Back before cryptocurrencies existed — at least to our knowledge — BitTorrent (CCC:BTT-USD) represented the go-to platform for decentralization. A popular file-sharing protocol that caught fire around the early 2000s, BitTorrent allowed people from all over the world to share content. And by sharing, I mean ripping off content creators’ rights to their work.
Of course, such file-sharing protocols came under severe legal fire. As well, technological improvements along with societal shifts have transformed the online content arena. Nowadays, people don’t think anything of paying a buck for their favorite song as opposed to buying an album, which may contain some filler tracks no one but hardcore fans would listen to.
Today, BitTorrent is a legitimate operating company, one that also pivoted to cryptocurrencies via its BTT token. For the lowdown on BitTorrent — especially if you’re not familiar with it — I highly recommend reading InvestorPlace contributor Ian Bezek’s analysis.
Admittedly, I’ve made similar recommendations that were deep down half-hearted at best. That’s because I’m not going to be impolite to my colleagues — no need to start anything if you don’t have to. But seriously, Bezek’s take on BitTorrent is very impressive.
However, this being the internet, many if not most will ignore this recommendation. So be it. One of the main insights that Bezek provides is the awkward contradiction between BitTorrent’s heritage of decentralization and its newfound identity as a legitimate operator.
As Bezek put it: “BitTorrent gets credit for innovation and trying to bring real functionality to the crypto universe. However, it’s too early to tell if the former piracy king will be able to find profitable ventures that don’t push the envelope too far.”
He hit the nail on the head. BTT’s venture into legitimacy isn’t going to be an easy one.
BitTorrent Is a Square Peg in a Round Hole
Let’s back up for a moment. The main innovation that Bezek refers to regarding BitTorrent is DLive. As my colleague put it, “DLive is a Twitch rival where streamers can play video games, talk about politics or entertain viewers on camera and receive monetary donations from users. DLive, in turn, takes a cut of the donations.”
Such a platform naturally appeals to those with shall we say “unorthodox” views. As you know, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) via its YouTube platform actively censor right-wing content. Naturally, it raises the question — who gets to determine what is right wing or broadly what is inappropriate?
If you thought decentralization was important for the financial sector, it’s a godsend for social media. Through DLive, BitTorrent developed a platform where anyone can say whatever they want without fear of infrastructural reprisal. But that all changed due to the spontaneous conference of robust civic activities of Jan. 6, 2021.
Under severe pressure from Congress, DLive made the only decision it could: ban the most controversial right-wing political commentators. But by doing so, it has brought the decentralization-versus-centralization argument to a head. Namely, it’s becoming clear that wherever decentralization occurs, nefarious or odious activities are not too far behind, forcing a centralized response.
I can’t really go into the details about how unorthodox some DLive content creators are. But let’s just say this. I’ve listened to some of the content myself and one of the central criticisms that the right wing has is that Republicans are too soft and acquiescent on race. In summary, in their view, citizenship is a matter of blood, not a matter of vocalized allegiance.
Extremely controversial stuff — but again, who has the right to determine the definition of controversial? Apparently, BitTorrent does because it censors what it deems extremist views. But such censorship is a hallmark of centralized power, contradicting BTT’s decentralization principle.
Is Decentralization Inherently Evil?
Increasingly, it appears that BitTorrent is an unsustainable business. That’s because to be a legitimate operator means submission to a greater order. But if you’re marketing a decentralized business — such as a crypto coin or token — then such submission is the antithesis of the core underlying ethos.
Let’s be real. When people talk about supporting decentralization protocols, the underlying reason is to facilitate illicit activities. Yes, being able to kick out pricey middlemen like attorneys and brokers is nice and all. But eventually, decentralized protocols devolve into narcotics smuggling, tax evasion and child exploitation, among other disgusting activities.
In the bigger scheme of things, white nationalism is a drop in the decentralized bucket. But BitTorrent couldn’t even find a way to make this lessor crime work, for lack of a better word. Now, it wants to try to attract legitimate revenue streams for its platforms.
But what’s the point? We already have YouTube for that, an exceptionally centralized platform. BitTorrent strived to be the antithesis of YouTube but it couldn’t handle the evils that sprout from decentralization. And I doubt that a less-centralized platform would appeal to DLive’s most ardent users.