Initial PeerTube impressions and tips from a newbie creator

cross-posted from:

Hi all. I recently decided to try PeerTube as a creator, and was quite surprised by a lot of what I found. Thought a writeup from the perspective of a newbie to the platform might be useful for others who are considering it.

Disclaimer: Some of the following might not be entirely accurate but it’s just what I’ve picked up over the last week. Corrections and tips very welcome!

First up, I’m already a small-time craft YouTuber with around 7500 subs. Nothing earth-shattering, but enough to be pretty comfortable putting myself out there on the internet.

I’ve been on Mastodon about a year, and on Lemmy since just before the Great Migration, with two accounts and a decent amount of activity on both. I’ve also poked around various other Fedi bits like PixelFed, Bookwyrm, Firefish etc. So essentially I went into PeerTube thinking I knew what to expect.

Things learned:

  • It’s surprisingly difficult to find an instance.

The instance search is hard to find, and then it’s very limited with only 25 results (many of which are private). It claims to be pulling from this much larger list, so idk what the problem is there. The first time I tried to join PT, this was my stopping point.

I’ve now joined MakerTube, an instance dedicated to makers, artists etc. This fits my content perfectly, but the only way I heard about it was word of mouth. How many other budding instances are out there with no way to tell us about it? Who knows.

Instances need a way to be found, and people need a way to find instances. In the meantime this is a huge barrier to adoption, so if you know of a cool instance drop it down in the replies and help people out!

  • Account vs channel

On signup you’re asked to create an account with a username, and then can optionally create a channel if you want to upload videos. Pretty standard stuff, you might think? Nah.

Most of your subscribers will be on Mastodon. It’s the biggest Fedi service by far, I imagine very few people are actually signed up on PT as a viewer account. The issue here is that when videos are federated to Mastodon, it’s from your user account and not your channel so they all end up following the user instead.

This gets your videos to your subscribers just fine, but does make your channel sub count look a bit anaemic 😅

So yeah, learn from my mistakes. If you want your subscribers to see videos coming from your actual branded channel name, you need to make sure that’s your user account name instead and then use channels more like playlists. And no, you can’t use the same name for both, I tried that already!

  • Categories are useless, tags are not

Much like YouTube, the default categories on PeerTube are extremely limited to the point of being useless. There is a plugin instance owners can run to add custom categories for their instance, but whether that gets federated out in a useful way I couldn’t tell you.

Tags, however, are interesting. I’ve not seen them used anywhere in the PT interface, presumably they’re used in search. But remember what we said about most of your subs being from Mastodon?

It turns out when you publish a video with a tag like “cross stitch”, spaces will be removed and it’ll be added as a Mastodon hashtag “”. So anyone following that tag, can see it. Pretty sure I’ve had a few subs just from that feature alone, although the first time my own face popped up in my feed unexpectedly it was a bit of a jump scare.

  • Licences

When you upload a video you’ll be asked to pick a licence from a list, and no further info or explanation is given on what any of them mean. It turns out, as far as I can tell, they map to the general Creative Commons licences here. But it’s very much not explicit and I was surprised to find it so difficult to dig up info on what they are.

  • Viewers won’t just come to you organically because search is bad

PeerTube from the viewer’s side is actually a LOT worse than from the creator side. So it makes sense that there are very few viewers. I’m hopeful that as the experience gets a bit smoother it’ll become more natural for people to discover channels, but so far it’s pretty terrible.

The main issue is that search is almost unusable, and I am absolutely not the sort of person who throws around the word “unusable”.

Rather than the organic federated search results of Masto or Lemmy it seems like on PeerTube your results are dictated in large part by your admin’s settings, and choices they’ve made about where to pull from. So assuming you can find a suitable looking instance, this might be something you want to ask your admin about.

There is something approaching a global search, but assuming you find and remember to use it you’ll get duplicate results in just about the most inefficient layout I’ve ever seen in my life.

  • Sorting algorithms? Also bad

Since I joined MakerTube last week, the default homepage sort of “hot” has shown the same first few results without change. Some as much as two months old.

It’s a similar problem to the ones Lemmy was having, and those only started to be looked at seriously once we had bigger numbers and people started complaining about seeing the same posts over and over. So again hopefully as more creators take the plunge and more viewers show up, these things will be dealt with.

  • Enough whinging

There’s plenty to like about PeerTube. I love the idea of a themed instance. I love how easy it is to import my back catalogue. I love the wider Fediverse integration and how easy it is for someone on another service to follow my channel from there. I love that Jan Beta chose the same instance as me, it makes me feel cool seeing his videos next to mine.

But I’ve seen various discussions with people noping out of PeerTube based on hitting the same roadbumps I did. So if this post helped, great. If you want to ask questions, feel free.

And if you happen to be into kind of awkward crafting videos, well, you know where to find me!

MetaStatistical, avatar

I had a similar experience. I like the idea of PeerTube, but not the execution. It needs significant improvements to make it more friendly for viewers to use as a video portal, rather than relying on subscribers and platforms like Mastodon to fill that gap.

thegiddystitcher, avatar

Yeah seems like we had similar first impressions. Your point about people dumping a back-catalogue and then not making new content is a good one too, seen a lot of that myself.

On the other version of this post, the dev actually chimed in and among other things suggested that it might be possible to start enabling global search on servers by default. Which, if this is a possibility I’m not sure why it wasn’t done a long time ago…presumably there is a good reason buried in an old discussion thread somewhere. But it’s encouraging that it is a possibility, at least.

I’m by no means expecting this to become a new YouTube, there’s just not enough content for that. But of course, if people keep not using it because there’s no content, there’ll never be content. So I’m happy to be part of the experiment, and I make new videos most weeks so even once my own back-catalogue-dumping is complete at least there’ll be something new going up there. Even if it’s a bit less “tech and video games” than 99.9% of what people watch over there 😄

(off to watch your Outer Wilds video now, I’m a sucker for anything Outer Wilds)

ttmrichter, avatar

From the viewer side, yes, PeerTube is terrible. I don’t waste my time with it.

thegiddystitcher, avatar

Honestly fair, I found a couple of things to subscribe to but I also did it through Mastodon 😄

Excrubulent, avatar

I had a similar issue, but I didn’t dig quite so deep as you did. Basically I couldn’t find any good instances, in fact the ones I could find were one with just a single anti-vax conspiracy theorist, and then the next one had Alex Jones and Steven Crowder. Like no shit I immediately stumbled on the archdemon instance.

After that I kind of just got a bit skeeved out by it and stopped looking. One thing I found really frustrating was that I couldn’t find any way to look at the networks like I could with lemmy. I think there needs to be a better way in general to view federation status between activitypub instances, because it’s really invisible at the moment. Particularly I want to be able to see the pariah instances, and things like… idk… have they defederated from the archdemon instance? That sort of thing is important to me.

Also loads of them weren’t available to sign up as a creator, so that’s yet another barrier. I’m still looking for good ones but I’m not ready to dedicate real time to it just yet.

thegiddystitcher, avatar

Yeah it’s weird, I’m not familiar enough with the project yet to know if these roadblocks are idealogical and done on purpose, or if it just needs someone to come along and help smooth the whole experience out 🤷‍♀️

Excrubulent, (edited ) avatar

I really doubt it’s on purpose. The hyper-streamlined onboarding of modern centralised platforms like youtube come from decades of R&D fueling the capitalist need for ceaseless growth. This is a completely new system and whilst we can take some lessons - like how to make a link aggregator work or how to structure comment threads, there are a bunch of extra new challenges.

Like how do you link between instances in a way that is unambiguous and seamless for all users and guests, even if those links are in comments? How do you visualise federation networks? How do you help people decide between instances? How do you deal with the fact that anyone can make an instance because it’s an open platform?

This is relatively speaking an immature platform and framework, and one of the issues with FOSS software is that it has less resources because developers are monopolised by the tech industry, and it doesn’t have that same drive towards infinite growth. It’s inherently going to be slower. The thing that I have seen though is that without the same constant crises and collapses and shakeups that happen in the proprietary capitalist world, its growth tends to be much more steady. It’s a process of slow attrition, but the growth it gets it tends to keep. Like now that you’re on lemmy/kbin, would you go back to reddit? I know I wouldn’t. These transitions take years, they always have.

I’m sure the same thing will happen with peertube in time. It just needs a big shakeup with youtube and a stronger fediverse behind it when it happens. It’s got a bigger barrier to growth in terms of server capacity, but I think if the fediverse grows enough that won’t be a big issue. Server costs aren’t that much for people to handle as long as they’re evenly distributed.

dameoutlaw, avatar

I believe PeerTube has great potential if just shown some love and attention

thegiddystitcher, avatar

Absolutely! I’m not convinced the model could ever really scale like most people would need it to in order to start using it, but I’m very happy to be part of the experiment.

MxRemy, avatar

Thanks, this was really informative! I’ve only been on the viewer side of Peertube, but I’m a fan for sure. From that perspective, another thing is that I really wish there was a better app for it. Thorium hasn’t been updated in ages, and it’s super glitchy.

thegiddystitcher, avatar

Yes, I forgot to mention the app situation (or lack thereof). I saw reference to Thorium in a few Github discussions but was very disappointed by it. A good app would be a gamechanger.

I’m curious how you chose an instance as a viewer? Just based on where the channel(s) are that you want to follow?

rubikcuber, avatar

I saw your channel on maker tube (I think) today when I was looking for Jan Beta’s channel! You can use NewPipe (Android) as an app for Peertube, but it’s a bit fiddly in your normal Fediverse style when trying to find and sub to people/channels. Also, I don’t think you really subscribe via NewPipe. Subscriptions are just local and it doesn’t use a Fediverse account.

thegiddystitcher, avatar

Truly is a small world, hah! I’ve heard of NewPipe but that’s as far as that goes really, will have to check it out. Thanks for the tip!


NewPipe is great for downloading especially with ReVanced integration.

MxRemy, avatar

I went with, but my subscriptions are allllll over the place. I have roughly the same approach to choosing an instance on every platform:

  • Not the flagship instance or one that’s similarly huge.
  • Not one that’s miniscule either.
  • Running as close to the latest version of the software as possible.
  • Then and only then do I start comparing rules, cool content, etc.
thegiddystitcher, avatar

Sounds very similar to my process! Great minds, and all that.

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