PeerTube, the “Decentralized YouTube”, succeeds in crowdfunding

By A.S.

It is done. With 53,100 euros collected in forty-two days, the PeerTube project originating in France blows through its initial goal. The principle is intriguing: a fully decentralized version of YouTube , whose computer code is freely accessible and editable, and where videos are shared between users without relying on a central system. Online since March 2018 in a beta version, the project should definitely take off by October, based on the money raised.

At the origin of PeerTube is the French association Framasoft , one of the main associations advocating for the development of free software in Europe. With its strategy of development and centralization, Google, which owns YouTube, quickly became a symbol in the fight orchestrated by Framasoft – which launched four years ago a campaign called “De-google-ify Internet” .

11,000 videos online

Like Mastodon, an alternative to Twitter launched in 2016, PeerTube relies on a decentralized and federative system. In other words, there is no higher authority that manages, broadcasts and moderates the content offered, as is the case with YouTube, but a network of “instances”. Created by one or more administrators, these communities are governed according to principles specific to each of them. Anyone can freely watch the videos without registering, but to upload a video, you must choose from the list of existing instances , or create your own if you have the necessary technical knowledge.

At the moment, 141 instances are proposed. Most do not have specifics, but one can find communities centered on a theme or open to a particular region of the world. In all, more than 4,000 people are currently registered on PeerTube, for a total of 338,000 views for 11,000 videos.


Possible Evolutions/ Predictions

PeerTube is fully editable and adaptable to the needs of everyone …, provided you know how to code . The registered community is largely composed of a technophile user-base, and therefore able to propose new features. Improving and simplifying the user experience is one of Framasoft’s main objectives.

But the current operation of the platform, not really intuitive for a non-initiated, is also the main flaw of PeerTube. ”  The Gafam put us in a position of consumers,” says Pouhiou, communication officer for Framasoft. ”  Of course, they have the means to create extraordinarily practical software that brings a lot of comfort to the user. But often, this gain of comfort is accompanied by a loss of control of our data. If we want to regain the power , we must also take the responsibilities that go with it.  ”

This ” incompressible  ” difficulty  does not necessarily worry the association. PeerTube is not for the moment a ”  YouTube killer  “, but a project in its youth. There is no question of attracting too many users at once: the platform, largely perfectible, might discourage the general public – some functions, such as the subscription to a channel, are not yet in place. PeerTube does not seek to attract star Youtubers either.

Unlike YouTube, PeerTube does not display default ads. ”  In terms of monetization, we wanted to make a neutral tool,  ” says Pouhiou. For now, a simple “support” button allows videographers to direct their viewers to Tipee, Patreon, Paypal and other donation tools. But in the future, Framasoft hopes that ” people will be able to code their own monetization system  “.

Self-managed moderation

Other issues may eventually be debated. The pornographic content, authorized by certain instances-provided they display a label ” Not safe for work  ” and blur the thumbnail- is still present among the most popular videos of PeerTube. The organization into federations can also open the door to the creation of instances accepting extremism and calls for violence.

Again, Framasoft relies on its community to prevent overflows and maintain the original freshness: ” PeerTube works a little on the same principle as Twitter , says Pouhiou. We can track and add videos on an instance but it is not automatically reciprocal. A community can be ostracized if its actions are considered harmful by others . ”

How will PeerTube evolve? Two years after its creation, his “big brother” Mastodon is doing rather well , and has exceeded one million users. So there is hope for an alternative to big machines in Silicon Valley. Especially since accumulating in recent months the problems of moderation and monetization, YouTube has alienated some of its users, who may well appreciate the emergence of an alternative.