- YouTube launched nearly 15 years ago, in February 2005.
- Some of the stars from YouTube’s early days helped make the platform an essential part of internet culture.
- Here’s what those stars – ranging from Smosh to beauty influencer Michelle Phan – are up to today.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Nearly 15 years have passed since YouTube officially launched, ushering in an age where anyone with a camera could post videos to their own personal channel.
As YouTube continues to grow older, we took a look back at some of the stars who have helped make the platform an essential part of internet culture.
These creators were incredibly popular back in the earliest days of YouTube and still have fan bases numbering in the millions today.
Here’s what they’re up to now:
In 2005, Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla — or “Smosh,” as the duo is known — uploaded a video of them dancing along with the “Power Rangers” theme song.
Smosh became wildly successful and has amassed 24.5 million subscribers. Padilla left Smosh in 2017 to pursue his own YouTube channel and now has 3.4 million subscribers of his own. Hecox and the rest of the Smosh crew were supportive of Padilla’s desire to create his own videos.
When Freddie Wong started his YouTube channel in 2006, he focused on making short action films with a dose of comedy.
Wong developed his channel into a full-fledged production company called RocketJump. RocketJump has created multiple TV series for YouTube, including “Video Game High School,” which completed three seasons on YouTube. RocketJump has slowed video production in the past year but remains active on social media.
Michelle Phan started her beauty YouTube channel back in 2006. One tutorial, where she shows how she uses makeup to transform herself into a Barbie, has more than 67 million views.
Phan took a break from YouTube and social media in 2016 for personal reasons, but returned to public life after a year-long hiatus. She posted a final YouTube video in June 2017 explaining why she stepped away from the platform, but continues to work in the beauty industry as a more traditional model and spokeswoman.
Justine Ezarik — or “iJustine,” as she’s better known — launched her YouTube channel in 2006. A self-professed techie, her first viral hit was a video of her going through and commenting on her 300-page phone bill.
She now has nearly 6 million subscribers, and her videos have been viewed over 1 billion times. In 2017, Ezarik was named one of the top 10 influencers in tech by Forbes.
Soon after launching his channel in 2006, Ryan Higa became one of YouTube’s first huge stars.
Higa was one of the first YouTubers to get more than 1 billion views on his videos. He still hosts a podcast called “Off The Pill” and occasionally posts vlogs for his 21 million subscribers.
Grace Helbig started posting vlogs and silly lip-sync videos to YouTube in 2006.
More than a decade later, Helbig hosts her own podcast and has written two New York Times best-sellers, “Grace & Style” and “Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-Up.”
Comedy duo Nice Peter (Peter Shukoff) and EpicLloyd (Lloyd Ahlquist) started Epic Rap Battles in 2006. Their hilarious videos show two historical figures facing off in a duel of words.
With more than 14.5 million subscribers, Epic Rap Battles is still incredibly popular today. The duo has appeared in official YouTube ads and was nominated for an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Shortform Variety Series.”
David Choi started uploading his music videos to YouTube in 2006. He quickly grew a following both in the US and Asia.
In the years since, he’s released four full-length albums, and his songs have appeared in programming for NBC, Fox, E!, MTV, and more. While Choi still has less than 1 million subscribers, his videos have earned 109,256,557 views.
Tyler Oakley started posting his daily thoughts to YouTube in 2006.
These days, Oakley has more than 7.48 million subscribers. His videos about coming out have inspired a younger generation of YouTubers, including beauty and fashion guru Ingrid Nilsen.