Currently, most people who want to publish audiovisual files on the web rely on a handful of ad-supported commercial sites like YouTube, Vimeo, BlipTV, and another handful of non-profit corporations like Archive.org and the Wikimedia Commons. Smaller sites like individuals blogs and group blogs, and non-commercial news sites currently rely on embedding video hosted by these larger organisations.
The reasons for this are that audiovisual files are many times larger than text or graphic files, meaning that they use a lot of space on the hosting server, and use a lot of bandwidth whenever a user views or downloads them, and the cost of all that drivespace and bandwidth has been prohibitive for smaller organisations. The other reason is that the software for managing the streaming of video is either expensive, or in the case of free code options like IceCast, too complicated for most users. Many of the commercial organisations, notably YouTube, have tended to rely on streaming files, using proprietary software like Flash that prevents users making a local copy, although even YouTube have said they are planning to offer downloads for video that has been licensed under CreativeCommons.
The ideal solution would be to use a peer-to-peer network (like BitTorrent) to share the cost (both financial and technical) of transferring the content across a network of users. Strypey first heard this idea advanced by Swarmcast, but the software they produced was proprietary, and is discontinued. The next group to jump on this concept was Participatory Culture Foundation, who created BlogTorrent and the Broadcast Machine as proof-of-concept prototypes. These apps are no longer under active development, and they seem to have abandoned the idea, as there is no reference to these projects on their website, or the Miro website.
Goals and Objectives
The goal of this project is to massively decentralise the hosting of rich multimedia content on the web, by providing a set of up-to-date, easy-to-follow documentation for using free code tools to host and stream audiovisual files. By making existing tools accessible to a wide range of creators, we hope to break the oligopoly of the media corporations, and increase the diversity of art available online. We also hope to stimulate developer interest in resuming abandoned projects like the Broadcast Machine, or creating new free code projects to help creators share their work with audiences, and help audiences reward these creators with one-click microdonations. We could document:
- Red5 - Flash-based streaming server. May now be irrelevant due to the introduction of <video> tags in HTML5, and the WebM video file format. Introductory documentation provided by theDesignSpace
- Miro - good into by OpenMediaBoston (can we use Miro to seed content? who knows?)
- Tribler - similar to Miro, but specifies that sharing content is part of its feature set, they have already undertaken streaming experiments over BitTorrent
- SwarmPlayer - Firefox plug-in for watching streams using existing BitTorrent swarms
- Transmission - One simple way to share a media file from a home computer is to create a torrent for a file on your hard drive, and add that torrent to a BitTorrent client on your computer. I successfully did this with the ccKiwi video using Transmission on Ubuntu 11.04.
There are a number of others tools which could be useful in self-publishing music and film work on the web:
- The Creator-Endorsed Mark is a set of Trademarks owned by QuestionCopyright.org, which can be freely used to mark commercial products which are endorsed by the creator of the work the product is based on
- CCPublisher is an application available for most common platforms (GNU/Linux, Mac, Windows etc) which helps creators upload their CC-licensed work to Archive.org
- file formats for audio-visual media which are open standards, free for anyone to use, and not covered by patents
- Ascribe uses the BitCoin blockchain to record the authorship of digital works in a decentralized database. CreativeCommons France have been collaborating with Ascribe to help artists and authors using CC licenses get attribution when their work is distributed or re-used.