Path A: The Centralized Future
The year is 2022 and the progressive state of New York finally elects its very first female governor to office—almost an entire century after Nellie Ross’ swearing-in as Wyoming’s first female governor. Either way, almost everyone outside of Upstate New York is ecstatic. Celebrations are breaking out across Manhattan as various political organizations push their cadre out into the streets and in front of the cameras.
Meanwhile, the newly elected governor paces restlessly outside the makeshift “war room” in her twenty-grand-a-night Tata Presidential Suite at the Pierre on the Upper East Side. The reason for her pensiveness is not due to some anxiety regarding a planned acceptance speech but rather the growing concern that she’s about to receive some very bad news.
The door swings open. A dapper man — her campaign manager — scrambles across the wooden floor with an uneasy look.
“We’re still working on the problem.”
On face value, the problem seems mundane. Apparently one of the staffers was involved in a heated exchange with the treasurer over compensation. However, rather than agree to some amenable resolution, this staffer has threatened to release an incriminating video of the governor.
“How in the hell did this staffer get a hold of this video?” she shouts at him.
The campaign manager looks even more agitated. He knows that if this video leaks out then this gubernatorial run is over. His career in politics is over.
He has good reason to foresee such a scenario. The video purportedly shows the governor agreeing to take $5 million in illegal campaign contributions from a man with ties to the Chinese government.
“We know the video was made with some new version of Instagram. This means it’s on one of facebook’s servers” he says almost with a sigh of relief.
Meanwhile, back in the war room, the team is in full damage-control mode. One staffer there just happens to be “connected.” His father-in-law is one of facebook’s board of directors.
After a few calls, the video is tracked-down and quietly removed from all servers.
For a while there’s uneasiness among the staff. What if the video resurfaces? What if witnesses come forward?
Some rumors do, in fact, circulate. A few tabloids run the rumor as a story but it soon dies out. Luckily, for the governor, most of the media is sympathetic to her cause and rather not rock the boat.
After a year, the incident is completely forgotten. The State of New York has made history again — the first to elect a governor beholden to Chinese interests.
Path B: The Decentralized Future
Everything in this scenario plays out as in the first except for one exception. The video, captured by the staffer, is now routed though a completely different version of Instagram.
You see, in this alternate future many of the platforms with video provisioning services have incorporated several new decentralized protocols into their technology stack. Large companies, like Facebook, Amazon, and Google, have done this not out of newfound love for decentralization or because of some principled belief in freedom of information but out of practical business sense.
These companies have done the math. Whereas centralized video solutions provide some advantages — vertical integration across the technology stack and strong barriers to entry for competitors—the decentralized version is a much more scalable, cheaper, alternative.
“So why not run a test of this decentralized protocol by integrating it into parts of our existing infrastructure?” some of the managers suggest. And this is, in fact, exactly what facebook does with its Instagram product.
As a result, the staffer’s incrementing video footage is routed through Livepeer’s network. Specifically, the video is chopped into single-second segments and then whisked through a series of nodes for fast transcoding, video authentication, and finally into peer-to-peer (P2P) storage.
Since many of these encoded videos are hosted by independent nodes that operate alongside P2P Content Delivery Networks (CDN), interference with delivery becomes much more complicated…
Some of these nodes — that now store this video — are not only scattered across the planet but are beyond the reaches of facebook. There is a node in a Mumbai dorm room, owned by Aarav, who is studying engineering. And there’s another node that belongs to a mining pool run by a company out of Denver, Colorado. The list of owners is endless…
The “well-connected” staffer, whose father-in-law sits on facebook’s board, calls in for help. After an hour of waiting, a voice comes through on the other line with some bad news:
“The video went through some sort of decentralized network called Livepeer. There’s nothing we can do.”