The Evolutionary History of YouTube

July 20, 2019
Talk Agency
Next year, the world’s biggest and best-known video site turns 15. From humble beginnings as a place for amateurs to upload videos to a platform that launches global cyber stars, YouTube continues to grow day by day.

Each month, more than 4 billion hours of video content are viewed. And for every minute that passes, users upload 72 hours worth of video content.

Without it, Gangnam Style would have been confined to the airwaves of South Korea. Rebecca Black would never have been so happy about Friday. And a prepubescent Justin Bieber wouldn’t have sung about his baby, baby baby.

Ok. So now that we’ve got the unfortunate side of YouTube out of the way, let’s take a look at the video-sharing giant from its early inception to how it went on to dominate the world.

Nip Slips and Tsunami’s

Ideas come to people at the strangest of times, and YouTube was no different.

If Janet Jackson hadn’t ‘accidentally on purpose’ displayed her breast to the world at the 2004 Super Bowl and the Indian Ocean tsunami didn’t devastate Southeast Asia, YouTube might not even exist today.

It was these key events that spawned the idea of an online video sharing platform, according to Jawed Karim, one of YouTube’s 3 founding partners.

While at a dinner party with Steve Chen and Chad Hurley who had worked with Karim at PayPal, the concept of an online place for amateurs to upload their video content was born.

On February 14th, 2005, a year after they came up with the idea, Chad Hurley register the domain, logo and trademark for YouTube setting it on its path to world domination.

YouTube Goes Live

Three months after YouTube was registered and trademarked, it’s very first home page went live when the beta version. One month later on April 23rd, the very first video was uploaded onto the platform.

Titled “Me at the zoo”, the 19 seconds long clip was uploaded by co-founder Jawed Karim. Filmed in front of the elephant enclosure at the San Diego Zoo, a baby-faced Karim spends 19 seconds talking about elephant trunks.

Just five months later, in September, Nike went on to become the first video to achieve 1 million views with their iconic Ronaldinho ad. This served to cement YouTube’s potential as a promotional platform for brands and businesses on a global scale.

YouTube Goes Public

In mid-December 2005, Sequoia Capital invested 3.5 million dollars into YouTube. This allowed YouTube to finally improve-it servers and increase its bandwidth so that it could launch itself as a public video sharing platform.

But it’s conceptual idea of being an amateur video sharing site changed come February 2006. It was this month that NBC asks YouTube to upload a clip from SNL titled Lazy Sunday.

This gave rise to YouTube content verification program, which was created to help content owners remove infringing video content uploaded by others. Ongoing promotions for NBC made Google stand up and pay attention to the potential of YouTube.

In Comes the Giant

October 2006 what was the month that Google purchased YouTube for a whopping $1.6 billion. The world’s largest search engine took YouTube and turned it into the world’s largest video sharing site.

When Google acquired YouTube, just 65 employees were working for the video-site – fewer people than those working in any single department today.

Google had already conquered the online revenue earning potential of AdSense; now it was time to let people monetise their video content.

Average Joe’s Making Moolah

May 2007 saw the introduction of the YouTube partner program. This was a crucial turning point in taking YouTube from a standard video sharing platform to one that would grow to be the world’s biggest.

It suddenly became possible for the everyday person to take their hobbies and turn them into an online business. Just 12 months later, the most popular users on the platform were already earning incomes consisting of six figures!

In fact, it wasn’t just hobbies and businesses making money. Who can forget baby Charlie biting his brother’s finger and giving an evil grin to the camera! This funny family moment caught on camera has earned the parents behind the video more than $175,000!

From cats and fails to makeup tutorials and cookery shows, YouTube became firmly established as a viable alternative to TV.

Greedy Old Google

August 2007 was the month that Google decided to start placing ads on videos to generate revenue.

Covering approximately 20% of the video screen, semi-transparent banners started to make an appearance. Of course, Google is a business and was looking for ways to monetise the website and ads seemed the natural way to go.

Giving rise to one of the biggest annoyances that viewers faced when watching content, it didn’t take long for AdBlock plus to make an appearance.

Going Mainstream and Vevo

January 2009 saw the launch of official congressional channels on YouTube. In February, even the Vatican got in on the action and launched its very own channel.

Then comes April 2009 – the year that the world’s ears were forever tortured with the high pitched vocals of Justin Bieber.

But going mainstream also caused a lot of tension within the music industry. Record labels started to complain about copyright infringement, licensing terms and piracy, and thus, Vevo was brought on board.

A joint agreement between Vevo and YouTube allowed the video-sharing platform to continue streaming mainstream music so long as the video content is uploaded and monetised by Vevo.

Transform your digital presence
Want to level up your digital marketing and understand what is going to truly move the needle for your brand or business? We have a range of digital marketing services to suit you!
View Capabilities
White arrow pointing right

Going Live & Democracy

2011 saw some pretty significant advancements that would shape at YouTube into what it is today.

In April, YouTube launched YouTube live, making it possible for video content to be live-streamed on the platform.

It also started to invest heavily in original content, carving out it’s very own Netflix Style programming and creating an online place for watching series and original movies.

Along with Twitter and Facebook, YouTube also played a pivotal role in the early stages of the Arab Spring.

Helping spread important messages covering everything from political commentary to protests and activist planning, it made it possible to empower freedom of speech and democracy.

Banging Out a Billion

At the end of December 2012 KPOP superstar PSY became a global sensation and went on to become YouTube’s most viewed video. Gangnam Style rapidly racked up over 1 billion views in 2012 and moved the goalposts for viewing goals.

By now, people were enjoying over 4 billion hours of viewed video content each month and uploading 72 hours worth of content every minute!

Dislikes Making a Mark

YouTube has been releasing a rewind video for the past few years. YouTube rewind looks back at the most significantly iconic moments on the platform over the past year.

But the 2018 video released by YouTube went on to become the platform’s most disliked video ever. Within a week of being uploaded and released, it attracted almost 10.3  million dislikes, surpassing the then most disliked video, Justin Bieber’s “Baby” (which had 9.9 million dislikes.)

This was one of the first times that audiences, creators and YouTubers clashed with the views of YouTube as a corporate giant. Many claimed that YouTube overlooked the efforts put in by content creators and instead focused on creating an ad and celebrating already known celebs such as Will Smith.

Viewers and creators wanted to know where Logan Paul and pewdiepie were. A few controversies seemed to break their relationship with YouTube. Which, in turn, broke the audience’s relationship with YouTube.

Making Millionaires

For quite a few years now, YouTube has been turning ordinary people into millionaires. In 2018, the highest-paid YouTubers were raking in double-digit millions.

  • PewDiePie – 15.5 million
  • Jacksepticeye -16 million
  • VanossGaming – 17 million
  • Markiplier – 17.5 million
  • Jeffree Star – 18 million
  • Ryan toysreview – 22 million

The biggest earner of 2018 hadn’t even reached his first decade of life before earning his family a multimillion-dollar income.

Business Sense

With social media and video content leading the way in an ever-connected online world, businesses realised the potential that online video offers their marketing strategies.

Other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have managed to forge their own paths in online video sharing. Gone are the days of sharing a video from YouTube to Facebook. They now make it possible for businesses to upload directly.

For now, YouTube doesn’t look set to hand over its video content crown anytime soon. But, as is true with everything online, things can change almost overnight.

That’s about it for today’s post. Why not head over to our blog and check out more of our social media posts.

White arrow pointing right