This question comes up quite a bit, and it’s a good one. All the decentralized streaming projects are focused on different layers in the video ecosystem (with some overlap). Some focus on the user experience of content discovery, others focus on the economic layer for the broadcasters and curators, and Livepeer focuses on the infrastructure that allows these apps and more to exist sustainably in a decentralized way.
You can think of many of these projects as building a decentralized Youtube or Twitch, allowing people to broadcast, users to discover content, and value to flow towards the broadcasters who create the content. This is great.
You can think of Livepeer more like a Amazon Web Services for video - the infrastructure that a site like Twitch, and thousands of other apps, might run on top of. Value in the Livepeer protocol flows towards those who contribute computing resources like bandwidth and GPU/CPU to the network so that it is cheap, scalable, fast, available, and decentralized.
When we talk about Livepeer we often point out the use cases that it can help enable - censorship resistant journalism, pay-as-you-go content consumption, auto-scaling video infrastructure services, video-enabled DApps. Livepeer as infrastructure is flexible enough to support all of these use cases and more, but these apps and platforms still need to be built. And building them requires a deep product focus around a very specific use case. And this is what some of the above mentioned projects and others will be doing, potentially on top of or in partnership with Livepeer.
Why might they build on Livepeer if they have their own token and ecosystem?
In short, video-enabled projects in the decentralized ecosystem need decentralized infrastructure to run on. If they run servers themselves, then they are essentially centralized companies that need to pay the bills. And if they get a bill at the end of the month that they need to pay, then they have no choice but to monetize their users, either directly through payments, or indirectly through advertising or selling their data. They risk becoming unprofitable, shutting down, or pivoting business models violating their users expectation and trust. This is the model that we see centralized providers use today. Of course this is totally fine and can result in great experiences…it’s just a different business model with the above consequences.
On the other hand, if they intend to build truly unstoppable, decentralized applications that put the control and economics back in the hands of the users and participants in their network, then they need to run on decentralized infrastructure like Livepeer. Using this model, the network protocol can automatically pay into the decentralized Livepeer network, at cost, and their protocols can automatically factor in these economics to their user rewards engines, resulting in sustainable protocols that will run forever as long as their users see the value and economic incentives. Smart contracts make this possible, and protocols can interact trustlessly with one another.
I know this can be a bit abstract, and there are many shades on the spectrum of decentralization. Many of these projects will likely start out with some centralized infrastructure in order to prove their main value propositions, and shift to decentralization over time. This is a good approach. Livepeer looks forward to having network infrastructure available to support all apps and DApps as they build towards sustainable decentralized networks, rather than relying on proprietary, centralized providers.