BitTubers Promises to Change Social Media as We Know It: Interview with CEO Saber Maram
The social media space is changing. Facebook is facing growing government scrutiny. Instagram is overflowing with ads, scams, and a complicated algorithm. As a content creator, it is up to you to know what is out there in the digital universe, and how you can utilize the existing and emerging technology to reach your audience, create new connections, and make money. There is a lot of chatter about emerging social media sites, so we sat down with Saber Maram, Founder and CEO of BitTubers, to talk about his growing business, and how it is changing the way content creators can use social media.
Saber, What Makes You Passionate About Blockchain and Crypto?
I have been passionate about crypto as long as I can remember. When I first learned about Bitcoin and later Ethereum, I got sucked in and never looked back. It started with a bit of trading, but before I knew it, I was figuring out how to cool 200 Vega 56 to mine my own coin.
Freedom is what makes me passionate about crypto. It is incredible to see how crypto (and other p2p/privacy solutions) can give freedom back to the people. The Silicon Valley giants are literally out of control in terms of censorship of your information, your money, and your associations. The only way for the Facebooks of this world to start caring about privacy and integrity is to offer an alternative that can take their users away. I am happy to see a growing interest in alternative platforms and the fact that more alternatives are coming out every day with interesting approaches (including BitTubers, of course).
How and Why Have You Decided to Start Your Own Crypto Business?
I had started looking into crypto development back in 2017, when the market was flooded with empty whitepapers and shiny websites. There were no working products, no real solutions and I wanted to change that.
I decided to build a new social media platform, where content creators determine its real value. They drive the attention and activity. This is the basic idea behind our ad-free AirTime monetization system: good content is valuable for the attention it generates and ads are an unnecessary middleman in-between that transaction. We want to foster a strong community and this means fostering the creators. They tell us what is important to them and we are developing BitTubers in a large part based on their feedback.
Could you please briefly explain what BitTubers.com is about?
BitTubers is a social network and video platform focused on freedom of speech and decentralization. It is an ‘all-in-one’ platform, where we combine and improve upon features of many of the established social networks. You can post text, images, videos, blog articles and create live streams. You can send and receive donations, set up patronage/premium tiers, manage groups and playlists and chat with others publicly and privately. The platform is currently in beta mode, with new features deployed weekly.
What is neat is that BitTubers does not have advertisements. It uses AirTime for content monetization for creators and viewers. AirTime is a blockchain-based solution and a core feature of the BitTube ecosystem. The ecosystem consists of BitTubers, the TUBE blockchain, the AirTime browser extension with free VPN, the BitTube Browser, the AirTime website module, several wallets and a messenger app, which is still in development.
What is Your Strategy?
Our goal is to introduce every BitTuber into the BitTube ecosystem to strengthen its economy and decentralized infrastructure. We want mass adoption. Our growth strategy is to position BitTubers horizontally into the marketplace of social media platforms, as an open and complementary platform, not a walled garden. By linking your other social accounts and websites (e.g. your YouTube channel) to BitTube, you can monetize all of your online activity simply by cross-publishing on BitTubers. On top of that, our patronage features will offer independent creators a much-needed alternative to Patreon, with all the added benefits of the platform itself.
How Long Has the Beta Version Been Running?
The open beta has been running since July 1, 2019. The mobile UI beta was released later that month. We have focused most of our time on improving performance and the user experience for mostly existing features. On our subreddit r/BitTube we maintain an incredibly long list of upcoming features.
Has the BitTubers Platform Been Growing?
Oh yes, our growth has been steady at 100-200 new users on most days. In the last 30 days, we have gone up by 3,000 users. We are at 11,200 unique users today. We are actually surprised how many non-crypto users are already finding their way onto BitTubers, without us marketing it. It tells us that the product is mainstream-ready, since regular people are comfortable signing up to such a brand new platform. As soon as we finish several key features for the ecosystem and the platform, we will begin heavy marketing. Assuming we manage to double or even triple our current adoption rate, we can expect to have around 50K-100K registered users by the first quarter 2020 and hope that it will snowball the adoption rate further into the millions within a couple of years.
Why Did You Choose to Relaunch the Platform a Year After its Initial Launch?
Late last year, we decided that we had to develop a new platform from the ground up. The original bit.tube was a minor success in the beginning, but there were many issues with it from a technical and design perspective. We kept running into problems with IPFS and the website was getting overrun with spam. Moreover, we realized that a video-only platform was fundamentally too limiting to achieve mass adoption. We had to either spend our valuable time retrofitting the existing application or spend the same amount of time starting from scratch. We chose the latter.
What Will the Final Release Look Like?
BitTubers has a digital currency, called $TUBE. How can this coin be used on the new platform?
It is hard to say. As far as I am concerned, there is no final state, as we must keep innovating to stay ahead of the curve. We will consider it finished once we are able to consolidate all of our social media needs and communications channels into BitTubers, including, for example, fully-fledged group chats with Telegram’s and Discord’s feature set.
Everything TUBE related is handled by the AirTime module. This is a standalone module people can add to their website to monetize their traffic. BitTubers itself is technically ‘crypto free’ in that it does not have a wallet service. This allows us (for now) to include PayPal as a payment method for purchasing memberships, which is more convenient for many newcomers and so important for on-boarding new members.
You earn TUBEs based on your AirTime (watch time). This goes for the ecosystem as a whole: AirTime can monetize everything via the browser extension and module. On BitTubers, at the moment you can use TUBE primarily to send and receive donations. More payment options are coming soon, such as paying for premium content, memberships and setting up patronage (recurring donations with tiers). Also, BitTubers uses an XP system (profile points) as an internal ‘currency’. You earn these XP points based on engagement and you can spend them on sharing and promoting your posts (and a lot more). You will be able to purchase XP with TUBEs, for example to pay for promo campaigns on the platform.
More generally, you can stake 2,500 or 25k TUBEs to upgrade your AirTime ‘user level’ to Pro or Addict. This will noticeably increase the amount of AirTime you can generate for yourself and others. If you are on the web 24/7 anyway, this is a smart way to increase your passive income as a viewer.
In the module, you can buy TUBEs directly without an exchange. We are happy that we have the licenses to operate our own banking and exchange services. In the extension, you can cash out TUBEs to your bank account directly. As you can imagine, it is a huge benefit that we can offer these services ourselves. They are paramount to introducing TUBE to new members without friction.
Lastly, we have been playing with the idea that users can invest (stake) their TUBEs assigned to a specific creator. This would boost (multiply) the creator’s AirTime. We have not announced such a system officially yet, so keep an eye on our Medium updates.
For Users and Creators on BitTubers, What Would be the Best Way to Get the Most Incentives in Tube?
To maximize your AirTime, you need to grow your audience. On BitTubers, we are developing many tools to promote your content. Post original content. To make your posts discoverable on BitTubers, you can use Topics (hashtags), establish and manage your own Groups. Other ways to maximize your TUBE earnings are related to the ecosystem. You can link all of your websites and social accounts to your BitTube account and monetize them. This means, when a BitTube extension user visits your linked accounts (such as your YouTube channel, Twitter or website), the AirTime generated will be credited in your name. Lastly and importantly, you can upgrade your BitTubers membership to Plus, Creator or Poweruser. These memberships unlock more topics, upload limits, concurrent live streams, and will be favored in some of the promotional algorithms.
How Does the BitTubers Team Work Together?
We are a team of about 20 people. Most of us work from our office in Tenerife, Spain, but some work remotely. I’d like to mention that technically, we have split BitTube into two independent companies: bittubeapp.com for AirTime monetization and crypto services, and bittubers.com. This way, we minimize certain risk factors from bleeding over onto unrelated products (e.g. copyrighted content on the platform shouldn’t give bittubeapp.com any grief). As the CEO, I mainly manage the AirTime product stack. Our CFO Kai-Uwe Schnier and CTO Markus Behm manage both sides in different capacities. For example, Markus is head developer for AirTime, and for BitTubers mostly manages the workflow implementation review.
We like to say that we are a business, not a “crypto project.” This mentality keeps us sharp and attentive. We are self-funded and there are no conflicts of interest. We are fully invested in the success of the ecosystem, and therefore value creation for TUBE. Therefore, our incentives are aligned with the wishes of our users and creators.
Interviewed by BMag Contributor @lordcatoshi