LBRY is many components working together. For most users, it will just be a place where they can find great videos, music, ebooks, and more. A vast digital library available on all of your devices.
But behind that experience is an ecosystem that can be hard to understand at first – especially because we tend to refer to all the pieces and the system-as-a-whole as “LBRY”. (We’re working on clearing that up.)
It might be easier to start with what LBRY is not: it is not just another corporate media service like YouTube or iTunes or Spotify. It is first and foremost a new protocol that allows artists to upload their content to a network of hosts (like BitTorrent) and set a price per stream or download (like iTunes) or give it away for free (like YouTube without ads). What makes this all possible is the blockchain technology developed by the founder of Bitcoin. Do you have to understand any of this to use and enjoy LBRY? No. Does it still matter to users? Yes!
Gmail has built an extremely popular email service on top of the near-universal SMTP protocol that everyone uses to exchange emails. Anyone sending email with SMTP can communicate with Gmail addresses, no matter what email platform they use (Yahoo!, AOL, iCloud, etc.). Google can’t interfere with someone emailing from a @yahoo.com address to an @aol.com address – and users are free to switch between services at any time, taking their emails with them. Users have a lot of power in open protocols that is often taken for granted.
Compare this to a proprietary, centrally controlled service like Facebook Messenger. If you conduct all of your social communications via Messenger, you’re stuck in that environment – you cannot move your messages or contacts over to Google Chat or Skype. And if Facebook changes the way Messenger functions by censoring conversations or sharing your information with advertisers or governments, tough luck.
Even platforms that are ostensibly designed with the user’s control and privacy in mind are susceptible to corruption if they are centrally controlled. WhatsApp comes to mind. WhatsApp built a huge global user base claiming to put users above advertisers. Then Facebook bought it. Now users may well have their personal phone numbers and metadata mined for Facebook’s advertising algorithms.
There is no such risk of top-down corruption with the LBRY protocol. Content uploaded to the decentralized LBRY network remains publicly accessible so long as the community finds it valuable and continues to host it.
Now, the LBRY project is more than just a revolutionary new protocol. It is also a company, LBRY Inc., which is developing a LBRY app to allow users to easily interact with the protocol. So it’s as if Google had developed the email protocol, released it to the world for free, and then built Gmail to help people make use of it. Not only is our app completely open-source, but others are welcome to create competing apps that also use the LBRY protocol. For a content creator, your uploaded content will be available to all of these apps at the same time.
Do you see the difference here? YouTube can afford to push around its creators and users because they’ve created tremendous lock-in. LBRY is challenging this model from the ground-up. Everything we’ve built is open-source, decentralized, and belongs to the community using it. LBRY Inc. could go bankrupt tomorrow and the LBRY protocol will live on. Can YouTube say that?