What real world problem does blockchain serve?
This is a question that was asked for years. Many of us see the value in blockchain yet there was always some issue as to what it really did. Sure, we can talk about decentralization, something that could be done on any centralized system. Thus, as a data stack, it really didn't offer anything novel.
Of course, from an ownership perspective, it provided a great deal. This is something that became evident over the last couple of years. With immutability comes the ability to not have content deleted. One could also own his or her account.
There is one area where decentralization is vital. It is something that most of us overlook yet it ties into the equation of being able to speak freely. This literally deals with speaking since it is poscasting.
We saw this go from nothing to millions of different podcasts over the past 20 years. It is something we take for granted since few of us consider what is truly taking place. Instead, we make our recordings, upload them to Apple or Spotify, and then be done with it.
Do we really consider how centralized that is especially in light of the fact that podcasting was started as an alternative to the centralized, mainstream media?
There is another piece to this puzzle that gets even more interwoven: the indexing. Much like Google searches, if the indexes are controlled and manipulated, people can be silenced even while out there saying what they want. After all, if nobody knows you are around then you are of little threat.
Apple is the big player in this industry since they were basically handed the keys to podcasting indexing. Over the years, they have done a decent job allowing what is to be. However, they showed in the last few years to be susceptible to the pressures of silencing voices that are not liked.
Here is where blockchain enters the fray.
@brianoflondon came up with a way to tie podcasting indexing with blockchain. This is being done right now on Hive. The idea behind this is to ensure all podcast updates are open and available. By incorporating Hive, one only needs to monitor the blockchain to see what updates come through.
We also see a financial consideration that enters the picture. Using the present system can get very expensive. There are usable resources how there but as a recent article by Brian shows, there are major drawbacks.
WebSub is a wonderful technology for the blogging world, and for small subscription bases. But, there are four main issues that make it less than ideal for the open world of podcasting:
- Not all hosting companies have chosen to support it.
- The burden of resubscribing on a per-feed basis every 7-15 days goes up exponentially as the feed count grows into 6 or 7 digits.
- The WebSub ecosystem of hubs consists mainly of SuperFeedr and Google. Most feeds are concentrated on those two.
- WebSub uses web hooks, so it requires having a server in order to receive notifications. This isn't useful for standalone apps.
A final issue is that of reliability. In our experience, hubs have proven to be unreliable at times. Especially the free ones. We have seen what appear to be outage periods, or just silence.
The solution is @podping.
A better solution than subscribing and re-subscribing constantly to individual podcast feeds is for aggregators, directories and apps to just subscribe to a single firehose of all podcast feed urls that publish a new episode. Podcast publishers notify podping.cloud that a url they manage has updated. The podping server validates that publisher's identity and then writes the feed url to the Hive blockchain.
The bottom line is that podcasters and hosting companies just send a GET request with the url to a single web address, and everyone else in the industry can see that update within a few seconds with no subscribing (or re-subscribing) required by anyone.
This application started about three weeks ago. It is posting new podcasts every few seconds as we can see from this screenshot.
To understand how this all works, including how it is tied into Hive, we have this flowchart.
Here we see a system that eliminates the need for polling of RSS feeds. The challenge with this is that the RSS feed system is controlled by a couple entities plus it gets very expensive to get all that information due to bandwidth costs.
As we can see towards the bottom of the chart, one only needs to monitor Hive for all updates that are placed upon the Podping.cloud.
This means that it is affordable even for the smallest of Podcasting applications providing even more incentive for other players to get into the game. As the cost of aggregation goes down, more can utilize the service. We can see how the present system is moving away from that, catering to those with deep pockets.
As an aside, think of all the other areas where data aggregation is very expensive, meaning only a few large sources can provide the data. One that comes to mind is stock market pricing. Imagine if something like that was built on Hive also.
Even though this is a relatively new project, it is starting to take off. There are already a number of entities that are providing the data as seen by this chart. It comes from a post made a couple days ago.
According to the latest entries, we see a URL count of 10K that were posted in 12 hours. Considering there are about 2,000 posts (custom JSON) made to Hive, we can infer there are 5 URLs contained in each post. Those shows how many the system can actually handle. In other words, Hive can operate as fast as the cloud is spitting out URLs.
Judging by the numbers, we can conclude that we have not seen the largest players in the industry yet. When dealing with roughly 20K URLs per day, that is a lot smaller than the total number of podcasts posted each day. If we consider the fact there are millions out there, with hundreds of thousands of them live, we can see the number updated daily is likely to be a larger number.
Either way, the project is off to a good start. This could easily start the process of transformation in data aggregation. The podcasting industry is obviously ripe for disruption, something that might be happening now.
Perhaps we will see this take shape where some of the larger players in the industry cannot overlook it.
We also might have found a very valuable use case for Hive. What makes this possible is the fact that transactions are feeless.
To do something like this on Ethereum would cost more than $100K per day.
We look forward to updates on this project.
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