The Peertube Story – Pouhiou & Booteille – FRAMASOFT

Peertube with Pouhiou and Booteille

Walid : welcome to Projets Libres! for this new episode. So now, I’m delighted today, because we’re going to talk about a software, again, that I really like, like in most of all the episodes I do, it’s Peertube.

Peertube is a software that I use personally, which allows me to publish videos on the Internet without having to go through YouTube. I use it, personally, for the memory of my sport, to avoid putting in fact all the old videos and everything that happens in my sport which is skating. And so I have my own instance that I put gigabytes and gigabytes of old videos on. And so that’s how I got to know and love Peertube. And I really wanted to do an episode on it to know a little bit about the history of Peertube, why it was developed and also everything that goes around the software itself, which is a little bit about the creative economy and having Framasoft’s vision of where do they want to go with Peertube, where do they not want to go. And so to do this, I’m delighted to have with me Pouhiou and Booteille who are two members of Framasoft and with whom we’re going to exchange on this subject. So I hope you’re doing well and you’re ready to talk a lot about Peertube today.

Pouhiou : I’m super hot.

Walid : And you, Booteille?

Booteille : yes, definitely, it’s going to be good.

Introducing Framasoft

Walid : Before I give you the floor to introduce yourself, I would like us to give us a quick introduction to Framasoft. I think one day we’ll do a full episode on Framasoft because there’s the same, there’s a lot to say about it. But here I would like us to focus a lot on the Peertube today. So could one of you please introduce what Framasoft is?

Pouhiou : Come on, I’m going for it. As a result, Framasoft is a non-profit association, in 1901, whose social purpose, the objective is popular education on the issues of digital technology and the cultural commons. It’s a big word, but behind all this, in fact, the idea is to try to find a way to facilitate in the lives of a greater number of people, both the use of free software and ethical software, because it’s not because it’s free that it’s enough for it to be completely ethical. So there you have it, and to facilitate a healthy, emancipated, autonomous digital life, etc. The association has only 38 members, 11 of whom are employees and I am one of them, so what? ?Unity? ? is a volunteer member.
We are financed almost exclusively by donations, we have more than 50 active projects, it is an association that is almost 20 years old, well that will be 20 years old next year. And according to Professor Lalouche, the Wet Finger Institute, this is totally a rough estimate, we believe our actions benefit more than 1.4 million people every month. It’s very difficult to know because one of the rules is that you don’t track.

Walid : I thought you were saying that there were actually more members in Framasoft?.

Pouhiou: It happens a lot. After all, there are a lot of people who are welcome to contribute voluntarily to our projects, so if we manage to welcome the contribution and that, it always requires time, energy of care, within the limit of the human energy available, but it’s a very small association and it’s really one of the specificities of Framasoft, The idea of first gathering a small group of humans for that group of humans who agree on values and ways to make a manifesto, which is on our site, agree to move forward with all the projects that the association can launch.

Presentation of Booteille and Pouhiou

Walid : Now, I’m going to ask both of you to introduce yourselves.

Booteille : So I’m Booteille. I have been a volunteer member of Framasoft for a year and a half and I spend a little time doing popular education or pedagogy around digital issues. I do this both on a voluntary basis at Framasoft, I also do this a little bit with the little resourcefuls, another association in which I am.

And on a professional scale, I set up a self-employed company to support structures in their ethical digital transition and help them get out of Google, Microsoft, all that.

Walid : What do you have in your past?

Booteille : I learned to program when I was a teenager because I liked manga and I wanted to help with the administration of a manga site. Then I ended up owning this manga site. I made a living from advertising, especially from Google, which was very lucrative at one point, not much more very quickly. And in fact, I’m just an eternal curiosity who was interested in a lot of subjects and that’s what gradually led me to free software as well.

Walid : You joined Framasoft as a volunteer a long time ago?

Booteille : a year and a half ago.

Walid : Okay. And you, Pouhiou?

Pouhiou : I’m Pouhiou, I’m an employee of the association and currently co-director of the association. So the idea is really to work a little bit on strategy, on the community and then also on decision-making so that it is done as much as possible as a collective, all this within the association, that’s my job. In fact I got a taste of free software, I didn’t come to free software through software, I originally had an artistic career, I was an actor, I did community radio, I was even a youtuber by the way, not by being an employee at Framasoft, as a beginner, but I was a youtuber, I had a channel with more than 42,000 subscribers on Youtube so I could talk about it.
It was while making novels that I started blogging, that I realized that I didn’t want a boundary between my works and the readership, and so I put them in the public domain. And so when I finished the first blog novel like that, I contacted Framasoft and said “Hi, if you want to talk about it on the blog”, they said “Hi, we have a publishing house, we’d like to publish a novel, we’ve never done it, would you say so?”
And that’s how I discovered it and I joined the association, and that’s it. I was first a volunteer and then for a while I did communication as a communications officer.

Walid : beautiful circuitous paths to get to where you are.

Pouhiou : Absolutely.

The genesis of Peertube

Walid : So if we now start to get to the heart of the matter, to talk about Peertube, what I’d like to understand first is how Peertube actually came about? What is the environment like at the time it is born, in fact in what year do you start working on it? Can you tell me a bit about the genesis of Peertube?

Pouhiou : So I’m going to go for it because you know that you weren’t necessarily there at that time, even if you know the history. Framasoft launched a campaign between 2014 and 2017 “Let’s de-Google the Internet” where it was said that there was a problem with the tools of the web giants. So we’re going to identify 30 tools from the web giants, we’re going to put 30 free software in front of them and over 3 years we’re going to release services like this for these tools. The one we didn’t release was the alternative to YouTube. There was free software that made it possible to make video platforms, but it didn’t solve all the problems.

And in particular, in fact, we realized that there were three problems when you want to make an alternative platform to YouTube’s, to Google’s.

One, the problem of trust. You have to trust the software. So for that, obviously, you need free software. And what’s more, what’s nice would be to have a free software that is really community-based and not maintained by a company that can shut it down or make fake bread from source, things like that.

Secondly, the other problem is that if you put your video server just for you, that’s cool, but you’re all alone in your armor and you have a small catalog of videos. And one of the great things about YouTube is that you can find all the videos in the world, since everyone comes to upload their videos. But for that to happen, you’d have to welcome videos from all over the world, and that’s very, very heavy. And so, you have to find an architecture that is not centralized and that allows you to have a huge catalog of videos without the need for Google’s server farms. That’s the second problem it posed, and one that free software at the time didn’t address since it was also centrally architected.

The third purely technical problem with hosting an alternative to YouTube was whether a video was successful. And when you’re a host, you have to fear success, because success means that everyone comes to download the video to watch it on their screen at the same time. Streaming is just downloading that fades as you go, but it’s downloading. And so, if everyone comes at the same time, it creates a traffic jam at the pipe, which is called the pass-through bollard. So there you have it.

And so here too, we had to find a technical trick so that when there’s a video that’s successful, which is pretty cool in general, at least for the creators, it’s pretty cool, how do we technically do it so that there’s no need to have internet fibers and Google’s submarine cables? So there you have it, we needed to address these technical issues and that’s how we started to look into it.

Walid : You started to look into it, what year was it in?

Pouhiou : We’re in 2017, we’re in the last year of degooglisons, we realize that there are things we’ve done in addition that weren’t planned in the original plan, things that we won’t do: typically the email.

At one time we were thinking of doing a Framamail and we said to ourselves, well, if we do that, we would have to hire three administrations full time, we would have to make sure that it was disproportionate means, we were not going to squeeze ourselves. So what do we do with YouTube?

And I remember FOSDEM 2017, we were in Belgium, several members of the association, so at the beginning of February 2017, and we said to ourselves but how can we solve these problems, these problems of having to host videos from all over the world and all that. We look at the free software that existed at the time, you had Media Goblin, Media SPIP, Media Drop I think, yes thank you. And it didn’t respond because we were in the centralized architecture. And I start off as a joke to say “but what about Popcorn Time ? Popcorn Time is free software and it’s a software that was used so that pirated movie torrent files could be viewed in streaming mode with a Netflix-like interface.

So it was a trick totally used mainly for illegal sharing of crops. And I’m like, “But if Popcorn Time, behind it, we put seedboxes to boost the videos a little bit and we make an upload interface, we can maybe use it so that the videos are finally hosted as torrent files and on the Torrent federation and avoid this centralization. So we were thinking about that.

We thought about it but we weren’t sure. We said to ourselves, it doesn’t matter, we won’t make it in 2017, we’ll put it in the next three-year plan. During those months, someone came across a project by a young student, whose nickname was Chocobozzz, and who suddenly had this project to say “hey, but I actually want to make a video platform, but federated like Diaspora“. And in addition to the fact that it’s federated, so rather than having a centralized architecture and a giant server, a giant server farm, you just need a network of lots of small servers, so that’s great, it’s the web, you know. On top of that, precisely for the problem of a successful video, I want that in addition to streaming, there is a peer-to-peer distribution of videos, which allows that when everyone wants to watch the video, people can exchange bits of files with each other, their computers can exchange bits of files with each other, And as a result, it’s resilient. And so there you have it, we came across this student project, we thought we were too crazy.

Walid : So Chocobozzz, he was just a computer science student?

Pouhiou : It was his last years of study and all that. We start contacting him. I think it’s been a year or two since he started working. But you see, it was a side project for him, to have fun. And then to train too. And then, suddenly, we start to say to him, “Hi, actually, we’re interested in your little project on the side. Can’t we at some point finance you, do something together, to see if we can come up with a proof of concept, something that works?” Something where we say to ourselves this can work and so we can put marbles in it. At that point, he told us “listen, no, I’m coming out of school, I’m going to a job, so no, well”.

Except that a few months later, he says “actually I’m going to be between two jobs, I’m going to have I don’t know 3 to 6 months free”. And so we said “listen, we pay you for 3 to 6 months, you work on your personal project professionally, we make sure of that to see if it can work and if it can work, then we decide what we do together”. And that’s how, at the end of 2017, we arrived in front of the audience saying “hi, we have this project, we want to do a fundraising campaign, would you finance so that we pay Chocobozzz for a year to get to a V1? because we have a V0 that holds its own.”

Walid : Two questions, the first one, Chocobozzz, was he already quite convinced of free software?

Pouhiou : I don’t want to speak too much for him, for the record, he’s very comfortable with the fact that he’s not the one who speaks, because he prefers not to take the front of the stage. That’s it, but I don’t want to speak for him too much, but it seems to me that from the beginning there were a whole bunch of values, and in particular values to say how can we get out of this centralization that necessarily favors the monopolies of the web giants. So there was already that. And so, how can I, as an engineer, respond technically to problems to try to think differently about a video platform? There you go. There was already this approach, there was already a free license that we then refined together when we moved to V1. For him, there was already something. And then there you have it, he was inspired by Diaspora, he was inspired by things like that, well yes he was already in the free and open source community.

The complexity of Peertube compared to other software created by Framasoft

Walid : Was Peertube one of the things that was technically the most difficult or did you have other projects that were more technically difficult than Peertube?

Pouhiou : Technically? Humph…

Walid : I’m going to rephrase, were the technologies already available for the other projects?

Pouhiou : No, not all of them. Not all the technologies were available on the other projects and services we wanted to release. There are a few that have been developed for example by Sky, our favorite sys admin historically. There is typically Framagenda which allows you to have a synchronized and shareable agenda, etc. In fact, it is based on an installation of Nextcloud, which is a whole software suite, and in particular for synchronizing folders and files. But when you create an account on a calendar, you have almost no space to share files. You should have 2-3 megas, the minimum possible.

However, what was needed was to have a Calendar application from Nextcloud, which manages calendars, contacts and everything like that, an application that was sufficiently advanced and at the time it was not. And so, we took an intern from an engineering school, we told him “six months, we’re offering you this internship”. He was someone we already knew well, who was a little genius of free software, who had already been a contributor to Wallabag, which had allowed us to do the service Framabag, which is a service for keeping articles in your little personal web article book, or web pages, or signed, things like that. And so, Thomas developed the Calendar application, which already existed in Nextcloud, but he developed in such a way that really all the features, whether it was easy to use, etc. And we were so happy with this work with Thomas that after that, at the end of his internship, we made him a job offer and he is still a developer at Framasoft today.

The beginning of Peertube’s development

Walid : If we go back to Peertube, how are the beginnings, the beginnings of development on Peertube? That is, you’re running a crowdfunding campaign?

Pouhiou : yes, a first, yes.

Walid : How much money do you think it takes to develop Peertube in the first place?

Pouhiou : For us, it was actually a year’s salary, including all contributions and charges. When I talk about loads, I think more about premises, a computer, things like that. And so, I don’t remember exactly, but I think it was 50,000. We had set up funding of 50,000 euros, it seems to me.

Walid : And at the end of the fundraising campaign, how much do you come up with?

Pouhiou : We got a little more, we got 68, 69,000. Again, I’m doing it from memory and I didn’t look at the numbers.

Walid : Have you achieved more than the goal?

Pouhiou A: Yes, absolutely. I believe that this is the case with all Peertube campaigns, that we achieve more than the objective. In general, even on “donor” campaigns, knowing that there were two crowdfunding campaigns for Peertube, one to get to V1, where we had more than 50,000 requested, and another for V3, which included the search engine throughout the federation and live.

And on these two crowdfunding campaigns, the money was given specifically for the project and therefore was dedicated exclusively to the project obviously, in accounting we call it a dedicated account. But apart from that, and today we prefer to say anyway that in any case all the donations dedicated to Framasoft go to all of Framasoft’s projects. Because we realize that inevitably, at some point, it balances out. And then because, for example, we can’t say that even Chocobozzz is going to work 100% of his time on Peertube.

If I go back to that era of V3 and live, it’s actually in 2020, it’s in the middle of the pandemic. And during the pandemic, as a result, our Framatalk videoconferencing service sees its use multiplied by 10 or 100 in 15 days, it’s an absolutely phenomenal thing. And so Chocobos stopped coding live in Peertube and started doing system administration to balance the load on several servers so that Framatalk could hold up and we could provide video to people who were confined. You see, and so there are times when he hasn’t worked, because it’s normal at Framasoft, we all do 50,000 things. The crowdfunding campaign is going well, so V1 is funded.

Walid : What’s there at the time of V1, when you’re done with the crowdfunding campaign, what do you already have as a first base?

Pouhiou : We have a database that works, yes, but for example, at that time, we hadn’t yet switched to the database that we favor at Framasoft by PostgreSQL experience. I think it was still on MongoDB at the time, during the Proof of Concept. At the federation level, I think it was more inspired by Diaspora.

And at the same time that in the first months of the development of V1, so I’m talking about the end of 2017 to the end of 2018, there is ActivityPub, which is a protocol, a federation language that is accepted by the global web consortium, the W3C. And so now we’re like, actually, no, we really have to go to ActivityPub, then it’s going to be used by everyone, this thing. So we have to change everything in terms of the federation protocol, what we already had in the Proof of Concept. But even what we also wanted was what we didn’t have from the start, it was a video player that works in both cases, which was both the usual streaming from the server to the person watching and his computer, and peer-to-peer. The idea is to be able to do things in a transparent way and without it being visible at the level of people, both potentially. That didn’t work yet. We needed a video player that worked.

Walid : Initially, in the Proof of Concept, what was there?

Pouhiou : There was just streaming video playback where there was… There was already a bit of the federation protocol, it seems to me, of Diaspora at the time. There was streaming. Anyway, there were ways to do peer to peer. There were also ideas for everything that will be created, how to subscribe, how to subscribe transparently, etc.

There were some first ideas of federation but they were more modelled on Diaspora, i.e. everyone is federated to everyone and no one chooses to whom it is federated. On which we very quickly changed the authority of the poles by saying no, there must be real control of the people who serve an instance, who host an instance, who administer it. These people must be able to decide who I am, I am not. And as a result, it completely changes the architecture and the modes of federation. So there you have it.

Walid : How long did V1 take to develop?

Pouhiou : well, a good ten months, between 10 and 12 months, yes. And at the end of V1 we had all the promises that worked. And in addition, I remember that he had added, Choco, he added the ability to make redundancy from one instance to another, that is to say that typically if my instance I have quite a few … I have a big server with a lot of capacity, I can say well listen I’m going to support your instance or your channel or your video and if at some point your server it’s a little overloaded, it’s going to go on mine.

First reactions to Peertube v1

Walid : And so V1 is coming out, what are the first reactions and I mean what is the public reception of the free community around this Peertube? What happens at that moment? Is there a craze?

Pouhiou : yes, yes, no, there’s a real craze. Anyway, we also did some work on the side, to say we want to show the use cases we want, etc., so we also went to see content creators. I remember we were already in contact with DataGueule, for example, journalists who make videos to popularize and visualize data. We were also in contact with the gesticulating speakers, so there you have it, helping them to set up an instance and to be autonomous on it. So we wanted there to be things already coming out with it. And what was very interesting was that both the free software community and the technical community understood the small technical feat and in any case the intelligent side of the technical response to political problems.

The political problem is centralization by the web giants and a monopoly and the technical response is to democratize the means of broadcasting video and make sure that to broadcast videos and have the same advantages as Google, you don’t need to have Google’s means. So there was a real understanding and on the other hand there was a lot of work to be done to avoid having, especially in terms of the media, a little more mainstream, etc., the fashion of the time, which was, here is the new YouTube killer. That’s it and because at the time there was always a start-up coming out that said hello I have the new Facebook killer and sign up for Hello, sign up for thingie or the Twitter killer etc it was really the media fashion at the time in the media dealing with digital. And so we very, very, very quickly we said, when we announced V1, we basically announced this is not the YouTube killer. Our small association with 50,000 balls and a year’s work at a dev cannot compete with the web giants and the world’s biggest financial, technological, economic and cultural powers. I don’t believe it.

Booteille : and I think that here you are pressing a point that is very important with Peertube and many projects in particular led by Framasoft, it’s the idea that we are not trying to recreate a YouTube, we are not trying to recreate a Facebook, we are not trying to recreate all this, we are trying to build alternatives that are designed for humans who share our values or not, But that’s another concept. We’re not looking, I’m pushing this, we’re really not trying to reproduce YouTube. On the other hand, if there are cool features in YouTube that interest us, indeed, we will think about them, we will try to integrate them. On the other hand, always through our prism, the one who has our values and principles.

Walid : And indeed, I didn’t understand that the release of Peertube V1 was concomitant with the arrival of the ActivityPub protocol, which shows that the software was designed from the beginning for federation and grew with it. I have a slightly technical question, you addressed it Pouhiou a little bit before, you said on V0 there was a free license and then we refined the license for V1. So for V1, Peertube’s current license is a V3+ AGPL, what makes you choose this license?

Pouhiou : so you have to know that Choco, very quickly, when we said to him “Listen, we want to perpetuate your job within Framasoft and the development of Peertube, we want to take it as far as we can and that it will interest the world, what, you know.” And all that, he told us, “Okay, but then, let me be clear, now, the Peertube project belongs to Framasoft and not only to Chocobozzz.” So there you have it, and suddenly, we worked a little more on the license together, and suddenly, Framasoft, we have always had a policy on clearly 1, free license, everything we produce must be under a free license, we come from the world of free logistics, for us it’s obvious, especially since we are funded by donations, by the community, so the least we can do is to put our production back into the commons. Framasoft’s policy on these productions is that they are viral licenses as opposed to permissive licenses. You tell me if I’m expanding on that part.

Walid : No, it’s okay, I’ve already done an episode with Benjamin Jean on this.

Pouhiou : Benjamin Jean who was a member of Framasoft. Absolutely, great so it’s good. But that’s it, for us, it’s always been clear, so for a software, a license GPL v3 is fine and the A in AGPL In fact, it’s because, as it’s mainly a server-based software, it once again allows you to better protect the common one from the modifications that could be made on other servers.

So now there’s v1 so I don’t know when it is, my memory fails me, I didn’t necessarily find the article, I know that at one point the FSF had put Peertube as one of the main software to support. I’m wondering, from the moment V1 comes out and people start using it, does it push you to do a V2 right away? How do you finally organize after V1 and after the first feedback?

Pouhiou : Actually, we thought of V2 from the moment we succeeded in crowdfunding to finance V1. We said to ourselves, we know very well that we’re not going to succeed in one year doing everything we’d like to do and we’re not going to aim to deliver everything at once and put, that’s it… But we will aim for a progression in the life of the software and therefore year after year to improve it. So for us, it was thought of from the start like that and precisely that was the thing, it’s not a YouTube killer but we’re going to move forward as we go along and especially when we addressed audiences, we know that at the beginning of the life of Peertube’s development, we addressed rather technical audiences who better understood the issues, And then when that audience was acquired, we were able to address audiences that were a little more neophyte, and more and more we try to open up as we go along because the software is maturing and becoming accessible to a greater number of people, which it wasn’t when it was V1 or V2, Which is quite normal. So that was thought of from the beginning, and in terms of the welcome, in terms of the free software, it’s rather warm. Indeed, the FSF, I remember that even back then, Richard Stallman, himself, intervened on the guide to give us indications on how to properly implement the license in a way, with a rigorous protocol. The FSF asked us at Framasoft to offer them a hosting of a Peertube channel that we made on our Framatube instance, it’s one of the rare exceptions because we don’t usually host people on purpose. Well, it was the FSF, we made an exception.

But at the same time, obviously, there were criticisms that are also, after all, quite legitimate and all that, criticisms for example on the use of JavaScript, in addition to JavaScript in the form of TypeScript that was designed by Microsoft. Anyway, there you have it, and JavaScript is not necessarily very popular with all people who like free software. We’ve been trying to work a little bit on the issue of LibreScript, that’s what the free JavaScript version by the FSF is all about, and the exchanges we’ve had, which are a bit off-the-record, that’s it, but which are also not a big secret, is that we realized that LibreScript was written at a time when the way it’s done is no longer the best way to do it now and what it would take, it would change the way we can recognize free and respectful JavaScript code. So we would need an evolution of LibreScript, at least for us it would be far too restrictive to make Peertube’s JavaScript code compatible with LibreScript. It’s just work-wise, it’s just indecent. But here’s the thing, criticism, things like that, it’s like in the life of the free.

Pouhiou : I was on the outside of the assault at that time, and there was one moment that stood out for me, which was when Blender had monetization problems with YouTube and announced, “ok, basically fuck YouTube, we’re going to Peertube”. Me, at that moment, I saw Reddit go up in flames, I saw the Internet start talking massively about Peertube as an alternative to YouTube.

And then, when Debian donated 10,000 euros for the release of Peertube V3 with live and all that, there was another little boost in popularity. And I think that these two moments were really game changers also in terms of the community, in terms of the acceptance of the software as an alternative to making video.

Pouhiou : In any case, we can never say it enough, the best promoters of free and ethical digital are the web giants. Every time they do and they do things that go against the common good and people etc because they just want to give money to their shareholders, every time they do, it promotes free alternatives at the same time, every time Twitter has had a scandal with Elon Musk, it brought people back to Mastodon, every time a new Windows comes out, there are a lot of people who start to discover GNU Linux and a lot of cool distros.

It’s cool, we realize that every time they make mistakes, there are people who come to us.

Booteille : It really reminds me of the dimension of sidestepping. I’m quite a proponent of trying to build alternatives and an alternative digital environment that means that when it will require… Or at the moment when people want to make the effort to take that small sidestep towards us, this sidestep should be as simple as possible, as energy-efficient as possible. And that’s what happened in the examples you gave Pouhiou when Elon Musk buys Twitter, does etc.

Millions of people arrive on Mastodon. When Blender has problems with YouTube, bam, we talk about Peertube and we start funding Peertube. I think that’s one of our challenges as a free software community in any case, not to attack the web giants head-on because we simply don’t have the energy, we don’t have the means, but really to try to build alternatives that make people want to do it so that the general public, in fact, at some point can simply come to us because we’ve built easy doors, Because it requires as little energy as possible.

Pouhiou : If I may venture back, what’s great about it is that you realize that in fact the web giants are also locked into their economic and political model, and their choice of society. So their economic model is the attention economy, their political model is called surveillance capitalism, that’s it, and suddenly with the objective of having a captology, so to capture a maximum of attention to capture data to resell it, in fact they are locked in that and suddenly we have a whole space of freedom that they can’t afford because we don’t have the same constraints, We don’t have the same goals. Their goal is to capture attention.

And a very simple thing, for a very very long time on YouTube, you can share a video starting at 3 minutes 10 minutes. And if you watch, it gives you the web address, the URL of the video with T equal, well it’s not 3 minutes 10, it’s a number of seconds, but that’s it. It’s extremely easy for Google to code a “I’m sharing a link with you, the video starts at 3:10 and you finish the clip at 5:40, even if the video is 10 minutes long. It was almost useless to add a second parameter. To them, it was nothing. They didn’t do that for years. PeerTube, we did it two or three years before them, and two or three years later, Google copied. So they didn’t copy, they ended up doing it, you know. But that’s it, and we were totally free to do that because we didn’t need people to stay in front of their Peertube as long as possible.

We just needed them to see the snippets they were interested in, or to share the snippets they were interested in, even if it stopped after three minutes.

Peertube’s financing methods

Walid: What you just said just before makes me a good transition because I wanted to talk about how Peertube is funded, which is really a question I was asking. So we talked about crowdfunding, here we talked about Debian donations for example. I wanted to know a little bit about the different ways you can finance Peertube. Is it Peertube?

Pouhiou : Framasoft, depending on the year, is financed between 90 and 98% by donations.

In these donations, we still have to distinguish between two types of donations, donations from foundations, large donations in quotation marks, sometimes from companies, it’s rarer but there have been a few, and individual donations that still remain, like it’s three-quarters of our budget, it’s donations from legends. That’s generally for Framasoft’s activities. Regarding Peertube it’s mainly that, sometimes specifically for AV1 in 2017-2018 and for AV3 which was released at the end of 2020, it was crowdfunding, so specific financing with a specific objective etc. Except that for crowdfunding, you have to have something, you also have to create enthusiasm among the general public. So to say, we want to show that it’s possible and offer a V1, that was something. For V3, we want to offer you the search throughout the federation and the live. And we’re not just going to do YouTube, we’re going to do Twitch as well. That was pretty huge.

There was this first economic model of donation and crowdfunding. A very, very small part, but especially in 2022 especially, we had some performances.

It’s been services in development for specific developments. Typically, we had the Ministry of National Education which, in order to integrate Peertube into its platform, which is a set of free tools made available to all teachers and students of the National Education, they needed to be able to connect to their account via specific protocols, LDAP, SAML, in short, thing. We developed the plugin that funded us. We also had an all-around media, so it’s a performing arts media hosted by Emerson University in Boston. All-around who needed different things on Peertube and who financed us different features that we wanted to do in addition so it was a good thing. But that’s still rather rare and it’s a very small part of the funding of Framasoft in general and Peertube in particular and otherwise in 2021, there for the v6 that we just released in 2023 and if all goes well, logically it’s good, for the v7 of 2024, on Peertube we received grants of NLNet. NLNet which is part of a larger collective called Next Generation Internet that funds projects for a better internet and that finances these projects by redistributing European funds, but redistributing them to different small projects by checking the progress of these projects. We have a very good relationship with NLNet and Next Generation Internet.

Walid : I advise all listeners to listen to the interview I did with Benjamin Jean in which we talk about this European funding. And that was one of my questions, do you benefit from European funding? So there you have it, you’ve just answered the question. In Next Generation Internet, what Benjamin explains is that in fact it is funding that is much easier to obtain with much less administrative side than what we could have before with European funding. And so it was just meant to benefit projects typically like Peertube.

Pouhiou : That’s right, at Framasoft we don’t have the energy, the know-how, the knowledge to put together a European subsidy file. It’s just a crazy job, it’s a part-time job over a year, etc. But even, you see, there are projects in the Peertube ecosystem, I’m thinking in particular of the Live Chat application, which allows you to have a chat during live broadcasts on Peertube. It’s an external application that’s developed by an external developer called John Livingston, who we’re embracing by the way. We’ve supported him several times, really, we’ve even supported him financially and then obviously we work in collaboration with him because we find his work very important.

And recently, a large part of his work has also been financed by an NLNet grant, while he is someone who is all alone in his own development enterprise, he would never have the possibility of putting together a European grant application, it’s not possible.

Development Team & Community

Walid : so in addition to ChocoBuzz, are there already at Framasoft, in general, other people who touch and work on Peertube, is there a community that has been created around Peertube, developers or people who contribute, who actually work on the tool?

Pouhiou : So for the Framasoft part, I’ve been dedicating myself for a few years to being Product Owner of Peertube, that is to say really working in agreement with ChocoBuzz on a strategy, on roadmaps, on things like that. But in fact, there are many of us within the association and even within the salaried team. There are some who will do blog posts, communication, toots, things like that. There are some who are going to work on strategies, on things like that.

But indeed, for a while, we were a little, even borderline, bottlenecks in terms of development since there was only one salaried developer who was Chocobozzz. And that it was starting to become too little given the scale of the project. Except that at Framasoft, we have made a rather radical choice to limit our growth as much as possible, because our objective is not to become a giant again and because we know that we function well as long as we keep a human scale, a human warmth in the salaried team, in the team of members of all the members of associations, in all of this. So there you have it, creating a new position within Framasoft, it was really a very strong challenge, it required a lot of work, a lot of thought, a lot of things like that. However, we knew that there was a need for Peertube and so there was a first request from Chocobozzz at the end of 2022 to say here it is in 2023, I don’t know if we will be able to have one more person employed at Framasoft for Peertube but I would like to know if I can work as a team while I’ve been working solo for 6 years on the development of this project. And I want to train someone, so I’d like to take on an intern.

And so we had a developer intern between February and July 2023, Wicklow, who came on this. So when he arrived, in addition I said eye to eye to Wicklow, “be careful, we’re going to talk about the possibility of opening a development position on Peertube at Framasoft, know if we’re going or not, I’m looking you straight in the eye, now you’re at the beginning of your internship, this position won’t be for you, Because if it’s something we do, then maybe we can understand someone with expertise to eventually make a mobile app, things like that.”

The discussions are progressing, the discussions are taking place and last July, during a camp where as many of the association’s volunteers as possible, members of the association for example, get together, we work again, “ok we feel ready to take on an extra person, and it’s still a risk for the association” because it’s a salary that we’re going to have to take out every year, monthly, etc.

But it’s too important, we have to go. And as a result, what type of position do you want, etc. And in fact, after a while, we realize that stop, we have to stop the, it’s going so well with Wicklow, we have to make him a job offer. And so since last September, we’ve hired a second developer on Peertube. It’s one of our big announcements at the end of the year because for us it’s a lot, it’s a big risk, it means that Framasoft is going to need more donations to continue to live, you see, but at the same time for us it’s essential and in particular what hiring a second developer will allow is both to have another person who will have expertise on the 200, 250,000 lines of code,

Booteille : 220,000,

Pouhiou: Cork , you see, it’s not everyone can make time for that. And if what is unfortunately called the bus factor, I don’t want it, but if one day Chocobuzzz takes a bus or takes a bus to go live another life elsewhere, which he wants, suddenly there will be no one left who has expertise. So it allows us to double this expertise and to have other people.

And then what we’re also going to ask Wicklow to do next year is to learn about mobile applications because we’d like to release a virtual application. But I’ll talk about that later, I think.

Walid : In terms of community, are there other people outside of Framasoft who contribute? And if so, how do you actually animate this community? Sorry, my old free software developer background is resurfacing.

Booteille : No, but it’s an interesting question, especially on the question of community animation. I would say maybe start with the numbers.

Since the birth of the Peertube project, there are about 400 people who have contributed to the Peertube code. So it’s still something. Knowing that the Peertube project is an extremely complex project. It really takes a long time to get used to the complexity of the code, the way it was done. And there’s a big maintenance issue, so it’s not so easy to see a piece of code arrive in the heart of Peertube because behind it, Chocobozzz and Wicklow today, and even all of Framasoft knows very well that we have to maintain the code we add, so we can’t just do things in a hurry.

You really have to take the time to accompany each contribution. The most common way to contribute, in fact, is really to report bugs on the bug tracker, either on GitHub or on Framagit. Otherwise, it will also be, if there are system administration problems, we will rather direct to the Framacolibri forum, to really organize the way we will be able to deal with the problems. And if not, we mostly welcome proposals as well. We launched ideas.joinpeertube, I don’t know if it’s this year or at the end of last year. End of last year.

Yes, right. Where we welcome a lot of proposals to improve functionality, finally to improve Peertube in general, and on which we are now basing ourselves today to establish our roadmaps, to know in which direction we are going to go with Peertube. Roughly speaking, for the numbers, that’s about it. After the question of community animation, as I told you, it’s complicated to contribute to the code, so it requires a lot of support. So we try to do it and at the same time we know that at framasoft we’re pretty bad at that, we’re pretty bad at accompanying, at welcoming people’s contributions, because it requires a crazy energy that we don’t necessarily have at the time.

Pouhiou : However, there was still a particular care given to the Peertube project and in particular by a desire on the part of Chocobozzz who generally spends at least 50% of his time on community animation. When we say 400 contributions to the code, it means doing all the tests, revising, integrating the code, etc. So there you have it, and it’s something he’s done and he’s continuing to do. The issues, discussing each of the issues and all that. So the issues are the feedback on the deposit of the code. There have been more than 4,500 exits that have been closed and there are 450 still under discussion. But all this means that there is still a large investment of salaried time precisely to try to welcome contributions. But it’s true that in the end the easiest and therefore the most numerous code contributions will be on what is the plugin system. And so as soon as there is a need to open the API so that a small piece of third-party software, a plugin can communicate with the Peertube code, we do it really easily. And you see today there are more than 130 plugins available for Peertube, more than 40 themes also to change the code physically. And these are contributions that are extremely valuable, as are the translations.

Walid : The work of a maintainer is long, it’s really long.

Booteille : It’s clearly long and very time-consuming. And it’s also, I was going to emphasize the fact that here, what we’re describing is also a part of the way we welcome contributions, of our way of animating all of this. Because at the end of the day, in the team, there are quite a few people who also actively monitor everything that happens around Peertube. We have a look at a lot of topics around Peertube, even if we don’t necessarily take part in all of it, but we try to really see what people are doing. A few weeks ago, we saw that there was an interface to produce a kind of TikTok based on Peertube. We’ve seen that, we’ve seen that the community is acting on this, we’ve also seen that a developer is building a mobile application for Peertube. We got into a discussion with them to find out a little bit about the ambitions and all that. So there is really, even if it’s not necessarily always visible, the desire to link up with the community and to walk hand in hand with the community that will help contribute to Pierre’s ecosystem. And finally, there are always communication efforts on Reddit, Mastodon, etc. around Lemmy as well, around the project.

Pouhiou : That’s why we realized that we were, when I was talking about a bottleneck, that is to say that given the time spent by Choco on maintenance and community animation work, it mechanically reduced its development capacity. And so having a new person in the development of the project is also to share this maintenance work that is necessary and that is beautiful, and to have more time to develop new features.

Peertube and the Fediverse

Walid : The next topic I wanted to talk about was Fediverse. We can see that Peertube is concomitant with the arrival of the Fediverse in the end. I haven’t done any episodes on it yet, there’s a pretty nice episode in I don’t know which podcast issue of Libre à vous, I’ll put it, where he talks about that, I think it was also reshared not too long ago.

Could you, just in two or three words, say for people who don’t know what the Fediverse is before we explain a little bit what is the place of Peertube in this Fediverse?

Booteille : Are you sticking to it? Or do I get into it?

Walid : Oh, it’s not easy! That’s the glue!

Booteille : We do it quite daily. The Fediverse, in fact, takes its name from the federated universe in English. The idea is to have, rather than having networks, centralized social media, managed by superpowers, we will rely on communication protocols, we are talking for example about ActivityPub, we talked about it earlier, but which in fact allows each entity to create its own small network, its own social media in its corner, And in addition to ensuring that this social media will communicate with others and create a federation. What’s great is that we could say “ok, that’s great, it works a bit like email and suddenly we can exchange emails from my gmail to my protonmail” etc etc

Except that’s only part of the Fediverse. One of the big advantages of the news item is that the protocol used between all social media is often the same and so even if we are on very different software such as Peertube and Mastodon, these two software will still be able to communicate together. And suddenly we arrive at a huge social media that brings together a lot of different social media, a lot of different functionalities, whose moderation is managed by more or less large entities, there are some large entities in the Fediverse, but in the end we spread all the burden of social media management. And today, I think that the news item is 12 or 13 million people interacting, either with the alternative to Twitter, or finally one of the alternatives to Twitter called Mastodon, which is the most popular news item software, or by sending photos on an alternative to Instagram called Pixelfed, either by posting videos on Peertube, by publishing events like on Facebook events with Mobilizon. In short, there are for many software, classic social media that are centralized and sclerotic, I want to say, there are today alternatives that are integrated into the Fediverse and that will communicate with the whole Fediverse.

Walid : What would you give as a concrete example for someone who can understand how Peertube interacts with the rest of the Fediverse?

Pouhiou : so the Fediverse, suddenly, from a user’s point of view, there’s a problem of complexity, it’s that it’s full of possible entry points, both in terms of uses, that is to say, well, I’d rather make small messages, little micro-blogs à la Twitter, so, I’m going to go to a Mastodon instance, but then, which Mastodon instance?

There are plenty of Mastodon installations on different servers, in different communities. You have to find your own. And so, if you go to Peertube, it’s because you’re going to want to share video content and build a collection of video content like that, as if you wanted to set up a YouTube or Twitch channel, for example. And the advantage is that, for example, when you publish a video on your Peertube channel, on Mastodon’s side, so the Twitter equivalent we’re going to say, on Mastodon’s side, this video will appear as a tweet, as a toot we say in Mastodon. And so the title of your video is going to be the message, maybe also a little bit of the description of the video, underneath it’s going to be the video as an embedded medium, like when you publish a video. And what’s interesting is that the Peertube has created a toot on Mastodon, but if you, on Mastodon, with your Mastodon account, you put a favorite on that toot, it will create a plus on the Peertube video.

If you answer the toot of the video, it will create a comment. If I reply to your comment, it will create a discussion nested in the comments of the video. It’s a little bit like being able to reply to a YouTube video with your Twitter account. Today we don’t imagine that it’s possible and since everyone has chosen to speak the same language, it’s not the Tower of Babel. We get along, no one is locked in their corner, we can talk.

Booteille : And it also creates an interoperability issue that we can address. That is to say, today if you want to migrate all your videos that are on Twitter to YouTube, good luck I think because you don’t have any suitable tools. In the Fediverse, it doesn’t totally exist yet to have possible migrations or import-export from one software to another in a very easy way, but in any case it can be considered much more easily than when faced with two entities that are financially competitors and all that.

Walid : Fediverse is a unique mode, which takes time to explore, it’s quite fascinating. We’re not necessarily going to spend more time on the Fediverse because it deserves an episode and we’ve already been talking for an hour.

Peertube and Content Creators

Walid : Now let’s talk about Peertube’s relationship with content creators. My vision of YouTube is that it’s a platform that standardizes content and it’s also a platform that dictates what you can say, well on what you can’t say, especially what.

And what I’d like to understand is what is, I was going to say ideology but anyway, what is your state of mind in relation to content creators actually?

Pouhiou : Anyway, I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t have an ideology. You may not have your ideology because it’s the dominant ideology everywhere, but in the end, even when you don’t want to, everyone is inside an ideology. And so there’s clearly an ideology around Peertube. And our ideology is to promote digital emancipation, in particular to be able to extricate ourselves, as much as possible, from surveillance capitalism, and therefore from this whole system that, basically, tries to milk our data as much as possible to create value, and to centralize it by giants and redistribute it to shareholders, basically. And so for us, the idea is to be able to promote that. And so the policy on Peertube is to have a tool for people who are kind of left behind by this.

Because today, typically me, when I made my channel on YouTube in 2014-2016, it was a sex education channel, popular sex education, sex positive, queer, woman, with influences from all of that, it’s something you couldn’t do today. Today, if you talk about menstruation or abortion on YouTube or Twitch, you’re already going to have words that are going to be banned or that are going to create censorship at the level of automatic robots, or you’re going to be under-referenced and put at the very bottom of the content and the algorithm and be invisibilized. And so we say to ourselves, but in fact, in the end, there are a lot of people for whom this model, which is normal, is… Google’s job is to sell advertising. So their goal is to do stuff that sells advertising and oh well, the subject of abortion, the subject of queer people, etc. It’s not selling. There are times when it’s not a good seller. So well, they don’t care about their business model.

And so we said to ourselves but there are people who just want to share content, there are teachers who want to share educational content, there are artists who simply want to share their creation with the general public, there are people whose objective is not precisely to collect money or glory, but to present their work or to present techniques, knitting shops that just need to show how you do this or that stitch in video to be able to sell yarns and needles.

So there you have it, all these people are being left behind by YouTube, by Twitch, by the stuff. And so we’re talking to them first. And be careful when I talk about this, it doesn’t include people rejected from these platforms of the web giants who have been fired because they have criminal content, who have been fired because they have content that endangers the lives of others or content that promotes intolerance. And here I’m going to be very clear, Framasoft believes very clearly and very, very clear in its position that there are limits to freedom of expression and that these limits are defined by the paradox of tolerance. It’s a bit philosophical, but to summarize the paradox of tolerance in a nutshell, if freedom tolerates even intolerant words and expressions, then we can end up with intolerance destroying freedom and freedom of expression. To protect even freedom of expression, we must not accept the expression of intolerance.

But be careful, this ideology is ours, we have to see how it materializes in terms of our actions on Peertube. And for me, it comes down to two ways of doing things. It’s that both in our development choices, when we are asked to make behavioral tracking tools or algorithms that will manipulate people into watching more videos, it’s not going to be a priority for us compared to moderation tools, accessibility tools, tools that will allow as many people as possible to be autonomous and to take over Peertube. And then we don’t just have a role as a software developer and publisher, we also have an editorial role because, for example, we maintain a search engine for content on Peertube with an index and so it’s up to us to choose what we put or not in this index. And if you don’t agree, you take the code of our search engine and the way to make the index, everything is free, you can do it on your side and have your own policy. But we’re going to apply our policy and when we are told “hello in your index there is fascist content, we say it’s intolerant, by the cause of intolerance, we kick it out of our index”. However, if I take the example of the fascists, it’s still free software, the first freedom is to use the software, if the fascists want to use Peertube, they can.

Our role will be to give the community the means to protect themselves from them, and in particular this is what happened with Peertube, there was even a very interesting study by a German institute which shows that far-right content and content that is also fake news and conspiracy theories, etc. use Peertube, but eventually are in their federation bubble, have been ostracized by the rest of the federation who have cut themselves off from them who don’t want to promote their content. It’s a way of saying, you’re free to use the software, but still, we don’t have to get down on our knees to serve as your platform and wallet.

Examples of well-known or notable Peertube instances

Walid : Not too long ago, for example, I interviewed Nick who does The Linux Experiment channel. During the interview, he talked about his business model, revenue with Patreon, with YouTube, with sponsors, etc. It would be complicated for him, on Peertube, to have a model that potentially allows him to live. Actually, the question I’m asking myself is, if I wanted to be a content creator by making videos and I wanted to try to make a living from it and I tried to post my videos on YouTube, what would be a good role model for you? Would the model be to go through alternatives, well, through funding like Open Collective or Patreon , that kind of thing?

Pouhiou : So I’d like to take a first start of an answer so that you Booteille really answer this question but I’ll go off on a tangent first if you allow it, it’s because I used to be a youtuber. To give you a little bit of my figures over 2 years 2014-2016, 42,000 subscribers, about fifty videos, 2 million views.

I enabled Google advertising on my videos because I didn’t want to be underlisted and I knew how Google worked. I got between $250 and $300 million views on 200 and 200 million views. I know this because this money was dirty for me, I redistributed it as a free condom. So there you have it, at the same time that I was starting YouTube, the fable of “you get 1 euro per 1 thousand views thanks to advertising” no longer worked.

And you have to realize that it’s been more than 10 years that advertising no longer funds content creators, the ads we watch no longer finance that. And that’s Google that put it in our heads because they were very clever, they released a video distribution tool, that’s a technical tool, and they associated it with a marketing tool for advertising distribution and attention capture. However, it doesn’t have to be a mix of the two. And we, at Framasoft, said to ourselves, the monetization of content, the financing of creation, etc.

This is a huge problem. We’re going to focus on what we know how to do, the technical tool. We make this technical tool behind it. The rest is not going to be our role, although it’s pretty cool that there are funding opportunities. But just to really get into your head, today ads on Youtube, on Twitch, etc. primarily pay the shareholders of Google and Amazon. It’s dividends, when you watch ads you’re offering dividends to shareholders, sometimes there are a few crumbs that are offered like that meager to the plebs of content creators, but it’s purely contempt money and nothing else.

Booteille : Oh no, not at all, and I think you’ve pretty much said the gist. I really emphasize the fact that I don’t feel like advertising is making money for a lot of content creators today. You pointed out initiatives like going to Open Collectives, Patreon, all that. I have the feeling that it’s more in the end, content creators are self-managing in terms of funding.

For many, they will go to platforms that are uncorrelated from YouTube or Twitch to ask for donations, to ask for regular funding, etc. Today, I don’t have the impression, apart from Twitch which has really integrated this subscription issue, I think YouTube has done it too, but has integrated it. On the other hand, Twitch takes 70% of the base commission and you have to have received I don’t know how many thousands of subscriptions for I don’t know how many months to claim half of the earnings. So we see that the content creators who do the best are often, with a few exceptions, obviously, there are giants, but will rather move towards platforms that are not linked to the video platform.

And so are we interested in getting caught up in the issue of monetization when really it’s an extremely complicated subject, as Pouhiou said, not necessarily we’re going to focus on what we’re good at, which is making software that helps people emancipate themselves.

Walid : So in the end, the real problem for the creator who wants to go on a Peertube instance is to make himself known?

Pouhiou : Absolutely. And that’s also why we’re much more interested in working on issues, both to help them get interesting statistics so that they can do what they want with them, because it’s sometimes with statistics that you’ll either find sponsors, or show your community that there’s interest in what you do, things like that. It’s also going to be about finding, and this is one of the future challenges of Peertube and other projects that we have around, in the Peertube ecosystem, to find how to highlight quality content, therefore content curation. There are already people, bodies that do important content curation work, and therefore how to highlight and promote this.

So, we’re going to try to initiate a few things to give ideas in the hope that they will be taken up and reproduced. But then we were also in contact, for example in the free software world, there are also the Spanish people from Goteo who make a crowdfunding platform. I think at some point, they were interested in figuring out how to build bridges between Peertube and Goteo to make it easier to use. We are very open to virtuous models like this of common financing, financing of the commons, etc. Again, as long as it doesn’t capture people’s digital lives against their consent, as long as there aren’t too many dark patents, attention manipulation and all that, we’re always ready to welcome third-party initiatives. And whatever happens, from the beginning, I think it was even since V1, there is always the possibility for video creators to have a support button and if you click on this button support the field is free: that is to say that people who upload the content can as well put a link I do not know to their PayPal or their what do I know, their patreon, or say if you want to support my videos send a nice postcard to my grandmother it will make her happy here you put what you want behind it so it’s insufficient we should facilitate all this, etc. But it was still thought out from the beginning.

Walid : I saw not too long ago that, for example, the European Commission had a PeerTube instance. Are there instances that are somewhat visible and known?

Pouhiou : yes, it’s because at some point we can also give instances of more video content and all that. It’s going to be super complicated because you always want to quote everyone and you can never think of everyone at the same time.

So at the institutional level, typically indeed, so the European Commission, there’s also the Dutch National Audiovisual Institute, I don’t know how to pronounce their name because I’m very, very bad, I’m sorry in Dutch, but anyway, there you have it, who is the equivalent of the Dutch INA who hosted their public video content on a self-managed Peertube instance, who have worked on scaling up, and who have contributed to the Peertube ecosystem.

I was talking about national education via their platform. We’re also talking to other institutions that are considering these things, but I don’t want to either, well, these are projects, I don’t want to reveal things in their place, we regularly have institutions that do that. I was also talking about it, I find it very interesting, All-Around, so a media for the performing arts in a Boston university and which actually uses Peertube for some kind of webinars and I really like this use, it’s webinars for artists who are sometimes in Boston but who are sometimes in Gabon and sometimes who are in Russia, And so how do we make sure that everyone can see the videos at a given time, one of their needs was are we going to be able to have videos in 140p, so in very very very low resolution, for very very very low bandwidths, because, well, there are connections, especially on the African continent, which are complex. That’s it, and we’ve developed it.

And well, I’m going to talk about another one, then, which hosts Anglo-Saxon video content, from creators in general on YouTube, and what we call “edutainment”, so both education and entertainment, entertainment. I’m going to talk about Tilvids. It’s not for one over the others, but it’s because I found it very interesting as an approach. It was a person from the free software world, who was also a content creator on YouTube and all that, who said to himself “hey, I’m going to do Peertube and offer videographers to copy their YouTube channel on Peertube. People won’t need to worry about anything, but at least it will put their content on the federation as well.”

And he ended up with a problem, which is that as a result, a very large part of his audience is in the United States, and his server I think was in Europe. And as a result, the server was too far away and it created slowdowns in the vision. Well, he took another server in the United States, which put him in redundancy that we were talking about V1, you know, and so… In fact, it makes it a web relay, just as Google has relays, or Netflix for that matter, have relays everywhere to relay their video streams throughout the global Internet network. Well, in fact, he did it by hand with the Peertube software. I think it’s great to use redundancy that we didn’t imagine at first, but he was able to do it because the software is flexible.

Peertube v6 and the roadmap for 2024

Walid : Now let’s talk about the future, let’s say we’re in 2024 for example, we’re at the end of 2023, we’re in 2024. What are you going to do, for example, in 2024?

Pouhiou : I’m just saying what we just released, you see with the V6 which just came out, anyway, so there was already the remote transcoding which was, there too you see funded by NLNet and it was good because it was not at all sexy, but then on a technical level it’s quite revolutionary. It’s the fact of saying that today even if you have a very small computer for your Peertube server, the most difficult tasks that will be asked of your processor, which will be the tasks of transforming the video so that it is correct to stream, these tasks you can put them on another more powerful computer.

This means that today the Peertube network can become totally more resilient and share video transformation tasks that are punctual: it’s when you upload a video or when you do a live, you have to transform the video. You can share these tasks on big machines that would be dedicated to that. That was a real technical challenge and we’re super proud to have fulfilled it because it makes Peertube even more flexible. And then in V6, we’ve just released the video preview when you hover over the playbar.

Walid : That’s cool. Yes, yes, yes.

Pouhiou : I missed it. The fact, so if the admins agree of course, but the fact that a videographer can upload a new version of his video, you see when there is an update to be made, when there is a version that was problematic and where we fixed the problems afterwards, etc. The fact that we can add chapters to his videos, and then we also did a lot of in-depth work to prepare for next year, I’m going to let Booteille speak for next year, a lot of in-depth work to improve accessibility to the maximum level of our knowledge before asking for a complete audit of the accessibility and therefore the ease of use of Peertube and especially the difficulties for people in situations back-to-school.

Booteille : Well, I’m going to talk about next year and by pressing this Audi of accessibility. So the work that has just been done is really preparatory work so that in 2024 we can really have a quality audit and on the question of, is Peetube accessible enough for people with disabilities or other. That’s it, it’s a big big project, we’re really happy because we manage to get funding for it, which is again a feature that is not sexy for most able-bodied people, but which for us, is very close to our hearts and which has required a lot of work already this year.

So, in next year’s roadmap, I said it a little bit earlier, but we were inspired by the proposals we had on So anyone can come and make proposals and we really, we pick every time we meet to make the roadmap, we pick from it. And so among the features we have planned, there is the import and export of accounts to be able to import your account. and finally export your Peertube account. So be careful, we’re not talking about migration, it’s not… it’s not going to be automatic at first, we go step by step but it’s really there it is: “I click on a button, it exports a Zip file or whatever. And then on another instance we will be able to import the account”. Don’t expect automagic at the moment, it’s a first step. But it’s already a step forward, it’s a feature that we’ve been thinking about for a long time, well, that we’d like to implement for a long time and we’ve been thinking about it a lot.

So be careful, this is a very complicated technical point to talk about techno that we use but we want to separate the audio and video streams and to be able to accept audio files only so that podcasts are more easily also hosted on Peertube but we really have a point of attention on this it’s in our desires we are working on it but we don’t know how technically feasible it will be the year next for today’s day.

Pouhiou : That’s why there’s a big break in the version we just released, it’s that we’re going to stop supporting WebRTC, right?

Booteille : WebTorrent.

Pouhiou : WebTorrent, WebRTC is still used, of course, sorry. WebTorrent in peer-to-peer video sharing and focus instead on the HLS part. Once again, it’s technical, but because by abandoning WebTorrent, it will allow what WebTorrent didn’t already allow, and therefore HLS, which was necessary especially for live. And what’s more, it will allow us to separate, for example, the audio-video streams. Separating audio-video streams is a first step that in the future could make it possible to have, for example, several videos with the same audio stream or several languages, which could be of interest to people like the European Commission, for example, for the same video.

Booteille : In the latest features we have planned for the moment, knowing that everything is alive, there is a desire to improve the range of moderation tools, in particular the moderation of comments, to make it much easier and more accessible for administrators, for content creators. There’s a lot of work to be done on that.

Two last points, a reflection on the categorization not safe for work (NSFW) or safe for work (SFW). We’re going to work with the internet cooperative , with whom we’ve already worked on this issue of how to better categorize content, especially sensitive content. So there you have it, it’s a job we’d like to do.

And finally, one of the objectives of Wicklow, our employee since September, is to start work on an official Peertube mobile application. Android and iOS app at first. We’d like to do Google TV too. The objective is to choose technologies, at least that allow us to adapt fairly well in the long term, in terms of the platforms that could adapt this application. So there you have it, it’s a pretty substantial roadmap with a lot of…

Pouhiou : Let me make one last point, Booteille too, there is also a work always with the internet cooperative, so there is a design service provider with whom we work very well, here it is, in a work of a complete remodeling of the Peertube interface which is starting to have its time, we can see there are places of problems simply because there are also features that have been added so Typically today, when you’re a content creator, the management of these videos is complex because there are so many possibilities, so now we’re going to rework all that and rework all of that with, first and foremost, a design survey, a survey of uses and starting from people’s uses to remodel the interface, and I think that’s already a very important job for us, It’s going to improve the effectiveness, but it’s also going to be hyper visible as soon as you change the interface, the menus, the colors, the things, the customization capabilities, it shows.

Walid : Two questions, I’m going to ask them together, otherwise I’m going to forget the second one, that’s for sure. The first is if you separate the audio and video streams, does that mean that tomorrow we could have transcription or that kind of thing, which is clearly a real issue for me. And I put the second one down right away before I forget. You were talking about making a mobile application, why not base it on applications such as Newpipe which can already allow you to retrieve streams from Peertube for example?

Pouhiou : For the first one, audio and video streams, in fact the question of transcription is independent of being able to separate audio and video streams.

So there you have it, but in any case, the question of transcription is being asked of us, in particular, by institutions. And now, it’s a project of one of the partners of the Peertube ecosystem to set this up and we are working with them so that it is a contribution that they make and that we support them as much as possible to integrate this contribution. But it’s clearly a need that we, too, have spotted.

And precisely, remote transcoding, the tool to be able to transfer a complex task in CPU to a remote computer, could also be used for this. Because again, transcribing audio into text and creating a transcript or subtitles, etc., is a task that is going to require a lot of work from the server CPU. And so, it’s a task that could also be proposed both in the body of Peertube but also as a separate task. So we’re trying to work on that.

So there you have it, but it’s not necessarily going to be us doing it, we’re just going to contribute. There you go.

Booteille : On the question of transcription, you should know that there is already a transcription plugin that has been developed by third parties, which can be integrated into Peertube, and from what I’ve seen, it works pretty well already.

So there you have it, you have to know that there is already an option, at least possible.

Pouhiou : And at the application level, one of the problems is to find PeerTube on the stores, on mobile uses, etc. As much as Newpipe is doing a really great job, for now it’s going to meet the needs that the first version of our app is going to do, i.e. just the needs of video consumption. But already, if you want to connect to your instance, which you would already like to put in the first version of the application, connect to your instance, have your playlists, have your subscriptions, have your notifications, etc., Well, that’s hard to find on third-party applications and we’re not necessarily going to ask Newpipe for it.

And behind that, what we like is that initially, this application will really be dedicated to the consumption of video content, so it’s really for viewers, but who can also make their playlists, manage their subscriptions, etc. And what we would like is that in the future, this application can also be used by video creators, possibly even to do a live live, and why not to instance moderators, administrators, etc.

So there you have it, and that’s something that we clearly can’t ask for as an evolution from third-party applications. So there you have it, we’re going to try to stick to it and then we’ll see if it takes, but we hope, we really see that mobile uses are essential today.

Introducing Peertube to a content creator on Youtube or to a Youtube user

Walid : We’re coming to the end. To conclude, I would like to ask you two questions. The first is what would you say to a content creator who is on youtube to talk to him about Peertube?

Pouhiou : so I like I already was I want you to relax content creator, I want you to relax, it’s totally possible that you have gotten so used to Youtube, that you have thought so much about your work according to Youtube because it’s very very very taking that suddenly Peertube does not meet your needs at all and your use case it’s ok, it’s okay, you’re not a bad person if you keep using Youtube. We relax, everything is fine, that’s the first thing.

On the other hand, you also have to be aware that you are hosted by Google or by Amazon and therefore you are hosted, you are at their place, literally and we really are, so without infantilization, but we are really in the case of Tanguy, who stays at mom Google and dad Amazon, you know. That is to say, at the same time, there is something super comfortable, you always have food in the fridge, you don’t necessarily take care of the cleaning, but at the same time you have to tidy up your room, you don’t choose what you are going to watch in the evening on TV, you can’t go on a porn frenzy the day you feel like it, or talk about rules at the dinner table, you know. Anyway, you’re not at home, you see, and that’s what’s complicated.

And so, well, the fact at some point to take your autonomy, so to use, for example, an empowerment and emancipation tool such as Peertube, it’s going to be both very liberating, it’s a wonderful adventure because really you can create a much more direct and much freer link between you and the community that follows your content and the community that creates content similar to yours and with whom you want to join forces. And at the same time, it’s extremely more work, investment, things like that. And so really what I want to say to you is, take it easy, take your time, that’s it, if you want to go in this process which is beautiful and magnificent, take your time, go quiet, don’t be isolated, surround yourself with people who look like you, with whom you tend to agree and all that, to try to find, or people who have already made your way, to try to find their tips, to share experience, etc. And take it one step at a time. There are a lot of people today who will maintain a YouTube or Twitch channel and a Peertube in parallel. The Peertube will either be a backup, etc. Or be rather highlighted on their site and all that, but we still use the web giants for the beginning. It’s totally ok to keep the two in parallel as well. But again, it’s more effort and good luck to you.

Walid : That’s a beautiful speech. So the second question for you Booteille, is what would you say to introduce Peertube to a YouTube user like me who is a big YouTube user?

Booteille : One of the feedback I get most often when I read Pierre Tube’s community, when he talks about it to other people, is that Peertube is reminiscent of the YouTube of its beginnings, of the first years of YouTube. That is to say, we will find a lot of content, but very different from each other, and there is sometimes a boring side because you say to yourself, “what the fuck are these videos, they are crazy”. And at the same time, there’s really something a little magical about the content that is created little by little and you can feel the freedom of people and their desire. I don’t know, sometimes you see videos of grandparents talking to their grandchildren, sometimes you see educational content, sometimes it’s music, there’s a little bit of all that and I think it’s really reminiscent of YouTube in the early years.

So it’s kind of finding that vibe there, knowing that suddenly there is no recommendation algorithm based on our behaviors and suddenly we get out of our comfortable bubble, out of our home with mom, dad, Google and Amazon.

We leave much more room for serendipity, the famous serendipity, that is to say that if we came across a video, we would never have gone to it, but bam, by chance, since the recommendation algorithm is extremely basic and is not based on our behaviors, I came across this video and I liked it. I’ve discovered a new person, I’ve discovered a new content creator who will make me want to do it. So there’s that, and then indeed, Peertube has its own flaws, especially in content discovery. We know that even if Sepia Search exists, so a search engine that allows you to search in the vast majority of what exists on Peertube, Sepia Search is not well known and it is not always easy to find what you want.

But since it’s free software and there’s a lot of hype around it, we put resources into it, people trust us to put resources into it, it’s free software that can only get better. Little by little, over time, you’re almost guaranteed to have software that literally rocks. I think it’s already tearing up today, but it can only get better.

Pouhiou : Just, when you were describing the act of hunting for videos and finding people’s shares, I had the image of a flea market. The magical and picturesque side sometimes.

Booteille : the messy side, I love it!

Pouhiou : and I’d like to add, since Frandasoft is in a donation campaign, and that if we make Peertubes, if we do things like this, it’s mainly thanks to people’s donations, that for the people who can and who like what we do, whether it’s Peertube or the rest, Don’t hesitate to support us with a donation, it’s safe it happens. If I hadn’t said that, I’d be remiss myself.


Walid : Finally, I would say that it reminds me a bit of Web1 communities, all that. After all these years of being locked up by web giants, so there you have it, this will be my personal conclusion.

Well listen, Booteille and Pouhiou, thank you very much for taking the time to come and present on Projets Libres! Peertube.

There will be a lot more to say about… There will be a lot of things to say about Framasoft, of course. But maybe that will be for a future show, who knows. I hope that my listeners listened to the end of the conversation, and that they learned things, and that it made them, for those who don’t know Peertube, want to try Peertube. Why not mount a Peertube instance?

Personally, what I think is great is the fact that I store a lot of old videos, stuff from the 80s and 90s, stuff that could not be uploaded elsewhere at all because there would be rights problems. I don’t necessarily want thousands of people to see them, but it’s the memory of our sport, and it’s accessible to those who want to. And I think that’s super important.

Peertube is really a very important software, that’s why I wanted to do a show about it.

So listen, thank you very much. And then, especially for you who listen to this podcast, don’t hesitate to see Peertube and talk about it around you and share this episode. There’s still a lot of great stuff coming in the coming months, so stay, come back, give me feedback, it’s always very nice.

Pouhiou : thank you for welcoming us and then for this great podcast, the free project, indeed, share it as much as possible around you, go listen to the other episodes. Too good, thank you.

Booteille : Thank you very much.

Walid : See you soon.

This episode was recorded on October 4, 2023.


This podcast is published under the double license Art Libre 1.3 or later – CC BY-SA 2.0 or later.

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