In the year of 2005, the internet was in its early developments of showing potential for socialisation. Yet, only a sole few took it upon themselves to implement their ideas into the world wide web’s many possibilities. This was true for Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim; the inventors of the site YouTube.
It’s rumoured to begin with a simple realisation. During the halftime performance at the 2004 Superbowl, Janet Jackson’s breast was accidentally revealed. Karim searched much of the internet for footage and couldn’t find it anywhere. This triggered him to question why was there no single site where all videos can easily be shared.
The question seems like the most simple of concepts now. But to think this resource wasn’t available just twelve years ago proves how quickly our society is progressing into the internet. All it took was a bit of frustration in attempting to discover accidental cleavage that created what would eventually become the second largest website in the world.
2005 - The first steps
The domain youtube.com was adopted in February of 2005. In the following months, the website went through its early development stages. Incorporating the basic elements we’re fondly aware of; the commenting system, individual channels, and the fundamentals for uploading. By April 23rd, the first video went live. Entitled Me at the zoo, co-founder Karim gives a quick ramble about a few elephants standing behind him.
By May, the site was offered to the public as a beta test. For the most part, the remainder of 2005 was nothing more than just experimental ground with little to witness. The founders were still working out of a garage and trying to figure out a way to bring their platform worldwide. Eventually, Sequoia Capital saw the potential and invested $3.5 million.
Around the same time, the soon-to-be YouTube celebrity channel known as Smosh uploaded their first videos. Doing nothing more than using a poor-quality webcam to record themselves lip-syncing popular theme songs. They are now renowned for their contributions to the site’s earliest popular creations.
2006 to 2007 - Soaring popularity
In 2006, YouTube was offering group functions, personalized profiles, video responses, cell phone uploads, and a viewing history. With all that, it was also uncovering a largely growing audience. In the summer of 2006, the site was hosting 65,000 new uploads per day and receiving a daily dose of 100 million views.
Far passing MySpace in terms of giving a personalised experience, YouTube also gained approval from many different companies. All of which used the site as a powerful source for their online marketing. Within the span of a year and a half, YouTube became one of the most thriving platforms on the world wide web. And it wasn’t long before content creators began seeing the platform as a marketing tool for themselves.
People like Philip Defranco and Justine Ezarik were, at the time, your everyday stranger going about their everyday lives. With YouTube at their disposal, they were suddenly entertainers to an audience. Defranco began by discussing subjects that mattered to him whether it be in current events or his personal life. Ezarik began as a reporter-like video journalist for the show The Kill Point. Then she uploaded a viral video onto YouTube that explored the recent billing issues of Apple’s iPhone. Through these online publications, both Defranco and Ezarik gained a great sum of internet recognition.
The early days of YouTube are now somewhat underrated. High definition cameras were still too pricey and, inevitably, early creators were forced to use whatever they had. Usually being a standard definition camcorder or a grainy webcam. The footage was thrown together on Window’s Movie Maker or some premature version of iMovie. Still, even with these limitations, the first YouTubers didn’t hesitate to take a shot at broadcasting themselves. And the audience never doubted the entertainment that came out of witnessing your everyday stranger suddenly becoming a character.
For, at the time, there was much intrigue in YouTube’s algorithm. The capability of recording your interests and connecting with strangers was, in a way, revolutionary. Never in any prior generation were people offered this capability. And the potential it held in creation/marketing value was still widely unknown. YouTube was new and just waiting to be unearthed by the current generation, making a mark that will forever belong to our era.
The website also solemnly coincided with the recent luxury of film equipment’s easy access. Whether you’re a makeup artist, a comedian, or simply a soul just looking to spread an idea, YouTube had become a haven to finally share that talent with the world.
On October 9th, 2006, Google was so fully aware of the website’s great potential, they purchased it for $1.65 billion. Though YouTube was still being run by Hurley, Chen, and Karim - they now had 67 people working under their command within Google’s cozy offices.
As content creators began gaining more publicity, Time magazine rewarded YouTube as its 2006 ‘Person of the Year’. The cover featuring a mirror within a computer screen to give tribute to a platform entirely decided by individual’s capabilities.
By the end of 2006, YouTube was well on its way to becoming something big. As 2007 rolled through, the site was estimated to consume just as much bandwidth as the entire internet did in 2000. A YouTube award ceremony was officially launched. And CNN was now working side by side with the platform for new means of broadcasting the presidential debates.
With the soaring popularity came a variety of personalities beginning to take their chance with the new reality of the internet. As YouTube continued to develop, the influx of content creators were truly the ones to make something special out of such a simple idea. Their distinctly millennial characteristics and strong talents in amusement changed the way the world perceived entertainment.
By Paul James, freelance journalist
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