As part of the Digital Currency Council’s Continuing Education partnership with Inside Bitcoins, DCC interviewed thought leaders who will be speaking at the Inside Bitcoins Conference in San Diego on December 14-16, 2015. Today, we share an interview with Devon Read, the Founder of the Decentralized Library of Alexandria.
Tell us about how and why you got involved in open-source, decentralized technologies.
Like so many others, when I read the Bitcoin white paper, my mind sort of exploded with the incredible possibilities and disruptive power the blockchain has to solve many of today’s problems. It was kind of a full circle moment for me. Although my professional background seems quite varied at first blush – working in the entertainment industry, as a Marine, in product design & distribution, as a business owner, even my first teenage job at San Diego’s original ISP – these experiences gave me first-hand insight into the serious problems our world is facing and I believe the blockchain and other decentralized technologies will be a foundational aspect in creating needed solutions. I’ve always been one of those “work to make the world a better place” people, so I’m involved in open-source, decentralized technologies because I believe it is where I can most effectively contribute to a better world for everyone.
What led to the genesis of the Decentralized Library of Alexandria? What is your ambition for the project?
I think it’s the combination of my background in the entertainment history and my borderline obsessive study of history, politics & war because of the experiences I had as a Marine that inspired me to have two ideas almost immediately after I read the bitcoin whitepaper. At the time, I called them movie coin & archive chain and thought they were separate projects. As we began to build the ideas into code and learn more about decentralized technology, it quickly became obvious that they were two parts of a greater project, and we began calling it Alexandria as an homage to the ancient library.
The Decentralized Library of Alexandria’s (dloa) goal is to create a unified, open-source standard for the publishing of digital content for direct commerce. Users will be able to publish and distribute original content themselves, from music to videos to feature films, 3d printable inventions, recipes, books and just about anything else. A sophisticated amalgam of open source technologies protects the contents of the library from censorship and alteration or destruction of data, and because direct monetization is built into the standard itself, users can distribute directly and retain control over how their content is monetized.
How do you envision distributed technologies impacting content distribution?
It’s no secret that there are serious issues facing the entertainment industry. The infrastructure that is required to run current content delivery networks is so expensive, industry experts believe that despite five billion dollars in revenue last year, YouTube is still not profitable because of its storage and bandwidth costs. Advertising is slowly killing the internet – ads have become so aggressive they are regularly crashing browsers, so people are turning to ad-block software, but now content creators are struggling because ads are one of the most popular ways content has been monetized on the internet. And, similar to the way understanding bitcoin leads to a deeper understanding of how profoundly antiquated current banking systems are, the simplicity and control Alexandria offers to users highlights the equally outdated status of current contract execution in the entertainment industry.
Similar to the way the http spec disrupted newspaper and magazine publishing because it made it possible for anyone to publish and share content freely, the dloa standard disrupts the content distribution business by allowing anyone to distribute and monetize their content. Right now, proprietary media marketplaces like iTunes, Spotify & Netflix compete based on what pricing options they offer and what exclusive content is available in their catalogs, sort of like the way that AOL and Yahoo tried to offer exclusive content in the early days of the internet. The Alexandria standard is obscured from the end user in the same way that http is, and like http, it dramatically reduces the barrier to entry into content distribution and monetization, making it available to just about anyone. But the end of content exclusivity doesn’t mean the end of content stores like iTunes, Spotify and Netflix. We think stores like these will eventually compete similarly to the way Chrome, Safari & Firefox do, based on their specific features and functionality, not what content they sell exclusively.
What Bitcoin did for money, Alexandria aims to do for digital content publishing and distribution, by removing central points of failure and financially incentivizing users around the world.
What are some of your biggest challenges right now?
Of course I can only say this now that it’s behind us, but as we were building the Alexandria standard, there were moments in development where we didn’t know if what we were doing was even technically possible. So the challenges we are facing in terms of needing to close a round of funding and increase our development team feel easy by comparison. If you are reading this and are an investor or developer who shares our values and vision I hope you’ll get in touch!
What’s on the horizon for you and the Alexandria project 2016?
More development of course! You can see a demo of Alexandria here, and we have a loooong list of features we can’t wait to add. The two most exciting features on the horizon are integrating Glidera to provide a simple and reliable method to convert between US Dollars and Bitcoin and opening up publishing to our user base. All of the content in the library so far has been published by our team as we were building and testing the protocol, so we are really excited to see the contents of the library grow.