For years video platforms have been dominated by Youtube, part of Google and an effective monopoly. This has created a number of problems and tensions which have only gotten worse with time. Time to consider some alternatives.
Youtube is so ubiquitous that my spell checker keeps reminding me every time I don’t capitalise the t, I don’t really think I need to explain the company and its services to anyone who regularly uses the internet its become so big and omnipresent. The problems with youtube are also quite well known, shady companies exploiting the copyright system to the fullest, extremist groups and paedophiles exploiting loopholes to network, advertise and groom, intrusive advertising (I’ve turned off all data personalisation and I regularly get bombarded with adverts for cults) abusive and toxic comment sections, targeted abuse and harassment etc.
There are also other issues with the platform that are less well known because they’re much harder to prove unless you’re on the receiving end. Channels and videos locked into private for violating somekind of community guideline, but the system won’t tell you what guideline or what exactly was causing the issue, blacklisting from the powerful algorithms that account for over 90% of audience exposure, removal of features that certain niche channels like content for disabled viewers depend on, or marking LGBTQ content across the board as adult only regardless of what the actual content of the video is.
The constant headaches and bottle necking and threats of takedowns, strikes and bans has caused many to lament that there is no alternative to the behemoth.
Of course there are alternatives, thousands of them, the problem is many of them have their own drawbacks or are actively trying to ape youtube and replace it. Libcom for example used to have an account with Vimeo called libcom Tv, and it was mainly used to host documentaries, if you go on the video tab in the library most of the old pages are these. Its been deleted and most of those videos are gone. I’ve replaced a couple when I’ve found versions of them elsewhere, but it demonstrates one of the problems with some of the alternatives.
One of the alternatives I’ve been interested in for a few years which I feel has promise is Peertube. Peertube is a bit hard for me to explain but they have helpfully made several easy to understand videos explaining it in many languages.
Most of it is beyond comprehension honestly, but that’s mostly for people wishing to set up their own server, if like me you just want to watch videos and maybe set up an account and upload and share than its pretty straight forward, just find a server you like and go through the sign up process.
Over several years I’ve been on a few servers and some have died or become abandoned, but overall the indications are healthy, its regularly updated, more features have been added, its more stable and the number of servers being setup, the number of videos and the number of views are also going up as the service grows in popularity. When I first started using Peertube even the introduction video on the web page of the team that developed it had just over 10,000 views, now I’ve encountered videos with just under a million.
Its also open source and decentralised so more tech savvy types can customise and network a lot more effectively. It also has the ability to download videos and torrent them built into the webplayer which greatly helps preserving material.
Its proved an attractive model for two groups of Anarchists that have years of experience making video content to educate and propagandise online.
Welcome to Kolektiva, an open-source platform for hosting anarchist videos from around the world. Our goal with Kolektiva is to help increase communication and material solidarity across borders and linguistic divides. If you are interested in getting involved – whether through hosting your content with us, or helping out with translation – please contact us at
Kolektiva went public four months ago and was setup by two groups Sub.Media and Antimidia, both of whom have been around for a long time and have video content of extremely high production value. Curiously both have very little traction on youtube. You might think this is because there’s not much appetite amongst a mainstream audience for anarchist videos and investigative reporting on Canadian military and police attacks on indigenous communities, but the recent explosion in popularity of the “Breadtube” a collection of amateur leftist youtube personalities shows that isn’t the case. I’ve also been subscribed to Sub.media for years and have done all of the algorithim pleasing things, liking, faving, sharing etc, but they’ve never popped up in my recommendation feeds.
And looking at the viewing figures for new releases on their Kolektiva and youtube channels they tend to get about a tenth of the views on Kolektiva, keep in mind this is on a new platform that most people including the core intended audience don’t know exists. I also thought it was strange how most of Sub’s videos ended with requests for viewers to subscribe to an e-mail list to ensure they were notified of new releases. So it does seem like the group’s misgivings about youtube and the other big social media companies are well founded.
Our goal with Kolektiva is to provide a new digital platform for anarchist and anti-colonial filmmakers, collectives, and movements around the world.
To share action reports, news, analysis, short films, documentaries, and other video content, with a global audience.
In a time when far too much radical media content is held hostage to the algorithms of tech capitalists like facebook, google and twitter, Kolektiva will be a free, open-source alternative built on the PeerTube framework and hosted on secure servers, run and maintained by anarchists.
Another important goal of this project will be to help facilitate the translation of videos into multiple languages as a way of sharing our different perspectives, stimulating increased interaction and cooperation, and breaking down the divisions caused by state-imposed borders, travel restrictions, colonial occupations, and the poison of nationalism.
I’ve been using Kolektiva for about two months, and so far I’ve seen positive signs of growth and progress on all of these goals. There is already a lot of diverse content on their from short films, punk music, lectures and documentaries, to animations and footage of street battles and protest successes. Much is either not available on other sites or is buried. Its features also make it easier to translate content, two of my uploads now have French subtitles and I’ve seen groups like Antimidia release more content with subtitles and narration in other languages. And as the server federates with more servers and the word is spread increasing the userbase and viewership views and sharing of content has been steadily increasing.
Hopefully this will continue, and I enthusiastically recommend them to any casual reader of libcom.org and sites like it. https://kolektiva.media/
Its not a Youtube replacement, and I doubt it ever will be, even Antimidia and Sub.media the two groups most responsible for its creation still maintain youtube channels, and I do as well, but I’m finding it to be a viable way to back up content and share it with an audience. I don’t think I’ll have to mute comment notification there anytime soon.
So yes this may be a bit optimistic and dangerously close to advertising (though alas unpaid), but I’ve been on youtube for over 10 years and it has steadily grown more and more hostile an environment and a business as its gone on and the recent changes to American users, which means that it will now be putting even more adverts on the platform and essentially declaring user autonomy to be dead, its only going to get worse.
Oh and a quick note on adblockers, they’re great I use them all the time, but they’re not infallible platforms like Twitch and youtube are putting more resources into countering them, and sadly a growing number of adblock plugin developers are essentially selling out and deactivating them on sites that cut them a deal. By all means keep using ones that still work, and consider switching to an open source one for greater longevity and effectiveness, but ads are only a fraction of the problems using the modern internet and the services provided by big tech and software corporations.