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Livepeer snags $20M for decentralized video transcoding



Livepeer snags $20M for decentralized video transcoding

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Livepeer has raised $20 million for its decentralized video transcoding network built on the Ethereum blockchain. It’s another sign that blockchain, the transparent and secure digital ledger behind cryptocurrency, is inspiring a sea change in computing toward decentralization.

DCG led the round with participation from Northzone, Coinbase Ventures, CoinFund, Mike Dudas’ 6th Man Ventures, and Animal Ventures. The company previously raised an $8 million institutional round led by Northzone.

Livepeer’s network empowers developers to provide cost-effective, resilient, and scalable video streaming. Its core utility is processing raw video submitted by apps and turning it into high-quality and reliable streams for viewers.

The creator economy

As a fundamental part of the creator economy, the raw volume of live streaming video continues to grow rapidly. Across all platforms worldwide, live streaming minutes doubled from 2019 to 2020, with viewers watching a total of 27.9 billion hours.

Yet there’s another side to these numbers: With the top platforms owned by Amazon (Twitch), Google (YouTube), and Facebook (Facebook Live + Gaming), there is little room for challengers, Livepeer said. Most startups end up using transcoding infrastructure owned by one of the giants, essentially lining the pockets of a competitor.

As the first decentralized video streaming network, Livepeer is an alternative to existing gatekeepers, said CEO Doug Petkanics, in a statement. The company’s open video infrastructure allows the next generation of creator economy services to rely less on centralized infrastructure that’s expensive and subject to the whims of big tech.

Livepeer’s on-demand platform provides scalable streaming at a cost-effective price without sacrificing performance or reliability, according to the company. That way, developers can build world-class livestreaming apps at a fraction of the cost of cloud providers, Petkanics said.

As more content innovators seek to capture some of the $70 billion video streaming market, the Livepeer network has been growing steadily. It regularly transcodes over a million minutes per week, with some weeks easily exceeding 2 million minutes. Livepeer’s growth is being driven by the booming creator economy, where applications need infrastructure to manage hundreds (or thousands) of streamers broadcasting live video concurrently.

Thanks to its network of 70,000 graphics processing units (GPUs), the Livepeer network can encode all the real-time video streaming through Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube combined. The streaming infrastructure needs will only increase as VR/AR applications and high-resolution formats like 4K and 8K video move into the mainstream.

Building Web3

Above: Livepeer is taking share back from the big video companies.

Image Credit: Livepeer

Northzone partner Wendy Xiao Schadeck said in a statement that Livepeer has a laser focus on building Web3 technology that impacts real users. She said she is excited to see the team continue to realize their vision of decentralized video while creating a better experience for developers and streamers.

The funding will be used to expand the team and continue investing in the Livepeer protocol, including expanding into new use cases such as scene classification, object recognition, song-title detection, video fingerprinting, and video stack expansion.

Petkanics and Eric Tang founded the company in 2017 with the aim of enabling livestreamers to bring their content to the market affordably without big usage fees. To date, Livepeer has streamed tens of millions of minutes, passing a key milestone: a record 2.3 million minutes streamed in a single week, a six-fold increase from the start of 2021.

The founders noticed that the domination of the big tech companies creates weird dynamics where a new streaming service just lines the pockets of a competitor.

“We started Livepeer to rebalance these dynamics and power video streaming applications at a highly efficient price, with infinite scale,” Petkanics said in an email to VentureBeat. “Livepeer enables innovations that aren’t economically feasible under traditional, centralized cost structures. These new dynamics will unlock new ways to communicate and entertain, as well as a new way to earn returns from digital assets.”

The market is massive, as streaming infrastructure needs will only increase as VR/AR applications and high-resolution formats like 4K and 8K move into the mainstream across entertainment and gaming. The company has 20 employees.

Why it matters

Above: Livepeer is for devs, users, and broadcasters.

Image Credit: Livepeer

Video is about 80% of the content on the internet. A crypto-coordinated video infrastructure can tap into a competitive network of operators to enable a global, scalable, cost-effective infrastructure, with token holders and node operators competing to earn a slice of that spend, Petkanics said.

“Rather than the dollars flowing into the margins of the centralized big tech infrastructure platforms, they flow into the network of token holders and node operators. As video grows, so does the addressable market of the Livepeer network,” he said.

Livepeer’s network has two parts: infrastructure and staking. On one side, the company has node operators that perform transcoding by harnessing GPUs that may be used for other tasks, like crypto mining. These node operators are rewarded based on minutes processed. Livepeer’s network already features over 70,000 GPUs, which is enough aggregated power to encode all of the video streaming through Twitch, YouTube and Facebook combined.

“On the other, we have community participants that support network security by staking tokens, and in return, they can earn a portion of the fees,” Petkanics said. “By aligning interests, Livepeer’s open video infrastructure allows the next generation of creator economy services to rely less on centralized infrastructure that’s expensive and subject to the whims of big tech. That way, developers can build world-class livestreaming apps at a fraction of the cost of cloud providers.”


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El Salvador, the first country to mine Bitcoin using volcanoes



El Salvador, the first country to mine Bitcoin using volcanoes

El Salvador, the first country to make bitcoin legal tender, has officially mined the first bitcoin using volcanic energy. This was revealed when President Nayib Bukele shared a screenshot of a mined bitcoin on Twitter. 

We’re still testing and installing, but this is officially the fist Bitcoin mining from the volcanode – tweeted Bukele.  Almost 22% of the country’s power market is geothermal.

El Salvador, the first country to mine Bitcoin using volcanoes 17

Following the approval by El Salvador’s congress, the Bitcoin price surged to $48,000 earlier today. This surge in prices was seen after $241 million in Bitcoin shorts were liquidated according to bybt.com

The country has mined 0.0059 BTC so far, worth $260 using geothermal energy from volcanoes. 

Further to this, El Salvador became the first country to make bitcoin legal tender last month. It has also created the Chivo wallet for citizens to access the Bitcoin network and make payments. As an incentive, the government gave out $30 to anyone who signed up.

El Salvador’s harnessing of geothermal energy could provide an answer to the hunt for a reliable clean energy source to power bitcoin mining.

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Bitcoin mining company buys Pennsylvania power plant to meet electricity needs



Bitcoin mining company buys Pennsylvania power plant to meet electricity needs

What just happened? Crypto mining companies are continuing to find innovative solutions to power problems despite concerns regarding Bitcoin mining’s immense power requirements and ecological impacts. A holding company in Pennsylvania recently purchased the financially challenged Scrubgrass power plant. The plant currently produces enough power for 1,800 Bitcoin miners, with output increases planned to support more than 20,000 miners by 2022.

Mining the top cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum requires vast amounts of power. A single Bitcoin transaction, including the resources needed to mine the coin and to verify the transaction, can total upwards of 1,700 kilowatt hours (kWh). This ever-increasing power demand has forced large crypto mining outfits to leverage any available means to produce their power at the lowest possible cost. In some cases, this leads to mining operations literally taking power production into their own hands.

Stronghold Digital Mining in Kennerdell, Pennsylvania, has joined the ranks of those mining operations that have sought to solve their power delivery challenges themselves. Unlike those companies that leverage regional hydroelectric power or others leveraging energy credits and payments from their respective states, Stronghold recently purchased the Scrubgrass power plant in Venango County, Pennsylvania. According to Stronghold, who advertises their organization as an “environmentally beneficial and vertically integrated Bitcoin miner,” the plant will burn Pennsylvania’s waste coal to power on-site mining hardware located in shipping containers next to the plant. Waste coal is the residual material left over following coal mining operations; it can be particularly harmful to the environment by leaching metals such as aluminum, iron, and manganese into the soil and surrounding water sources.

Stronghold plans to claim and burn waste coal, then deliver the previously contaminated reclaimed land back to the state via the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Current DEP statistics claim that so far, Stronghold has helped to reclaim more than 1,000 acres of Pennsylvania land. Despite the ability to burn the waste and minimize the threat of contamination, the waste coal still produces a significant amount of carbon dioxide. These types of emissions are an ongoing concern to environmental watchdog groups monitoring Bitcoin’s energy and pollution footprint.

Unlike Ethereum mining, which utilizes traditional graphics processing units (GPUs), Bitcoin mining relies on specialized hardware known as application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs). While GPUs can be repurposed for anything from mining other algorithms to performing their intended rendering tasks, Bitcoin ASICs are purpose-built devices designed solely to provide the hash power required to mine against Bitcoin’s SHA-256 algorithm.

Image credit: Coal plant from Rice University, Scrubgrass plant from bitcoin.com

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China name-checks Bitcoin, Ethereum, TEDA in blanket crypto ban



China name-checks Bitcoin, Ethereum, TEDA in blanket crypto ban

The People’s Bank of China just released a note that effectively outlawed cryptocurrency in China. This note was issued to “the people’s governments of all provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities under the Central Government, and Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. That’s basically everyone in China – every Chinese citizen, anyway. They’re targeting what they’re called “virtual currency trading hype activities” of all sorts.

Per the release today, the People’s Bank of China is concerned that virtual currency trading hype activities are “disrupting the economic and financial order.” They’ve also claimed that this virtual currency trading is “breeding illegal and criminal activities” such as:

• Fraud

• Illegal fund-raising

• Gambling

• Money laundering

• Pyramid schemes

• Endangering the safety of people’s property

China’s release points specifically to “virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and TEDA.”

Part of the plan to remove the threat from China includes the banning of certain phrases in the names of registered market entities. The registered names and business scope of enterprises and individual industrial and commercial houesholds “must not contain words or content” such as:

• virtual currency

• virtual assets

• encrypted currencies

• encrypted assets

The release today from the Chinese government included several new rules and clarifications for entities inside China. “Virtual currency-related business activities are illegal financial activities,” makes clear that no person or business within China can conduct business with virtual currency of any sort.

The new rule set also included “the provision of services by overseas virtual currency exchanges to Chinese residents through the Internet” as an illegal financial activity. They also made clear that any legal person, unincorporated organization, or natural person who invests in virtual currency will be subject to the loss of said currency, as “the relevant civil legal acts are invalid.”

It is not clear how Chinese officials plan on enforcing the “loss” of said data. They did suggest that the proper authorities will “promptly shut down” all “internet applications such as websites, mobile applications, and small programs that carry out virtual currency-related business activities.” That bit is aimed at crypto mining, transfer, and payments.

This is the most massive and direct action the Chinese government has taken against cryptocurrency. It’ll be interesting to see how the market reacts, given past jumps and falls of crypto value when major government actions like these have occurred.

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