What follows is a short presentation (a ~7 minute read) demonstrating the incredible potential of the LBRY blockchain through one use case: The beautification and free distribution of the world’s greatest books.
We will create the greatest version of the world’s greatest books — think Plato’s Republic, Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, etc — and make it available for free, forever, to the world.
Please take the time to read the whole thing. It’s a simple idea with profound implications.
QUESTION: Why is the digital content ecosystem dominated by Walled Gardens such as Apple’s app store and Facebook’s various platforms?
ANSWER: Walled Gardens are massively profitable. The example set by Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple (aka “The Big 4,”) shows beyond a doubt that massive scale and profit are achievable through the walled garden model.
ANSWER: Also, it has historically provided the best customer experience. Most people expect a great technology experience “out of the box,” which walled gardens can provide.
QUESTION: What is the downside of Walled Gardens?
Walled Gardens — Downsides & Developments
ANSWER: Walled gardens are efficient and useful but they concentrate power within a very small group of people. It seems that successful centralized systems tend to become more centralized over time.
FACT: Blockchain technology has completely changed the relationship between data and money.
IMPLICATION: New business models are possible.
FURTHER IMPLICATION: These business models allow for innovation and finding new areas of value which literally did not exist at the time of the Big 4’s formation.
CONCLUSION: The most successful projects which grab attention and value away from The Big 4 will rely on these new technological options that did not exist prior to blockchain.
Walled Gardens Are Not The Enemy
FACT: Centralized systems will not “go obsolete” in our lifetimes because at this time decentralized and centralized systems have different benefits and drawbacks.
FACT: The Big 4 have a huge entrenched advantage for the utilization of centralized systems.
IMPLICATION: Despite historical examples of brands losing market share (i.e. MySpace), at this point it appears unlikely that any of the Big 4 will be disrupted, except perhaps by each other. There is no comparison between Facebook and MySpace anymore.
CONCLUSION: To grow blockchain infrastructure, it’s better to “join them” than to try and “beat them.”
LBRY-SPECIFIC CONCLUSION: LBRY should not think about disrupting The Big 4, since they are not competing with decentralized systems and LBRY is not competing with centralized systems.
Why Joining Them is Feasible
FACT: Successful decentralized systems, by definition, are able to avoid sliding towards centralization.
COROLLARY: Every system has some level of centralization. Decentralized systems have less centralization of power/resources, but not none. Even the purest forms of decentralization involve some deference to others, and limitations on use + control of valuable resources.
FURTHERMORE, most organizations have to work hard to retain the right ratio of decentralization to centralization.
FACT: By definition, decentralized systems are not as profitable for the individual as centralized systems are.
IMPLICATION: There is very little incentive for profit-driven centralized organizations to try and destroy decentralized organizations.
VALUE BEYOND FINANCE
QUESTION: If decentralized systems and centralized systems are not in competition with each other, how do they relate to each other?
ANSWER: Each provides value to the other. Decentralized organizations rely on centralized ones logistically by using centralized services such as Amazon Web Services or Google Docs. Meanwhile, centralized organizations rely on decentralization for their own needs — for example, sourcing educational content (tutorials, etc) from independent creators on YouTube.
IMPLICATION: The best projects on LBRY will create value exactly within the “blind spot” of what centralized organizations can do.
A NEW IMAGE OF BLOCKCHAIN IN 2018
There is no competition and no enemy.
We are like farmers walking up to the field just as the bountiful harvest is ripe. The Big 4 – Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Apple – are the clouds that have been raining on the field for months. We aren’t in competition with them – rather, we’re just collecting as much of the harvest as we can carry, grateful that the soil and the rain have made all of this possible.
Question: How can LBRY begin to collect the low hanging fruit?
Answer: One piece at a time.
Whereas Project Gutenberg is an archival project offering raw data in as complete a form as possible,
The Book Boutique (working title) is a highly curated and completely free collection of the greatest literary works of humankind. We take the most valuable books from the Project Gutenberg catalog and create the most beautiful and/or useful digital version of that book of all time. Then we immutably store it for free on the LBRY blockchain.
There is a long history of books being at the absolute cutting edge of technology. The invention of writing made larger-scale society possible, helping governments to form accounting and legal standards. Millennia later, the invention of the printing press enabled common people to fight back against the powers-that-be.
Books are how Amazon got its start. In Jeff Bezos’s legendary 1997 letter to shareholders, he said the following:
“From the beginning, our focus has been on offering our customers compelling value. We realized that the Web was, and still is, the World Wide Wait. Therefore, we set out to offer customers something they simply could not get any other way, and began serving them with books. We brought them much more selection than was possible in a physical store (our store would now occupy 6 football fields), and presented it in a useful, easy-to-search, and easy-to-browse format in a store open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. We maintained a dogged focus on improving the shopping experience, and in 1997 substantially enhanced our store.”
Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook have mastered the world of “walled gardens.” Because these walled gardens now exist, the next generation of major digital platforms will look nothing like the “Big 4.” They will execute on new areas of value, related to but not dominated by profit.
I will rewrite Jeff’s original paragraph to show how the present opportunity applies to LBRY:
“From the beginning, LBRY’s focus has been on offering our users compelling value. We realize that the blockchain was, and still is, a young and immature technology. Therefore, we should set out to offer users something that they simply cannot get any other way – to begin serving them with books. We can bring the world the greatest collection of free knowledge of all time, offering something that does not exist in any form today: Free and beautiful digital versions of the world’s greatest books, presented in a useful, easy-to-search, and easy-to-browse format on a blockchain open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. We maintain a dogged focus on improving the quality of society through the lens of individual freedom and empowerment.”
Creators will earn profit through this process, and the token value may even rise, but the main goal will be to improve the quality of life for humankind.
(1) LBRY makes possible a new form of for-profit organization or project, pursuing goals that previously were limited to “non-profit” endeavors.
(2) The incentive structure of LBRY is such that projects with non-financial value can more easily be aligned with profit, without perverse incentives that overvalue profit.
(3) The Book Boutique will be one of the first demonstrations of a sustainable blockchain project that provides fair value for creators (who are paid to create the books) while offering absolutely free and incredibly valuable content for humanity.
(4) The Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of The Book Boutique will be active monthly users — and we aim to reach thousands within the first few months.
(5) The timeframe between funding and the first release version of TBB is 6 weeks. It’ll launch with one book as a test-of-concept.
(6) Lastly, if it grows beyond the early stages, The Book Boutique will be rebuilt as a custom site (probably a modified spee.ch clone) to meet its needs. It will spend its first year as a WordPress site, only using LBRY to host content.
Thanks for reading! If you want to share your opinions or offer assistance, you can reach out to me on Twitter.