is a great video platform that has a lot to offer to both consumers
and creators. At least, those who play by the rules. For creators,
there is a major drawback though, one that put a spotlight on the
alternative 'free-libre' software PeerTube this week.
On Tuesday we reported that
several YouTube channels had all their videos blocked worldwide. This
included those belonging to MIT OpenCourseWare,’ the ‘Blender
Foundation,’ and many others.
The error message
that was displayed typically appears for copyright reasons. However,
in this case, the problem was more complicated, related to a new license
agreement, among other things.
While some prominent
channels have now been restored, others still face similar issues. The
people at Human Beatbox, for example, tell us that they are
experiencing the same problem, which at the time of writing is still
informed them that its a “technical issue” which the engineers are
trying to resolve. Meanwhile, all videos of theirs and many other
channels have been inaccessible for nearly a week…
Whatever the problem
is, it’s clearly a ‘mistake’ of epic proportions.
probably has no intention to ‘censor’ these channels, it shows what
can go wrong if creators put their faith in the hands of a single
service. A service they have no control over at all, which removes
your content, erroneously or not.
Luckily there are
some alternatives that put creators in control again. PeerTube is
one of these options.
When the Blender
Foundation had all its videos blocked by YouTube earlier this week, a
decision was taken to give this alternative a try. In a matter of
hours, Blender had a fully operational streaming site, one which they
had complete control over.
This prompted TF to
take a closer look at PeerTube and what it has to offer.
Put simply, PeerTube
allows anyone to set up their own video streaming site. This can run
independently, but it can also be linked, or federated, with other
PeerTube instances to create a broader reach. All with P2P steaming
The first version of
PeerTube launched last year. It’s operated by the small French
non-profit organization Framasoft, and thus far it hasn’t really
broken through in English-speaking countries. The Blender Foundation’s
problems, while very unfortunate, may change that.
illustrates our main goal: autonomy, independence from external
platforms. When you centralize videos and attention, you gain power
over the users. Our approach goes the other way,” Framasoft’s Pouhiou
PeerTube comes with
built-in WebTorrent support.
This means that viewers also contribute their bandwidth, which can
come in handy if a video goes viral.
To ‘federate’ with
other PeerTube instances, the software uses the ActivityPubprotocol,
which is also used by the popular social networking software Mastodon.
This helps to grow the video library if needed, but it’s entirely
diversity in the governances: each PeerTube Instance Hoster can
determine their own set of rules, their settings, their moderation
policy, etcetera,” Pouhiou says.
a PeerTube video
The idea behind
PeerTube is to let creators regain control over their content. This
helps to avoid censorship in the broadest sense of the word, and also
“problems” that block videos for days on end.
It’s this spirit
that also drives the developers to make the software entirely free and
“To us, it is really
about taking back the web into our own hands. We have a joke about the
‘Power to the people’ song of John Lennon: PeerTube is kind of
‘Software to the people’,” Pouhiou tells us.
“That’s why PeerTube
has to be Free-Libre software: not even we should be able to ‘close’
the code, it would give us way too much power, which we don’t want.”
Of course, there are
plenty of downsides to alternatives like PeerTube. For one, in terms
of costs, they are not free to operate. Even though WebTorrent can
limit the bandwidth bill to a degree, it requires hosting and some
videos will also require more work. You can’t just click a button and
magically start earning money. And then there’s the issue of reaching
a wide audience, which may be harder for creators who are ‘locked’
into external services.
That said, for
outfits such as Blender and MIT OpenSourceWare which are non-profit
and have their own sites which people know how to find, it makes a lot
At the least,
everyone who relies on external platforms might want to stop and think
for a minute if they really want to put all their eggs in someone
More information on
PeerTube can be found on the official
site. The company recently launched a crowdfunding
campaign to ensure continued development,
which has raised over €20,000 at the time of writing.