In 34,000 B.C., there were cave paintings, and that's it. When you came home from a sweltering August day of foraging along the Vézère river, the only form of non-live art or entertainment available was something like the above buffalo.
Today, we live in a world of near infinite choices. This is true not just for art, but for all kinds of things (like potato chips). Since the era of cave art, humanity has incessantly and progressively trended towards interconnected, more efficient, and increasingly transparent markets. This undercurrent of connectedness and openness has affected everything human beings produce. Sign up HERE
Nerds like us like to speculate about the end-game of this trend with others on the internet. What will society be like when we have a "Star Trek"-like capacity to instantly and freely replicate anything that exists? The term for this society is post-scarcity1. Generally, post-scarcity is regarded as fantastical; something that will never happen in our lifetime. Except for one area: digital goods.
Art in the internet age is infinitely reproducible and easily shared. This is a sea change from any prior time in history. Previously, vinyl records captured audio in physical grooves; tapes captured data on magnetic strips; compact disks held digital files read by lasers — in each of these cases physical, medium-specific hardware is required to both produce and recover the bits of data that made up the digital content. Check-out LbryTv
Today art is just data, a string of 1s and 0s, a number, and we no longer need any specialized hardware to decode and enjoy digital content. We use the same technological methods to access a personal photograph a single time as we do to watch a blockbuster on Netflix.
This is a big step forward from the past. As production costs fall to zero, choices go up. Digital distributors provide virtually every song, film, photo or book for purchase and download to any internet enabled device. Technology has decreased the cost of production, too - it has never been easier for aspirant artists to achieve a following through self-publishing.
The digitization of art has added a lot of value to both content creators and consumers, reducing costs and increasing choice. This transition is still in its infancy. With LBRY, we're going to make it a little more mature.
1 Note that post-scarcity does not eliminate the need to create new goods, it just eliminates or reduces the costs of duplicating goods to nothing. As long as people desire goods that did not previously exist, there will always be a market demand for creation, even in a post-scarcity world.
A People's Marketplace
LBRY is the first digital marketplace to be controlled by the market's participants rather than a corporation or other 3rd-party. It is the most open, fair, and efficient marketplace for digital goods ever created, with an incentive design encouraging it to become the most complete.
At the highest level, LBRY does something extraordinarily simple. LBRY creates an association between a unique name and a piece of digital content, such as a movie, book, or game. This is similar to the domain name system that you are most likely using to access this very post.
However, LBRY does this not through a proprietary service or network, but as a protocol, or a method of doing things, much like HTTP, DNS and other specifications that make up the internet itself. Just as many different domains owned by many different companies all speak a shared language, so too can any person or company speak LBRY. No special access or permission is needed.
The LBRY Network
To understand precisely what LBRY is and why it matters, one must understand both LBRY as a protocol and the services the protocol enables. HTTP is the protocol that makes web browsing possible, but it would be of little interest without the service of a web browser!
To understand LBRY, think of LBRY in terms of two layers: protocol and service. The protocol provides a fundamental, underlying technological capability. The service layer utilizes the protocol to do something that a human being would actually find useful.
For a user using LBRY at the service level, the magic of what the LBRY protocol does will be largely transparent, much as a typical internet user sees nothing of how HTTP works. Via a LBRY application, a user will be able to open a familiar interface to quickly and easily discover and purchase a piece of digital content published by anyone in the world.
However, such an application would not be possible without the LBRY the underlying layer, the LBRY protocol.
Layer 1: Protocol
While the protocol is one comprehensive set of rules, it is easier to understand as two parts.
Part A: The LBRY Blockchain
A blockchain, or distributed ledger is the key innovation behind the Bitcoin network. Blockchains solved the very complicated technological problem of having a bunch of distributed, disparate entities all agree on a rivalrous state of affairs (like how much money they owe each other).
Like Bitcoin, the LBRY blockchain maintains balances -- in this case, balances of LBC, LBRY's cryptocurrency and unit of credit. More importantly, the LBRY blockchain also provides a decentralized lookup and metadata storage system. The LBRY blockchain supports a specific set of commands that allows anyone to bid (in LBC) to control a LBRY name, which is a lot like a domain name. Whoever controls a name gets to describe what it contains, what it costs to access, who to pay, and where to find it. These names are sold in a continuous running auction. We will talk more about this system a little later on.
If you're a programmer, you might recognize the LBRY blockchain as a key-value store. Each key, or name, corresponds to a value, or a metadata entry. Whichever party (or parties) bids the most LBC, gets to control the metadata returned by a key lookup.
Here is a sample key-value entry in the LBRY blockchain. Here, wonderfullife is the key, and the rest of the description is the value.