Ten Years Of Watching The YouTube Elephant

Tomorrow, YouTube has its tenth birthday though nothing is as simple as that anymore. Feb. 14, 2005 is the day the YouTube domain name was registered but it wasn’t until April 23 that the first video was uploaded, that of co-founder Jawid Karim at the zoo.

The first sentence spoken on YouTube was: “All right, so here we are in the front of the elephants.” It has been seen 17,429,484 times since then.

(I notice that the business part of Karim’s narrative begins with “So,” and that was a long time ago. Author Michael Lewis claimed some Microsoft employees boast they started that irritating verbal style in 1999. Damn them.)

So, since then, Google acquired YouTube, and now are first- and second-largest search engines in the world. I won’t bother you with all the amazing stats about YouTube, but it posts random eye-popping numbers you can check out.



Here’s a sample: 323 days’ worth of YouTube videos are viewed every minute on Facebook. Given the very real advertising competition between those two giants, that’s a stat that’s both a boast and a problem.

So many trends have been born (and so many have since died) on YouTube. There are so many unlikely stars. Who could have predicted "Gangnam Style"? Who would have thought that YouTube videos of adults unwrapping toys would be so popular?

BuzzFeed reported that in one week in July, DisneyCollecterBR amassed 55 million views in the United States, more than any other YouTube channel.  

An excellent graphic from about the first decade says that early on Time magazine wrote that YouTube “makes you weep for the future of humanity just for the spelling alone, never mind the obscenity and the naked hatred.”  

True enough. YouTube is one graphic way we realized the innate viciousness of many people in this world and the generosity of spirit, too. Both extremes are worldwide phenomena that make you hate people and love them, too. It’s a site for cute kittens and ice bucket challenges — and for recruiting terrorists and uploading schoolyard beatings.

Google bought YouTube for $1.6 billion in 2006, and it’s now hard to extract YouTube’s revenues away from the parent company. But eMarketer estimated YouTube revenues were $1.13 billion in the U.S. last year and $2.8 billion worldwide. Analysts told Variety they estimate YouTube is now worth $26-$40 billion. I enjoyed reading a New York Times story earlier this week that warned Google’s search engine ad growth had “flattened out at about 20% a year for the last few years.” Is that “flattening?”

Meanwhile, the Times said, the drift is to mobile and video, so Google’s ad base is threatened. But oh yeah, it also owns YouTube.

I’d be curious about what the next decade of YouTube holds; I doubt it will look at all like it does now and I’d bet the separation between the user-generated stuff and the more monetized parts that make up YouTube’s preferred class will just get larger and that one or the other of them will be rebranded entirely.

But if Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and YouTube are teaching us anything, it is that video is taking over even the ordinary ways we communicate. YouTube, whether good or bad or repulsive and stupid, is a way of life. So it’s a very big elephant in this zoo.   
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