YouTube, an Internet juggernaut

Youtube collage

YouTube is one of the Internet’s most-loved sites. Every day billions of people around the world watch videos on YouTube to feel happy, get educated, find out information, watch how other people live or simply connect with people who think they same way they do.

In a nutshell, YouTube is a video-sharing site where people (no matter who and where you are) can upload, view and share videos, that are entirely user-generated, on the Internet. This behemoth was founded by three former Paypal employees in February 2005 but its official launch only came in December 2005. It was purchased by Google in October 2006.

This site makes use of Adobe Flash video and HTML5 technology to display videos but in 2006 it became possible to upload 3D videos. The first video ever uploaded on YouTube was “Me at the zoo” by co-founder of YouTube, Jawed Karim. This YouTube first shows exactly what the site is all about – ordinary people being given the ability to show others how they live and share seemingly-ordinary moments in time.

In 2005, the first video to hit the one-million view mark on YouTube was a Nike ad. This Nike ad featured soccer legend Ronaldinho putting on a new pair of Nike boots and then proceeding to show off his exceptional ball-juggling skills (thanks to the Nike boots, of course). This was the beginning of what we now know as viral videos.

The video that has seen the most views in the history of YouTube (and probably any other video-sharing site) is “Gangnam Style” by Korean popstar, Psy – a video I’m sure all of you have seen. Last time I checked the official video was approaching the 2-billion view mark and it’s still growing! Some of the other most-watched videos include “Baby” by Justin Bieber and “Charlie Bit My Finger – Again!”.

Anyone can create a YouTube channel and upload any content on it that they want to. People then subscribe to a particular channel so that they get updates of the channel’s activity and get to see the latest uploads first. Some of the most popular channels include PewDiePie (a Swede who uploads funny gaming videos), Jenna Marbles, Smosh (a web comedy duo) and YouTube Spotlight. Most of these channels have upwards of 10 million subscribers.

Many people who have channels on YouTube are mostly ordinary people like you and me (with a few corporations and businesses peppered in) who like to vlog about their lives. A vlog is another name for video blog or video log. These videos are a means with which people document their daily lives and then showcase it to the world. Take the CTFxC channel for instance. It’s channel where a young couple share videos of their everyday activities. They have been making videos every day for about five years now and hold the Guinness World Record for the most consecutive number of vlogs uploaded to YouTube (the number currently stands at 1,657 videos).

There are many people who might be wondering how Youtubers make money from creating video content. In May of 2007, YouTube launched their Partner Program. This program allows Youtubers to monetize their channels. In other words, once you have a verified account and have created original content (no copyright infringements and so forth), you can sign up to have this monetization feature. You are asked to associate your channel to an Adsense account. By accepting a monetization agreement, you give YouTube permission to place ads on some of your videos (you can choose which ads and on what videos they are displayed). You will then receive payment from the revenue of these ads. The amount you receive will depend on the types of ads you allow and what the pricing of these ads are.

A controversial part of YouTube has always been the video comment section. Over the years it has become a breeding ground for trolls or people who deliberately get others riled up by being rude, disrespectful or just plain mean. One of the ways YouTube have now been trying to counteract this negativity in their comments section is by connecting everyone to their public Google+ account (a move only made this year). This way people cannot comment nasty things without all of their connections knowing about it. Time will tell if this works but at the moment it seems regular Youtubers have not taken kindly to this invasion of privacy. Comment sections have been taken over by protests from a character named “Bob” that people copy and paste in the hopes that the old comments section will return and remove the dominance of Google+ in their lives. However, Google seems to be fighting back against “Bob” by banning users who sign or share petitions to remove the new comment section.

YouTube not only provides entertainment but has proven itself to be instrumental in more critical world issues. When Egyptians started to protest against the ruling government in 2011, YouTube videos brought it to the attention of the world. Many people would not have been aware of the revolution occurring in Egypt were it not for the fact that Egyptians had been given a platform through YouTube (and other social media sites like Facebook). It gave human rights activists an opportunity to show what is really going on during the protests in terms of police brutality and so gather support as well as create awareness for the Egyptian people’s story without the filter some news networks choose to place on their news.

Some other milestones that indicate that YouTube is a consistently growing entity is the provision of movie rentals from big companies like Paramount, live streaming of concerts and big events like the Olympics and the launch of Vevo, a music video service that has all of the big names in music attached to it.

There is no doubt that YouTube will continue to thrive because of the appeal it has for ordinary people and big corporations alike. It has become a way to connect with a worldwide community – people who may never have met people from other cultures or other places in the world can now talk and bond via videos. It has also created a new wave of young entrepreneurs who now see the Internet as a viable way to make a living through unleashing their creativity – something that may not have been welcomed before the age of YouTube.