TL; DR: StreamSpace, a decentralized content delivery network (CDN), aims to disrupt the video streaming industry through the power of blockchain and smart contracts. The solution will enable publishers to distribute their work and individuals to monetize spare computing power through thousands of small servers that will distribute file shards based on Hedera Hashgraph technology. The team behind StreamSpace is currently working to bring the vision it has set forth to life via a beta application due at the end of this year.
When you’re streaming video or playing a game on the internet, chances are you’re receiving that content through a content delivery network (CDN): a large group of servers used to transmit data quickly and efficiently based on your geographical location. The largest online companies — including Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix — all depend on CDNs to ensure consumers in various locations receive high-quality service with low latency.
But the system doesn’t work for everyone. CDNs are expensive to build and upgrade, especially in the face of technological advances like the IoT and 5G connectivity, meaning that many areas remain underserved.
StreamSpace hopes to disrupt these traditional networks by incentivizing consumers to contribute their unused bandwidth and storage to a distributed CDN (dCDN). Delivering local content this way would significantly reduce hardware costs while greatly increasing performance. Over time, as more devices cache and deliver data, the network would become more robust and efficient.
The dCDN envisioned by StreamSpace will leverage blockchain technology as its backbone, creating an economy where nodes compete to deliver data most effectively. The dynamic will involve publishers producing the content, individuals who spin up nodes via a token economy created to host content, and, of course, viewers on the receiving end.
“It will be an entirely decentralized peer-to-peer network,” said Jose Tormo, Chief Strategy Officer at StreamSpace. “Right now, we’re focused on policies: developing the rules that govern how curators will be motivated to take the content and replicate it to the edge of the network. We’re starting with a number of bootstrapped nodes across the globe.”
The progressive streaming platform, featuring Hedera Hashgraph technology, will enable thousands of individuals with small servers to distribute file shards across the network. With the release of a beta application planned for later this year, the StreamSpace team is eager to bring its vision to life through the power of blockchain.
Progressive Streaming Powered by an Incentivized Distributed Network
StreamSpace, an Austin, Texas-based company, was founded in 2016 and is now almost three years old. In its formative years, the company focused on compiling market research on fundamental user requirements and pain points while building connections with content publishers and viewer communities.
“We started with the vision of using blockchain to enable video-on-demand streaming with an initial target of indie filmmakers,” Jose said. “We quickly found there is no profit in that space. But what we learned along the way guided us to develop a distributed content distribution network.”
The process helped inform StreamSpace’s ultimate goal: to make transparent compensation and self-distribution a norm within the global film and entertainment industry. Through the power of blockchain, StreamSpace will eliminate the middleman, empowering artists to sell their work to large audiences both directly and securely.
“We aim to direct people to specific pieces of content rather than using more traditional Hollywood-style, blockbuster promotion campaigns,” Jose said. “That kind of thing works for $1 billion superhero movies. It doesn’t work once you get beyond the top Disney kinds of content — the 500 or 800 movies published after that need something very different.”
Jose said individuals will participate in building the CDN for the opportunity to monetize underutilized storage capacity — much like a homeowner rents out unoccupied space via Airbnb. “We’re working from the assumption that there are lots of businesses and a significant number of individuals who have systems that are heavily used part of the day, but very likely not used during other parts of the day,” he said. “It would only make sense for them to monetize their capital investments with us.”
Hedera Hashgraph: Enabling Small Servers to Distribute File Shards
Hari Murugesan, Lead Developer at StreamSpace, said the company is an early adopter of Hedera Hashgraph, an enterprise-grade public network for decentralized apps. StreamSpace will deploy its dCDN to enable thousands of small servers with high-speed link connectivity to distribute file shards based on Hedera Hashgraph technology.
“When Hedera came out last summer, we thought, this is exactly the architecture that we’re looking for to be able to break the content down into as small of pieces as we need to make everything run independently, and still be able to pull this off with extremely high throughput on the system,” he said.
StreamSpace’s initial consumer-facing app will be centered on the distribution of film and video content, but the same technologies will eventually be used to distribute software updates to clusters of IoT devices. Key advantages of this architecture include advanced security with encryption and sharding of all files, a reduced chance of cloud attacks, greater resilience against Botnets, and lower costs to reach IoT clients independent of location.
It will also make the platform extremely easy to navigate. “All you will need to do is use our app, indicate how much space you are providing, download the content, and it will be served to others,” Hari said. “Your system will connect to Hedera Hashgraph to complete any required transactions.”
StreamSpace will use InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) with peer-to-peer, trust-based micropayments in which users send the requested resource to another party as long as StreamSpace whitelists them.
“With blockchain, if someone wants to make a micropayment, they have to first create a payment channel,” Hari said. “We developed a different strategy where anyone can connect to anyone else and make a micropayment that can be settled at the end of a period of time.”
Leverage the Core Advantages Offered by Blockchain
In addition to a decentralized network for content distribution, the StreamSpace architecture consists of another service operated using blockchain and smart contracts: a marketplace for video content purchase. Consumers will be able to use the transaction marketplace to purchase the rights to video content they can then watch on their smartphones, tablets, smart televisions, and computers.
Viewers will simply register their identities and payment information with StreamSpace, select a film from the StreamSpace library server, and execute smart contracts with intellectual property owners to stream content. Blockchain technology will allow users to track, optimize, and secure the system through a digital ledger that will record payments in a decentralized fashion, ensuring the integrity of purchases.
StreamSpace’s goal is to have hundreds of copies of whatever content is in demand spread across the network. “We want end users (viewers), wherever they might happen to be around the world, to be able to very quickly find content, engage in microtransactions with the other peer members in the CDN, and access the content quickly, reliably, and securely.”
The network will be run by two types of participants: high-bandwidth users and those with relatively low-speed systems. The former will help spread copies around the network, while the latter will help push content to local “edge” areas.
“Our Tier 1 networks will need to be connected at speeds well over 100Mb because those are the nodes that are going to be serving the vast amount of data,” Jose said. “For the edge networks, we’re relying on the content being broken into lots of 256K shards. So a low-performance desktop system can be an edge node server in the architecture.”
Moving Forward in a Rapidly Evolving Space
As trailblazers in the dCDN space, StreamSpace is subject to the struggles inherent in an ever-changing environment. “Every week presents its own set of challenges,” Jose said.
The key is taking things one step at a time. StreamSpace held a token sale early last year, during which it raised about $3 million to assemble a team. The next phase will include additional hires and the launch of a beta application at the end of 2019.
“We are planning to hire a team to work on Hedera Hashgraph, smart contracts, and other operation essentials,” Hari said. “We are right now laying down the architecture and will create a product after hiring some more people.”
Jose said there are few true blockchain-based CDNs on the market that have graduated from alpha or beta level. “It will be interesting as blockchain technologies move away from being the little startups that they are today and we start seeing real corporate deployments,” he said. “Eventually, we’ll look at signing on other blockchain companies to become part of our universe.”