Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Twitter are dominating live-streaming video. With their platforms Facebook Live, YouTube, Twitch, and Periscope anyone can reach billions of people. So, why would people bother with anything else?
The team behind YouNow thinks it has the answer: pay creators with cryptocurrency. Yes, really.
“This is asymmetric warfare,” said Adi Sideman, CEO of YouNow. “These entrenched players copy, and they don’t let you grow. This business model is the only business model to disrupt what is going on.”
YouNow’s live-streaming app Rize is set to go live later this year and operates using a decentralized cryptocurrency system known as Ethereum. Rize users earn a cryptocurrency called PROPS for their contributions to the app–which is anything from broadcasting and building to just watching. Broadcasters can earn PROPS by hosting a livestream. Developers can earn PROPS by building games for Rize. People can cash these out instantly for U.S. dollars if they so choose or let it appreciate, and YouNow only covers a transaction fee.
For YouNow, offering a new currency on Ethereum is its way to compete against tech giants. YouNow launched in 2011, four years before Facebook Live, but has since struggled to keep viewership and engagement up as people drift to other platforms. Messaging app Kik made a similar leap earlier this year with its own cryptocurrency Kin.
Instead of competing with Facebook and Google’s advertising duopoly, YouNow will make revenue by only opening up a portion of the currency. Rize will launch with 1 billion PROPS, where 50 percent will be set aside in a pool to eventually be distributed, 30 percent will go to the company, and 20 percent will available for purchase.
Sideman presented the ecosystem at the ICO Summit last month and offered Mashable an exclusive demo of the new app Rize. Starting this week, creators can apply to participate in the first token distribution event. Up to $5 million worth of its cryptocurrency PROPS will be allocated to creators and available for them in Rize later this fall when the app will go live.
“For me the ‘a-ha moment’ was, we’re building a foundation of users with wallets and an incentive system for developers,” said Yonatan Sela, YouNow’s SVP of business and development. “We are not here to build necessarily the next Facebook or YouTube. We’re aiming to build a new type of digital media ecosystem.”
“We’re aiming to build a new type of digital media ecosystem.”
The ecosystem is unlike any other live-streaming app. Facebook and YouTube share revenue from ads. Twitch and Periscope let viewers tip broadcasters with virtual goods—a function YouNow has and also will be a part of Rize. On Rize, broadcasters and viewers now have a clear stake in the financial well-being of the company, and that has creators excited.
“I know myself and a lot of kind of broadcasters are daily grinders. They broadcast every day to build on that social following, but it’s not always tangible. It can slip,” said Emma McGann, a British singer-songwriter. “Putting their time and effort into an app like Rize is different. The more time you put in, the more tokens you can receive.”
YouNow didn’t just launch a new cryptocurrency. The company’s pivot over the last year has involved creating another live-streaming app. The old platform YouNow with its 40 million registered users isn’t getting pulled, yet. But now, there’s also Rize. The app is arguably the best live video experience available on mobile due to its limited delay and other functionalities.
On Rize, every user is live if they want to be. Whoever launched the room can drag any viewer into the main screen for everyone else to see. The app also has integrations like karaoke and video viewing so everyone in the room can see and participate in something other than chatting.
“The technology behind it is different than anything I’ve seen, and I’ve been approached by every live-streaming app out there,” said Brent Morgan, a musician who has broadcasted daily on YouNow for the last six years.
“When you’re broadcasting on an app, there’s always a lag. With Rize, as soon as I click your face, you are there talking to me. It’s like you’re in a room with your friends. It’s not like you’re broadcasting anymore. It’s like you’re there,” he continued.
YouNow’s team wants to impress every broadcaster and every viewer with Rize so that there’s a reason to go there and not to one of the several other apps.
The idea of everyone being live and offering multiple templates like karaoke are two ways that YouNow is offering something different. According to the company and its top creators, the updates are something YouNow users said they wanted.
“I had my first live experience on it two days ago. I said, ‘Ya’ll are messing with the future.’ This is the future of live-streaming,” said Rudan Custodio, an early YouNow creator.
Building in the present for the future is exactly what Sideman and his team are hoping to do.He credits his company with being pioneers in not only live, interactive video like what’s now on Facebook Live but also in virtual tipping like what’s now on Twitch.
Cryptocurrency is one place that Facebook and other tech giants may not go.