your thoughts about this, and why do you think it’s happening?
How YouTube enforces its policies is a black box. Since those channels were eventually restored, it looked more like algorithm shenanigans rather than targeted censorship. The core problem is probably that YouTube has become too big. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and there’s no one to take responsibility. Historically, YouTube hasn’t exactly treated its users as respectable customers. What is happening with YouTube since the past few years is just an acceleration of how they have always operated, without transparency or accountability.
BitTube.tv has its own policies regarding permitted content, and BitTube retains the right to remove or delete content. How is this different to YouTube?
Every platform needs content policies in order to deal with illegal/copyrighted/sensitive content. The difference lies with how such policies are applied and how disputes are resolved. You can find the Community Guidelines for BitTube.tv here:
We intend to introduce a community moderation system to give community moderators voting power combined with transparency and accountability (like a democracy). I think more importantly, we are currently also experimenting with Peertube which uses ActivityPub (our instance is https://bittube.video/). This enables users to host their own content and enforce their own rules on their instance. Depending on how we manage to intermix this solution with BitTube.tv itself in the next 3–6 months, this might change/improve how we’ll deal with community moderation in terms of flexibility.
At the moment BitTube.tv hosts its content on CDN’s. This means fast transfers but centralized hosting. What are the future plans for BitTube.tv hosting?
Both the BitTube Browser and Peertube implementation will give options of switching entirely to p2p webtorrent hosting. CDNs could still be used for speed, especially for mobile, but the network wouldn’t depend on it. We are experimenting with the ability to write torrent hashes and metadata to the TUBE blockchain for immutability, meaning that anyone will eventually have the ability to fire up their own instance and sync content from the chain, including votes/likes, of course provided the content is hosted by peers.
“BitTube owns both banking and exchange licenses to process payments.” Can you describe these licenses in more detail and explain what they mean?
It means that we are licensed to provide our own fiat on-ramps and off-ramps, as well as (in theory) operate a cryptocurrency exchange.
AirTime is funded by a portion of mining rewards but TUBE has a finite supply. What happens to AirTime when mining rewards end?
The block reward does not go to zero. At the end of the emission curve there is a tail emission of 432 TUBEs per day. See “final subsidy per minute”.
Please tell us about yourself and your background. What led you to BitTube?
My role as a CEO of BitTube does not end with managing the company. I take a major role in the code development and the BitTube architecture. I see how the Internet is being monopolized. With the experience from my other ventures which are related to peer-to-peer technology, it made me search for a solution. Through BitTube I would like to provide an independent network that can ultimately take care of itself.
Can you talk about the team and the history of BitTube?
The core dev team is located in Tenerife, Spain (Canary Islands). We work in a co-working space owned by me. It’s a nice arrangement for working together and occasionally scouting additional developers for BitTube or side projects. BitTube originally launched as IPBC (Interplanetary Broadcast Coin) in 2018, shortly after the “bubble” popped. Since that time we also have some remote team members doing tasks around design, testing and communications.
BitTube 2020: What plans do you have to grow adoption and what’s in store for BitTubers this year?
The roadmap is long and too much to go over in detail here.
For BitTube.tv, see list of upcoming features.
For BitTube in general, see list of ecosystem milestones.
In summary, besides the long list of features and user experience improvements, our users can look forward to:
- Blockchain upgrades: we are hard forking the chain to change the mining algorithm to Cuckeroo for faster transaction throughput and efficiency. An official announcement will follow soon.
- Peertube integration with BitTube.tv (TBA)
- Native BitTube.tv mobile app (May)
- Expansion of the BitTube Browser for p2p infrastructure
- Add micro tipping and patronage features after the Cuckeroo hard fork
- Coordinated marketing efforts this year (likely H2)
- Referral system (see here).
- Membership structure overhaul (better pricing and incentives for creators and viewers separately).
Under active development, and with a hard fork announced earlier this month, BitTube has grown through the bear market. It is to be admired, has delivered on milestones, and is run by a professional team.
BitTube’s latest announcement
Price speculation is not something I usually discuss in my articles. Nor will I ever predict prices or offer financial advice.
What I would say though, is the current valuation of TUBE (1M USD) is completely inconsistent with the work that has gone into it, and the community rapidly growing around the platform.
Thanks to its novel economic model, using blockchain for the attention economy of the future, BitTube is well-positioned to profit from the foundations it has been laying so methodically.
Those curious to learn more will find useful links below, and may find Crypto Rich’s video interview (recorded 7 months ago and slightly outdated) with Saber illuminating.
To Saber Maram, for his efforts. With thanks, and gratitude.