This article is not intended to be an endorsement of PROPS’ ICO. My policy of waiting a significant amount of time after an ICO has completed before investing still stands.
PROPS, created by the company behind the YouNow video streaming platform, has been added to Coinlist.co, an ICO vetting website. The ICO launched yesterday, November 29th.
Normally, this writer avoids covering all ICOs, since they tend to be a crapshoot, as evidenced by yet another developer disappearance, this time the Ethereum-based Coinfido.
With all that said, it is worth keeping an eye on, because the project is interesting has significant backing and is far enough along that it doesn’t look like vaporware.
Coinlist attempts to provide some stability in the ICO space by offering compliance tools for coin developers. Ideally, that will make things easier for the developer and give some much-needed confidence to investors who have been previously burned by the likes of Coinfido. It is only accessible for accredited investors (Coinlist has a sister site for non-accredited investors). PROPS is the third project they have added to their approved list. The previous two are Filecoin and Blockstack. Both of those are still very much works-in-progress, so we will have to wait and see how safe Coinlist investments turn out to be.
While YouNow has been overtaken by the likes of Facebook Live and Periscope, it still has a strong core of users and content providers. It boasts over 40 million users and is currently listed as the #5 Top Grossing Social App on Google Play. Its main selling points are increased interactivity between broadcasters and fans and a virtual (not crypto) currency that can be shared two ways (broadcasters can give it out to fans, and fans can tip broadcasters). They claim over $60,000 worth of virtual currency transactions in a day.
Currently, the virtual currency in YouNow is stuck in the app until users cash out and turn it back into fiat. Nothing is held by the user, everything is done in the traditional, centralized ledger fashion. With PROPS and a new video streaming app Rize, set to launch in Q1 of 2017, users will hold and control a tangible crypto backed asset.
By adding a cryptocurrency backed token, everything becomes more immediate and real. Presumably, PROPS will be able to be transferred into any Ethereum wallet and to any exchange that supports it. Users won’t be reliant on YouNow to cash out and could easily trade it for any other cryptocurrency, including bitcoin. In modern social and content creation apps, only the most successful users make money, and even then, it is a small amount compared to the value they add to the network. The likes of Twitch and Facebook take a large tax. YouNow takes a smaller tax than most, 40%, but with a crypto token, that amount will be brought to practically zero.
YouNow and its current system won’t be going away overnight. People who like that platform will still be able to use it. Instead, PROPS will be designed to work with a multitude of apps, three of which are in development. The first, Rize, is currently in beta and is set to launch in Q1 of 2018. Early impressions are encouraging according to YouNow.
The plan is to encourage a majority of YouNow users to switch over to the new app, Rize. In addition to the cryptotoken, Rize will be providing interactivity tools so far unmatched in video streaming. Today’s apps are based on how communication has worked for humans since time in memorial. Even before electronics, speeches and entertainment came from one person or one group and was broadcast to many more people (either an in-person crowd or eventually over electronic mediums). It is what is now being called the “one-to-many” model. Despite some rudimentary efforts to add interactivity for the “many” in the internet age, chat boxes and hearts and the like, they are still primarily one person talking and a large group listening.
Rize is likely the first attempt to create a true many-to-many video streaming app. For starters, viewers can turn on their own streaming, allowing anyone else watching to see what they are doing. Broadcasters can pick any of them to add to the top of the screen, turning on their audio and essentially making them a temporary guest host.
If the host isn’t picking the people you want to hear from, Rize has a solution to that too. Viewers can invite friends or other viewers to join their group and the group can watch the broadcast together while hearing the other group members’ audio.
YouNow previously partnered with NBC, and they hope to use those connections to bring premium content to Rize. Tired of hearing Chris Collinsworth and Al Michaels announce Sunday Night Football? You may someday use the Rize app to pick your own announcers and be able to add your own commentary with all your friends virtually connected.
Everyone can tip anyone in the audience or broadcasting, allowing money to move freely amongst the group. Of course, the normal features of text chat and “liking” are still provided. What it adds up to is giving broadcasters a lot more to do. Rather than depending on their charisma to carry a broadcast, hosts can be helped by an event or their audience. Games are even being tested, including trivia, karaoke and party games like Mafia and One Night: Werewolf.
Senior Vice President of Business Development & Product Strategy at YouNow and the co-creator of PROPS Yonatan Sela gave me a demo of the in-progress app. Before writing about crypto, I spent some time covering social media sites and crowdfunded projects. Between that and covering crypto projects, I’ve seen my fair share of vaporware. I’d be extremely surprised if Rize didn’t at least launch. It seems close to completion. Its layout, while still being tweaked, looked clean and intuitive primarily utilizing a drag and drop approach. The streaming, albeit while only dealing with beta users, seems insanely quick. Sela regularly had three or four live video streams with no major hiccups. It is a bit like if Houseparty and Twitch had a love child.
Predicting a social media, streaming or chat app’s success is extremely difficult. Apps with big name players behind it often fall flat on their face. That said, Rize has a few advantages. The relatively small but extremely loyal user base of YouNow should seed Rize with a good start of users. The technology is obviously impressive and offers something nothing else currently does. Periscope and Facebook Live may have stolen some of YouNow’s thunder, but they can’t touch Rize’s interactivity.
To help with scaling, the app will include two currencies. One will be a traditional virtual currency. Some of that virtual currency will be given to users for free and can use it to tip other users. When users purchase the virtual currency through In-App purchases, YouNow will use those proceeds to purchase PROPS at market value and users who are gifted a lot of that virtual currency will be rewarded with PROPS.
If it all comes together, PROPS could be a great gateway for users to get into cryptocurrencies. People’s first experience with crypto might be getting tipped PROPS in Rize. To make it easier, users won’t be required to download or sign up for a separate Ethereum wallet, YouNow is working on a wallet designed specifically for PROPS.
There are some risks. A foundation is being created that will hold 50% of all PROPS and will handle the distribution to content creators. That does require a significant amount of trust. However, YouNow CEO Adi Sideman is openly heading the program, so any shenanigans will reflect badly on him.
If YouNow manages to bring over a significant amount of its 40 million users, this could be one of the first crypto projects to break into the mainstream.
And that would be good for PROPS, Ethereum, Bitcoin and the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem.