Imagine for a moment a kid in the 80’s who just watched Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” for the first time. He loves it and wants to watch it again right away, but has to wait for it to come around in MTV’s video rotation. Sounds pretty silly right? In 2011 that same kid would simply get up, walk to his computer, and type in YouTube.com. The popularity of YouTube is as sensational as it is widespread—company executives say the site uploads 48 hours of video every minute. But where did YouTube come from? How did it rise to success? Let’s take a look at the history of YouTube.
Though quickly abandoned, the idea of YouTube allegedly began as a video version of the dating site “Hot or Not”. The thought was to allow members to peruse video personals and rate other member’s videos. Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim would soon start an Internet revolution. On February 15th, 2005 the domain name YouTube.com was registered. In April of that year the first YouTube video was uploaded, featuring co-creator Jawed Karim in an inane eighteen-second clip called “Meet at the Zoo”. A few weeks later the public beta was offered and the website soon gained millions of dollars in investor support before its eventual December full release.The First YouTube Video
YouTube exploded in popularity, swallowing enormous gobs of bandwidth like a starving troll at a buffet. It’s viewership increased from dozens of daily views in May 05 to 50 million daily views in Dec. 05. By May 06 its videos reached 200 million daily views, and by August 06, 700 million daily views. This means that in less than 1 year of its full release, YouTube had become a defining site of the Internet. Despite overwhelming success, the best for YouTube was yet to come.
Encouraged by the rapid success of YouTube, Google bought the site wholesale for 1.65 billion dollars in October 06. In doing so, it acquired the Internet’s 3rd most popular site, making it the owner of 2 of the 3 most visited domains on the web (can you guess what #2 is?) Hint: you see it every time you look in the mirror.
By 2007, YouTube’s bandwidth exceeded that of the entire Internet circa 2000. To help conceptualize this, YouTube execs state that they upload 280 Exabytes of content each year (1EB = 1,000,000,000 GB). The largest (practical) consumer hard drive of today is 2TB (2,000 GB). Naturally, all of this content takes bandwidth to host, bandwidth cost money, YouTube bandwidth costs a lot of money (around 750 million/year). Because of this, despite its market-share (45%), despite its overwhelming popularity, despite its top 5 Alexa rank, YouTube operates in the red—generating only 250 million in advertising per year.
We have a lot to thank YouTube for. Many comedians and vloggers have made names for themselves through the use of YouTube. Charities have reached a wider audience than ever before. We also have YouTube to thank for the popularity of “Rick-Rolling” and “Laughing Baby”. So here’s to you YouTube, for 6 good years of fast loading video content and the internet revolution that came along with it.