Blockchain projects for content delivery networks (CDNs) were first envisioned in 2015-2016, with white papers from StreamSpace, (now SWRM Labs) in Austin, Texas, Decent in Geneva, Switzerland, SingularDTV in New York, NY (US), an affiliate of ConsenSys, and BlockCDN in Hong Kong, China. These peer-to-peer service offerings combined blockchain tokenization with semi-centralized content demand prediction to enable up to 90% reduction of the cost of traditional content distribution offerings from leaders such as Akamai, Verizon, and Amazon Web Services.
The business proposition for each is to disrupt the financial control exerted by the entertainment content distribution leaders - major film studios, music distributors, and book and other print media publishers, plus Google and Apple, the main gatekeepers to the online content industries. These projects promise higher rewards for creative artists, authors, and other content creators by eliminating middlemen and using P2P distribution instead of traditional managed CDNs. SingularDTV’s white paper described an entertainment ecosystem, fueled with token-based offerings to support rights management, a film production studio, a sci-fi television series about decentralization scaling, and a transaction-based video-on-demand (TVOD) portal. Decent emphasized the pricing power exerted by the major publishers, taking up to 70% of the total revenue associated with artistic content in music, film, books, and more. BlockCDN targeted three use cases: video streaming, document file transfer (such as game updates), and web page acceleration.
By 2018, the blockchain storage and distribution industry had proliferated with over 100 projects that had published white papers and sold tokens through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Some raised a modest level of funding and struggled to stay alive, and others found niches where they could build small networks and monetize a variety of content applications. One such project, Paratii, built the following mind map, showing clusters of projects based around Ethereum, Bitcoin, or private tokenized decentralized storage networks:
Source: Paratii (Medium)
In the past two years, we have seen many projects progress to commercialization, while others have closed their doors or changed priorities to focus on a single use case or narrower market segment.
With this report, we want to share our understanding of more than 30 projects you should consider if you are planning to deploy decentralized applications (dapps) or want to take advantage of decentralized database and content distribution services.
Key Blockchain CDNs and Decentralized Storage Networks with CDN features operating in 2020:
Axel is a secure file sharing environment based on IPFS. One of Axel’s application services is content streaming from their cloud masternodes. Like Decent, they see themselves as enabling creative artists to self-publish and control their full revenue stream rather than rely on middlemen.
BlockCDN plans to offer peer-to-peer CDN services based on Ethereum smart contracts, with trials underway. BlockCDN has partnerships in place with western CDN leaders Akamai, Amazon, Google, and IBM, as well as Chinese leaders Weibo and Tencent. BlockCDN sees itself leveraging megatrends that favor edge nodes such as 5G. As mentioned above, BlockCDN targets video streaming, file transfer, and web page acceleration use cases.
Decent is one of the earliest blockchain publishing systems, allowing artist-creators to monetize their content. Decent supports decentralized content publishers like Fiction Riot and Filmzie, as well as Fenix, a blockchain project that emulates Bandcamp, offering music, tickets, and merchandise.
- Edge Network (TNC)
Edge Network is a cloud data storage and computation infrastructure system with over 600 nodes around the world. The Edge Cache service acts like a CDN, providing a high performance delivery solution for the offsetting of load. Cached objects follow user demand in real time, delivering within a users local network for the fastest possible response time. Edge’s 2020 roadmap includes plans for enhanced audio editing and support for longer form video content.
Lbry is a content-sharing and publishing platform, controlled by its users. The LBRY protocol facilitates the discovery, distribution, and purchase of digital content. The decentralized content distribution service enables video content to begin playing in a few seconds or less, assembling content fragments stored across the network. If content is not published directly to LBRY, the metadata can instruct other access methods, such as a Netflix URL. This allows LBRY to catalogue content not yet available on the core service as well as support legacy and extensibility features.
- NKN Labs
NKN is a peer to peer network connectivity protocol and ecosystem powered by a public blockchain. It uses economic incentives to motivate Internet users to share network connections and utilize unused bandwidth. One of NKN’s core services is its decentralized CDN called nCDN, optimized for video content cache and delivery and decentralized file transfer (d-FTP). The nCDN service leverages NKN’s 30,000+ server infrastructure to offer better responsiveness than possible from a fully decentralized P2P service like Peer5 or Steamroot without the cost of a centralized CDN like Akamai or Cloudflare. Currently, 97% of NKN’s servers are in the US, with more than half in the Virginia/DC area.
- NOIA Network
NOIA Network combines 41 core high performance data center nodes from Alibaba Cloud, e-Shelter, Vultr, and others, along with 10,000+ peer edge servers around the world to support thousands of concurrent connections. Weekly airdrops help to ensure that peer edge partners stay connected to support the service. NOIA’s first service is a NOIA Cache, accelerating about 150 websites as an adjunct to traditional CDNs.
- Poseidon Network
Poseidon’s Next-Generation Content Acceleration Layer (CDN + decentralized storage network) uses unused bandwidth and storage from NAS, desktop, or mobile devices around the world. Poseidon is targeting a range of content formats, including live streaming, video on demand, and static file and web page acceleration. The decentralized Content Delivery Network (dCDN) built by the Poseidon Network is called QCDN. It includes a traffic dispatcher called Qontroller, and QEdge decentralized nodes from all over the world.
- Sia Skynet
Sia, one of the earliest blockchain storage network projects, launched its decentralized CDN and file sharing platform called Skynet, in February, 2020. Skynet Portals are low cost servers that sit between Skynet and everyday users, enabling them to access Skynet content without needing to operate any special software. As Skylinks (46-byte pointers or hashes) are generated, they can be shared with anyone to retrieve data from any Webportal. Skynet provides content publishers with an API and SDKs which integrate seamlessly with existing applications. A typical Skynet download starts in under 500 ms and can stream at rates as high as 1 Gbps.
- Storj Tardigrade
Tardigrade is a decentralized object cloud storage solution for developers. It aims at a use segment that seeks a cheaper alternative to AWS S3 or Google Cloud Platform (GCP); average pricing is quoted at $0.01/GB/month and $0.045/GB download, about half the prices for traditional managed cloud storage solutions. Like other IPFS or Storj decentralized storage platforms, files are encrypted and split into pieces client-side, then distributed across a network of high-performance Storage Nodes, making it virtually impossible for data to be compromised. Tardigrade was designed for large (multimedia) file storage and database backup/disaster recovery applications, but its architects saw low volume CDN applications as a viable use case. Tardigrade supports the fluid delivery of multimedia files with the ability to seek to specific file ranges and support for large numbers of concurrent downloads. On the Storj decentralized cloud, native file streaming support and distributed bandwidth load across highly distributed nodes reduce bottlenecks.
- SWRM Labs
SWRM Labs is the new name for StreamSpace, a blockchain video distribution project which began in 2016. SWRM Labs’ core offering is a blockchain-powered decentralized content delivery network (dCDN) called the Hive. SWRM Labs currently uses 8 high-performance bootstrap nodes and up to 100 edge servers for the internal alpha testnet, and we plan to increase the number of edge nodes by 10x as we roll out our beta testnet, on the road to Mainnet late this year. The new SWRM Labs CDN features two key modes: a web-based CDN manager mode, where customers can upload content files, manage organization access rights, track content popularity and usage, pay bills, along with numerous other features, and a desktop-based mode, where edge storage hosts can allocate storage capacity, earn tokens based on content throughput, and manage their token wallets. The SWRM Labs CDN also provides a peer file sharing function using the distributed storage network. SWRM Labs holds a utility patent for its distributed CDN technology.
- Tachyon Protocol
The Tachyon network is currently a decentralized VPN, currently operating through its beta release in 2Q2020. Today, Tachyon’s network includes about 1100 servers, with 90% in US, Europe, or Asia. Node providers provide traffic for VPN users and get token rewards based on their contributions. Tachyon intends to extend the network functionality by 1Q2021 to include a number of new use cases, including CDN, data storage, edge computing, DeFi, instant messaging, and other business applications.
Key Video-centric Delivery Networks, most of which run through their own CDNs or hybrid CDNs:
BitTube is a peer-to-peer, decentralized, censorship-free video sharing and live streaming platform based on IPFS and BitTorrent. Current development priorities will expand their offerings to include video conferencing, live streaming, and payment monetization.
D.Tube is a crypto-decentralized video platform, built on top of the STEEM Blockchain and IPFS peer-to-peer network. D.Tube mimics YouTube’s look and feel, and many D.Tube content providers bring content to the service by importing the video files from YouTube.
Flixxo is an advertising-sponsored video distribution service that launched its mainnet in June 2020, based in part on the BitTorrent protocol coupled to an Ethereum-based token. In its first month, Flixxo drew almost 40,000 viewers, rewarding its content community with 45,000 tokens and over 200,000 ad impressions.
Livepeer is a decentralized video transcoding Platform as a Service built on the Ethereum blockchain. Video mining nodes earn tokens by transcoding video to run across the Livepeer network. Livepeer aims to increase the reliability of video streaming while reducing costs associated with it by up to 50x. To achieve this, Livepeer is building p2p infrastructure that interacts through a marketplace secured by the Ethereum blockchain.
MovieBloc is a blockchain-based ecosystem that links film producers and viewers. The core MovieBloc service is a community that links filmmakers to fans through an online “film festival” platform, plus a mobile service through Korea Mobile. A digital rights management layer allows content and IP to be traded, and a fundraising layer enables fans to support filmmakers in advance.
- SingularDTV (Breaker)
SingularDTV began in 2015 as a bold vision to displace entertainment industry middlemen, especially film and music distributors, and create an environment for artists to use crowdfunding to support their creative projects. A co-creator of Ethereum, Joseph Lubin, was the project CTO; the project was eventually folded into Lubin’s ConsenSys organization along with other disruptive entertainment-related projects like Ujo. Renamed Breaker in 2018, the SingularDTV team launched a video production studio (Breaker Studios), an SF film, a web series, and several tokenized crowdfunding projects under the Tokit token. A DAO Governance token manages SingularDTV’s media distribution protocol, which will culminate in a decentralized CDN for video and music content. The protocol is a P2P torrent network. The system takes media files and creates torrents out of them. Those torrents are then hashed to the content creator's Ethereum wallet address.
- Theta Network
Theta intends to disrupt today’s online video industry much in the same way that the YouTube platform did to traditional video back in 2005 by overseeing an ecosystem that rewards streamers, publishers, and viewers. The Theta Network solution currently using 12 Enterprise Validator Nodes, managed by corporate partners Binance, Google, Blockchain, and Gumi, 1300 Guardian Nodes, high performance servers in data centers, and about 2000 Edge Cacher Node servers. The server hosts earn tokens by provisioning video content, and sell their tokens through exchanges to video platforms such as CJ Hello and Samsung VR, who then sell the tokens to users to pay to watch more content.
Vevue is a blockchain social media video platform, optimized for mobile devices. Fans can watch a video, cheer the artist by tipping tokens, or sponsor an artist with a monthly subscription similar to Patreon. A splitter feature divides earnings across multiple artists. Vevue sponsored a live stream game contest in partnership with Tron Game Center in March-April 2020.
The VideoCoin Network is a powerful decentralized video CDN platform that utilizes untapped computing resources to save content publishers money. The site offers APIs for encoding and uploading either stored video or live streams based on RTMP, WebRTC, or file formats. VideoCoin’s primary geographic markets are China and South Korea. Unlike many projects, VideoCoin charges its customers only in fiat and pays miners in their choice of fiat currency or tokens.
Key Blockchain Dapp Deployment Networks:
- BloXroute Labs
BloXroute Labs is a blockchain distribution network that utilizes a global network of servers optimized for network performance. The BDN service was designed for distributed finance (DeFi) and other applications that scale to thousands of transactions per second. BloXroute also offers low cost developer packages for firms testing the network with hundreds of transactions per day.
Bluzelle is a decentralized database powered by a 10,000 TPS blockchain with servers across North America, Europe, and Asia. Bluzelle enables dapp projects to store their data in a place that is both decentralized and mutable. After testing their network with a three month “Swarm of Duty” multiplayer game trial, Bluzelle began to roll out their mainnet in August 2020.
Elastos is a dapp hosting environment built on IPFS peer storage and a peer-to-peer “Carrier” network with modules for digital identity and sidechains for scalable smart contracts. Elastos launched its Carrier mainnet in 2Q2019 and the IPFS Hive decentralized storage network in April 2020.
Eluvio’s Content Fabric and Media Platform form an open high-performance software network for managing and distributing large form video content. Eluvio enables content delivery from the source, transcoding with H.264, H.265, DASH, and HLS with DRM for streaming or file transfer use modes. Marketplace customers can monetize their content using subscriptions, pay-per-view, advertising, or other systems. The AV backbone pipeline can support live streaming with less than 3 seconds launch latency or up to 4K video streaming with launch lag less than a few hundred milliseconds.
Fluree is a decentralized web3 data platform, optimized for dapp developers. One of its features is a scalable edge data delivery network. Fluree Edge Servers receive data updates from the master Fluree Ledger Servers and provide fully automated in-memory edge caching and proxy services.
- Pocket Network
Pocket Network is a decentralized relay network to support blockchain dapps. Dapp developers must stake at least 1 POKT to participate in the network. They earn tokens by validating other dapps. This allows a broad community of developers to run their apps without relying on any single infrastructure provider.
- POP Network
POP Network is an ecosystem of blockchain and AI applications built to power the streaming economy. POP Masternodes form a decentralized, peer-to-peer torrent network to store and stream media with a PoS blockchain for transaction processing. About 4,000 POP collateral Masternodes earn 35% of all block rewards for performing this service. POP is a direct competitor to TRON, the current owner of BitTorrent. The “Luna” mainnet torrent service is scheduled for release in 3Q2020.
- Props (YouNow)
Props’ open-source infrastructure creates a decentralized network of apps operated by independent developers, who share an underlying token, benefiting from collective network effects. The token drives a loyalty program that rewards participants and content publishers. Props was founded in 2017 by YouNow, a live streaming app with 50 million registered users. The token now supports five social apps, most recently Paltalk, a video chat site with 100 million downloads over its 22 year history.
ProximaX is a decentralized platform for dapps development, storage, and deployment. The IPFS-based storage network launched in 2Q2020, and mainnet supercontract and streaming networks are scheduled for later this year.
- TOP Network
TOP Network is a high performance blockchain infrastructure project based on 1200 nodes across six continents that support dapp transactions up to 100,000 TPS. TOP’s first dapp is BitVPN, a decentralized VPN offering that offers impenetrable security. The network also supports several online games and game streams. Planned future services include CDN, IoT data sharing, messaging, video, live streaming, and more.
VeChain is an enterprise blockchain ecosystem that supports solutions for many industries. With VeChain’s blockchain-based Digital Content Distribution Solution, important data, such as the data related to copyright registration, content distribution, and copyright transaction can be stored on the blockchain, thus making intellectual property traceable. Through blockchain technology, the solution aims to reduce the involvement of third parties in copyright registration, content distribution, copyright transaction, and achieve peer-to-peer distribution, so that content circulation and transactions can be faster and more transparent. The VeChain community of projects has grown rapidly over the past several months, and is one of the top ten most discussed token environments today.
Beyond this list, there are dozens of other projects still in development. Filecoin, a decentralized storage network from Protocol Labs, creator of IPFS, could spawn several CDN projects. Some other active CDN development projects include BlockDeliver, Lightstreams Network, Marlin Protocol, Substratum, and Verasity. And dozens more serve up film, music, video, or game streams with tokenized rights management and payment contracts but with the actual content streaming over traditional CDNs or P2P networks like BitTorrent or one of the decentralized CDNs mentioned above.
It is impossible to assess the market share of all these blockchain projects, but it seems clear that none have reached critical size against Akamai, Verizon, Microsoft, AWS, or Google Cloud Platform. We are all growing as fast as possible, signing up peer nodes, intermediate storage partners who help with minimum service guarantees, and both blockchain-based and traditional customers who want CDN alternatives.