YouTube is the world’s most popular online video site, with users watching 4 billion hours worth of video each month, and uploading 72 hours worth of video every minute.Since its inception in 2005, YouTube has grown from a site devoted to amateur videos to one that distributes original content.
It played an instrumental role during the Arab Spring, and has also helped jumpstart the careers of Justin Bieber and Korean pop sensation Psy.
Before Feb. 14, 2005, very few people had ever even heard the name 'YouTube.' It was founded by former PayPal employees Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim. The idea was born at a dinner party in San Francisco about a year before the official launch.
Karim's idea for what became YouTube came from two key events in 2004: Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl, and the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean, Karim told USA Today back in 2006.
Wow. It's amazing how much YouTube's homepage has evolved since its very first one in 2005.
On April 23, 2005, YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim posted the very first video to YouTube, entitled 'Me at the Zoo.' The video is exactly how it sounds: Karim at the San Diego zoo standing in front of the elephants and talking about their trunks.
The video was a Nike ad that went viral. It was a clip of Brazilian soccer player Ronaldinho receiving his pair of Golden Boots. Nike was also one of the first major companies to embrace YouTube's promotional potential.
Following a $3.5 million investment from Sequoia Capital in November 2005, YouTube was able to increase its bandwidth, improve its servers, and launch to the public.
YouTube struck a deal with NBC in June 2006, helping the traditional media company enter the new digital age
In February 2006, NBC asked YouTube to pull a clip from Saturday Night Live called 'Lazy Sunday,' which ended up attracting a lot of attention to the video-sharing site. YouTube complied and in October 2007, it launched its Content Verification Program to help content owners like NBC locate and remove video that infringes on their copyrights.
But flash forward a few months, and NBC changed its tune. As part of the deal, YouTube would promote NBC's fall TV lineup. This deal marked the beginning of several key partnerships with content providers later down the road.
Google saw the potential in YouTube and acquired the video-sharing site for $1.65 billion in October 2006
Google acquired the rapidly growing video-sharing site for more $1.65 billion. At the time Google called it 'the next step in the evolution of the Internet.' At the time, YouTube only had roughly 65 employees.
This was the first time YouTube made it possible for everyday people to turn their hobbies into a business. About a year later, the most successful users were earning six-figure incomes from YouTube, The New York Times reported in 2008.
Michael Buckley, for example, was able to quit his day job after he realised his YouTube show, The What The Buck Show, earned him more money than the salary from his job as an administrative assistant at a music promotion company.
In July 2007, YouTube teamed up with CNN to host the presidential debate for the 2008 election cycle
Seven out of the 16 presidential candidates announced their campaigns via YouTube. In July, YouTube and CNN hosted their first presidential debate, featuring citizen-submitted video questions.
This was also the first time in presidential debate history where user-generated video drove the debate.
Google decided it was time to start making money and rolled out the first ads for YouTube in August 2007
The first advertisements were semi-transparent banners that popped up on the lower 20% of videos. The overlaid ads would appear about 10 to 15 seconds into the video. It was Google's first response to questions about how the search giant would make money from its video site.
In January 2009, the 111th U.S. Congress hopped on the bandwagon and launched official Congressional YouTube channels. Doing so has helped American citizens attain a level of access to the government that was never before possible.
A month later, The Vatican launched its own YouTube channel.
This was YouTube's first move to fix its relationship with music companies, which had complained about piracy and unfair licensing terms.
As part of YouTube and Vevo's agreement, Vevo is free to distribute its music videos on YouTube and YouTube is able to keep showing music videos from big labels.
Now, YouTube is looking to make a $50 million investment in the company at a $500 million valuation.
YouTube's entrance into Netflix and Apple's turf marked the first time it became clear YouTube was trying to be more than just an amateur video-sharing site.
It started with a few movies that did well at Sundance, and has since grown to offer movies from companies including Paramount, Disney, NBC/Universal, Sony, and Warner Brothers.
Dan Savage launched the 'It Gets Better' campaign on YouTube to send messages of hope to LGBTQ teenagers who felt bullied or ostracized because of their sexuality.
The campaign ended up going viral, and even President Barack Obama participated.
In April 2011, YouTube officially entered the broadcast business with the launch of YouTube Live. YouTube Live has allowed the site to stream everything from concerts to news coverage to the royal wedding to the Olympics.
Google paid more than $100 million to content creators to make videos exclusively for YouTube, Peter Kafka of AllThingsD reported in October 2011.
Now, YouTube is acting even more like a traditional television network and only renewing shows that do well. Some of the more popular channels include MondoMedia, Howcast, Jay Z's Life + Times, and TheOnion.
During the 2011 Arab Spring, YouTube played an instrumental role in disseminating messages of freedom and democracy
In the early stages, activists relied heavily on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to accelerate the movement. With YouTube, protestors were able to upload and share videos featuring protest and political commentary. Many of those videos ended up going viral, with the top ones receiving nearly 5.5 million views each.
For the first time ever, people all over the world were able to watch a live-stream of the Olympics in July 2012
For the Summer Olympics, YouTube powered NBC's online video experience to let users watch any event live. You could also access the footage from essentially any device, be that your computer, mobile phone, or tablet.
YouTube launched a one-stop channel for live election coverage in August 2012 called the YouTube Elections Hub.
In addition to streaming the live speeches from the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention, it featured content from eight news entities: ABC News, Al Jazeera English, BuzzFeed, Larry King, The New York Times, Phil DeFranco, Univision, and The Wall Street Journal.
It's now the number one video on YouTube with more than 1.3 billion views.
2012 in general was also huge for YouTube, with people watching more than 4 billion hours worth of video every month.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.