Weekly Update - Decentralizing, Road To Protocol Candidacy - 10/20/2017

One of the goals that we’re focused on at Livepeer is trying to increase the “decentralization” of the project. Certainly after the network is live this can be measured via distribution of the token amongst a large number of stakeholders, their participation in the network in various roles, and other more concrete means. But what does it mean in a pre-launch project?

If one were looking to measure it they may look at things like contributors to the codebase on github, participants in the chat rooms, or number of organizations/groups/companies participating in the project or ecosystem. While these things are all meaningful and are certainly priorities for us to focus on increasing, I think there’s also a more philosophical goal: permissionless innovation.

Livepeer is decentralized when people can build within it, build on top of it, build around it, contribute back to it, and shape the direction without requiring permission or buy in from any single person or company. At the moment there is a technically focused team of engineers sitting in a New York City office that drives a lot of development, but as an open platform anyone has the ability to build the thing that they want to see exist. Every time we get a pull request from India, or see a separate project from Belgium build on Livepeer as a base, or see folks thinking about combining Livepeer with things like Raiden for payments, other Ethereum protocols, storage solutions like Swarm or IPFS, it’s a step towards decentralization.

To that end, we’re excited that Chris Hobcroft (@chrishobcroft) has taken on the role of Creative Director within Livepeer, with a focus on decentralization, and connecting creatives and developers with all web3 technologies. Chris operates out of Berlin, which is at the heart of the decentralized tech and creative communities, and he’s spoken quite a bit about live streaming and what the future may look like. If you’re looking to engage in creating anything in this decentralized tech space, whether it’s an application, content, live video, or a whole new platform…then Chris is a great person to reach out to, as he can help you get started, and help you connect with other people who share your vision.

Technical Protocol Update

The #1 priority for the core development team remains getting the Livepeer Protocol into a launchable state for the first phase of our network deployment - Snowmelt. To launch we need a secure, full loop protocol, that’s well tested on the test networks, before being code-frozen, and submitted for external audits. To that end we have the following items left on the checklist, which are captured in a number of Github Milestones:

  • Verification of Transcoding - internal Livepeer verification and Oraclize verification. The goal is to get to Truebit verification over time for full trustless decentralization, as that system is built out and deployed in the coming year. This week we were able to embed an IPFS node directly into the Livepeer binary in service of increasing the availability of and reliability of content available for verification of work.
  • Genesis state of the network - this week we designed the architecture for the genesis state of the network (initial token issuance mechanisms, delegation game to elect initial set of transcoders, and network start). Testnets have started with 0 tokens and a faucet, but the live production network will have different behavior and needs a fair and decentralized starting point.
  • Parameter upgrade mechanisms - we have built in some basic protocol upgrade mechanisms using a proxy and forwarding pattern, but we also need mechanisms to update some of the network parameters themselves over time such as verification rate or time periods required for slashing or verification. Again, decentralized governance and enactment is the goal here, but in the early days being able to test and adapt to different values as technology matures will be important.

We’re running down the list on these goals and others, and will continue to deploy updates to the testnet prior to submitting for audit.

Usability Update

Anyone who’s tried to run the Livepeer node, knows that the user experience is restricted to shell commands and a basic command line interface. At least broadcasters and users can use nice tools like OBS or a web player in order to broadcast and consume a stream, but at the moment people who want to interact with the protocol as transcoders or delegators have to navigate the tools through barebones interfaces.

It hopefully won’t be long before that changes. @jozanza is beginning to do user feedback sessions and UX development on the various use cases for different types of users in Livepeer. If you’d like to participate and share feedback or learn, then definitely let us know here.