Decentralized Media: Devon Read on Alexandria

Decentralized Media: Devon Read on Alexandria

Ever feel bogged down by ads when trying to access media? Ever get upset that content has been censored by governments or businesses? Ever wish people had more power in regards to how content is monetized? These problems may be solved with this new decentralized media project.

Also read: Jaxx: The new Fleet of Bitcoin  Ethereum Wallets

Decentralized Media Distribution

The decentralized Library of Alexandria (DLOA) is already functional and available for download on the company’s webpage The DLOA intends to use blockchain technology to streamline access and distribution of online content, including video, books, blogs, media, and art.

Since DLOA is fully decentralized, peer-to-peer, and open source, institutions can no longer control what media or content is available on the internet. The end user will be fully empowered to control how he chooses to monetize content without fear of censorship or having to deal with third party politics.

Luckily, had the opportunity to visit with DLOA’s founder and project manager, Devon Read. We asked Mr. Read to talk about this project in detail and clarify all of its brilliant specifications and allow everyone to grasp its utility.

“We believe that decentralized content distribution—because it is unalterable, uncensorable and can be monetized fairly—will increase access to art and knowledge, which are important pieces of making the wold a better place. So, our commitment is to the project and not any specific cryptocurrency.”

-Devon Read, founder of Library of Alexandria (BC): Devon, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

Devon Read (DR): A detailed account of my background is on my LinkedIn page.

Here is the quick version: I had a strangely varied professional background. I worked in post production in the entertainment industry, served as a Marine infantryman in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, worked in product design and distribution as a business owner. But my first summer job at San Diego’s first dial-up ISP gave me unique insight into the serious problems our world is facing, and I believe the blockchain and other decentralized technologies are a powerful key to creating the solutions our world is so urgently seeking.

I’ve always been one of those work-to-make-the-world-a-better-place people, so I’m involved in open-source, decentralized technologies because I believe it is where I can make the most impact.

BC: How long have you been into Bitcoin and cryptocurrency?

DR: I started learning about it in 2013 and finally read Satoshi’s white paper for myself in January 2014. I remember the occasion because when I read it, my mind exploded with the incredible possibilities and disruptive power the blockchain has to solve many of today’s problems, and I’ve lost a lot of sleep ever since.

BC: You are the founder of the Library of Alexandria project. What is the purpose of the project?

DR: If I had to boil it down to two words I would say that Alexandria’s purpose is to “save content.” What Bitcoin did for money, Alexandria aims to do for digital content publishing and distribution, by removing central points of failure and financially incentivizing users around the world.

It’s no secret that there are serious issues facing the entertainment industry, especially in regards to distribution. The infrastructure that is required to run current content delivery networks is so expensive, industry experts believe that despite earning more than five billion dollars in revenue in 2014, YouTube’s storage and bandwidth costs prevented it from turning a profit.

And as South Park has been showing us this season, advertising is slowly killing the internet—ads have become so aggressive they regularly crash web browsers, which cause people to turn to ad-block software, which is now causing content creators to struggle because ads are basically the only way content has been monetized on the internet to any degree of success.

In addition, similar to the way that once someone begins to understand bitcoin, they tend to also learn how profoundly outdated the current banking systems are, the simplicity and control Alexandria offers to content creators highlights the equally antiquated nature of contract execution and royalties handling in the entertainment industry.

BC: It appears that “Library of Alexandria” is a reference to the historical library. Why did you choose the name and reference?

DR: The Ancient Library of Alexandria inspired the name of our project because it illustrates the problem of centralization so well. Unknown volumes of incredibly important knowledge was lost because it was kept in a central location—attack a single place and everything is lost. The primary architecture/infrastructure/foundation, whatever you want to call it, of our current internet is distributed. In its current hub-and-spoke shape, the “hubs”—ISPs, DNS servers, CDNs and other nodes that form the “backbone” of the internet are obviously vulnerable to attack. This is how personal data is stolen, how governments are able to censor information and why our favorite shows on Netflix tend to buffer forever when they’re first released and everyone is trying to watch them at the same time.

The key feature of the Decentralized Library of Alexandria is that it is fully decentralized, where many similar projects rely on one or more central points of failure for their primary functionality. But calling decentralization a feature is a bit of an understatement, because it is so much more important than that—fully decentralized technology is most certainly a generational leap forward.

It’s fun to think about at this particular moment of the generational leap to fully decentralized technology, because it is currently old enough that industry experts agree that it will be as disruptive as the internet itself, and yet new enough that most of the ways it will disrupt our everyday lives have not yet been created. Two years ago when we started working on Alexandria, most of the blockchain technology community had such tunnel vision about the ways that it was going to disrupt FinTech and the banking industry that the notion of decentralized content distribution was sort of blown off as ridiculous.

However, because of my professional history, it was totally obvious to me. You know, my partner’s grandfather grew up in a house without plumbing or electricity and went to school in a one room schoolhouse, and before he died he had become a huge fan of the internet and corresponded with her via email all the time. It’s exciting to think about what life will be like when I’m 80 and look back with the internet as my starting point. I hope that we will be able to say that we made a contribution to preserving the ‘free and open internet.’ It’s why Alexandria’s tag line is “long live art, history freedom.”

An excellent analogy is the way the HTTP spec significantly disrupted the newspaper and magazine publishing businesses because it made it possible for anyone to publish and share content freely. Before HTTP, putting information in front of a great number of people required massive infrastructure investment up front, so the incumbents were not prepared for new competitors who had nearly zero infrastructure cost.

The DLOA protocol disrupts the content distribution business by allowing anyone to distribute and monetize their content without relying on any third parties at all. Right now, proprietary media marketplaces like iTunes, Spotify Netflix are the only options for selling content online, and they compete with one another for users based on what pricing options they offer and what exclusive content is available in their catalogs, in the same way that before HTTP, newspapers and magazines competed for customers by relying on exclusives and breaking stories.

The DLOA protocol itself is obscured from the end user in the same way that HTTP is, and like HTTP did for information publishing, DLOA dramatically reduces the barrier to entry into content distribution and monetization, making it available to just about anyone. But the end of content exclusivity doesn’t mean the end of content marketplaces like iTunes, Spotify and Netflix. We think apps like these will eventually compete similarly to the way Chrome, Safari Firefox do, based on their specific features and functionality, not what content they have exclusivity over.

It’s exciting to think about what life will be like when I’m 80 and look back with the internet as my starting point. I hope that we will be able to say that we made a contribution to preserving the ‘free and open internet.’ It’s why Alexandria’s tag line is “long live art, history freedom.”

BC: Can you talk a little about the platform’s features?

DR: To answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between the DLOA protocol, the network architecture and specifications that govern how those networks interact with one another, and the Alexandria browser client itself (the app that is used to search, browse, and enjoy the digital content published to Alexandria).

Some features are dependent on the browser client itself. For example, support for specific media types or how subtitles are handled, and pretty much all of the rest of the features found in current web browsers and media players. But the DLOA protocol provides the ‘generational leap forward’ features I was talking about, like the ability to individually and permissionlessly publish and monetize a piece of content without relying on any proprietary marketplaces, the ability to share links that cannot ever be censored or removed, and such an incredible increase in the efficiency of file storage and distribution over HTTP that a chart comparing them shows an almost perfectly inverse relationship.

To explain that another way, in addition to creating the DLOA protocol, we are also developing an Alexandria browser client, which we intend to have all of the familiar features you would expect from media players like Netflix, Spotify or Youtube. Also keep in mind that all of the current content distribution platforms, including Netflix, Spotify, Youtube, etc, will be able to adopt the DLOA protocol as the storage and distribution rails for their content while retaining the same familiar interface of their front-end. And whichever companies takes that step first will end up with a huge advantage over their competitors due to the cost savings and increased efficiency over older protocols.

The DLOA protocol offers content creators incredible levels of control over how their audiences can interact with their art. Want to sell your song for some obscure price like $0.805 because you live near the 805 freeway, give it away free because it’s your birthday, allow another artist to sample a section of your work in their own song for a flat price or a percent you determine? Soon it will be easy to do all of that with DLOA. Audiences can also enjoy similar levels of customization and control like user-determined periodic CC or debit card subscriptions, non-coercive “freemium” options like contributing hard drive space to the network in exchange for content or sitting through ads by choice instead of by force.

BC: How exactly does Pin to Play work? I was confused by what happens when you “pin” media to get it for free.

DR: Pin to play is a non-monetary exchange of value. By “pinning” a piece of content, you are storing a local copy of the file on your personal hard drive and sharing it to the network. This increases the security and speed of the distribution of this file. So your personal hard drive space and bandwidth, that is the value you are offering, in exchange for a piece of content when you “pin to play.” For those that are familiar with BitTorrent, pinning is analogous to seeding. And again, the publisher has total control over this function, determining how many pinners will receive a discount to pin, and how much of a discount they’ll receive. It does not necessarily have to be free, though.

BC: Will the application eventually be compatible with older software and computers?

DR: Absolutely. The only limiting factor is development time so right now, so we are focusing our efforts on the widest audience we can reach and developing for the middle of the bell curve. We will expand to have as much compatibility as possible as we can develop it. And just to say, we need more developers so if you are reading this and are a developer who shares our values and vision I hope you’ll get in touch!

BC: I see some similarities between your application and LBRY. Can you elaborate on the differences? Do you consider their platform to be “competition”?

DR: When we started Alexandria everyone still thought decentralized content distribution was a crazy idea, but there are now a few other projects working on content distribution, which is great. I know a couple of them, like LBRY, are focusing on a single piece of the decentralized content distribution puzzle, and they have some really interesting ideas for that piece of the puzzle, but I don’t know the details of their entire plan.

What I can say is that to fundamentally rebuild the architecture of content distribution and monetization is a huge and multifaceted problem. We’ve been working on Alexandria long enough now that we have had to confront and find solutions for the many centralized processes and mechanisms that need to be replaced in the current paradigm, in order to offer the same features and functionality that users are currently used to in fully decentralized ways. We have built an ecosystem that works interdependently to foster maximum system efficiency and mutual benefit for all parties involved. A great deal of this behind-the-scenes code has been built, but is not yet obvious to the end user.

We also have a highly detailed development plan to put the rest of the pieces in place to fully replicate the incumbents functionality. Also, I am a big advocate of co-opetition, especially in the realm of open source software development. In a time when there is so much that is wrong in the world and so many of us that care deeply about making it better, I think we need to not just compete to make each other better, but find as many opportunities to cooperate as we can in order to produce the best possible solutions for the world.

We are definitely open to collaboration with other similar projects that have good ideas.

BC: Can you go into detail on Florincoin?

DR: In a nutshell, we chose Florincoin because it was the first blockchain to allow messages to be embedded in a transaction. This unique feature was necessary for us to build a decentralized, blockchain-protected index for our library of content.

It’s also important for me to say that we are not Florincoin whales running some kind of long-term pump and dump scheme. It’s an understandable suspicion given some of the scams the industry has seen and so I just want to be clear about that.

Between the Alexandria project itself and the core members of our team, we own about 2-3% of the currently available supply of Florincoins. We believe that decentralized content distribution—because it is unalterable, uncensorable and can be monetized fairly—will increase access to art and knowledge, which are important pieces of making the wold a better place. So, our commitment is to the project and not any specific cryptocurrency.

We have always been open about the possibility of changing directions and using a different blockchain for the index if that becomes the right thing to do for the integrity and strength of the project down the road. That said, we firmly believe it is the right choice, at least for now, but a much longer discussion of our use of Florincoin can be found here: 

BC: Using Library of Alexandria seems a bit complicated for the end user. Are you all planning on streamlining and simplifying the application?

DR: Yes, of course, ease of use is a huge priority for us and I think should be for anyone building next-gen decentralized technology. But again, its important for me to distinguish between the DLOA protocol and the Alexandria browser. The DLOA protocol can be adapted by existing content distribution apps, and their users would interact with it using the same front-end interface they are already used to. This means that end users could be using the protocol and not realize it beyond wondering why the content they watch suddenly has increased in quality and speed.

The Alexandria browser is the front-end application that we are building to browse the content in the library, and beautiful simplicity and ease of use are absolutely core priorities for us.

BC: Is there anything that we did not talk about that you would like to add?

DR: We are currently building partnerships with several other projects, and I’m happy to be able to reveal that the first of these is with Ascribe. Their team is brilliant. They deeply understand the current problems with copyright enforcement and DRM and their solutions are inspired, so we’re really excited to be working with them to give their users access to Alexandria’s publishing and distribution rails while letting Alexandria’s users take advantage of their content attribution technology.

I should also mention that we are raising money. We’ve been working on solving the complex problem of decentralized content distribution and monetization for a long time. We have working software, an extremely robust plan, and so far have we have been able to address every potential concern we have encountered. If you are an investor that is interested in being involved in what we think will become Bitcoins first killer app, I hope you’ll get in touch!

What a beautiful and elegant project. is extremely grateful Mr. Read chose to speak with us and elaborate on this project. DLOA is not only useful for people who enjoy digital content, it is extremely important for content creators who want to share their creations and have flexibility in how they choose to monetize them. It should be exciting to see how this open source invention continues to develop and what type of content gets published. The app solves so many problems that both content creators and lovers may eventually call it one of the Blockchain’s killer apps.

The Alexandria browser is the front-end application that we are building to browse the content in the library, and beautiful simplicity and ease of use are absolutely core priorities for us.

What do you think about this project? Let us know in the comments below!