YouTube is an online video platform owned by Google. In total, users watch more than one billion hours of YouTube videos each day, and hundreds of hours of video content are uploaded to YouTube servers every minute.
YouTube provides several ways to watch videos, including the website, the mobile apps, and permitting other websites to embed them. Available content includes music videos, video clips, short and documentary films, audio recordings, movie trailers, live streams, and video blogs. Most content is generated by individuals, but media corporations also publish videos. Besides watching and uploading, registered users can comment on videos, rate them, create playlists, and subscribe to other users.
Founded in 2005, YouTube was acquired the following year by Google for US$1.65 billion. It has become one of the company's most lucrative subsidiaries, earning $19.8 billion in 2020. YouTube and selected creators earn advertising revenue from Google's AdSense program. The vast majority of videos are free to view, but some require a music or premium subscription.
Given the popularity of YouTube and its abundance of video content, the platform has made a significant social impact throughout the world. There have also been numerous controversies regarding the business, moral, and political aspects of YouTube.
Founding and initial growth (2005–2006)
YouTube was founded by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim. The trio were all early employees of PayPal which they left enriched after the company was bought by eBay. Hurley had studied design at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Chen and Karim studied computer science together at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.
From left to right: Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, the founders of YouTube
There are multiple stories told of the company's founding. According to a story that has often been repeated in the media, Hurley and Chen developed the idea for YouTube during the early months of 2005, after they had experienced difficulty sharing videos that had been shot at a dinner party at Chen's apartment in San Francisco. Karim did not attend the party and denied that it had occurred, but Chen commented that the idea that YouTube was founded after a dinner party "was probably very strengthened by marketing ideas around creating a story that was very digestible".
Karim said the inspiration for YouTube first came from Janet Jackson's role in the 2004 Super Bowl incident when her breast was exposed during her performance, and later from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Karim could not easily find video clips of either event online, which led to the idea of a video sharing site. Hurley and Chen said that the original idea for YouTube was a video version of an online dating service, and had been influenced by the website Hot or Not. They created posts on Craigslist asking attractive women to upload videos of themselves to YouTube in exchange for a $100 reward. Difficulty in finding enough dating videos led to a change of plans, with the site's founders deciding to accept uploads of any type of video.
YouTube began as a venture capital–funded technology startup. Between November 2005 and April 2006, the company raised money from a variety of investors with Sequoia Capital, $11.5 million, and Artis Capital Management, $8 million, being the largest two. YouTube's early headquarters were situated above a pizzeria and Japanese restaurant in San Mateo, California. In February 2005, the company activated www.youtube.com. The first video was uploaded April 23, 2005. Titled Me at the zoo, it shows co-founder Jawed Karim at the San Diego Zoo and can still be viewed on the site. In May the company launched a public beta and by November a Nike ad featuring Ronaldinho became the first video to reach one million total views. The site launched officially on December 15, 2005, by which time the site was receiving 8 million views a day. Clips at the time were limited to 100 megabytes, as little as 30 seconds of footage.
YouTube was not the first video-sharing site on the Internet, as Vimeo was launched in November 2004, though that site remained a side project of its developers from CollegeHumor at the time and did not grow much either. The week of YouTube's launch, NBC-Universal's Saturday Night Live ran a skit "Lazy Sunday" by The Lonely Island. Besides helping to bolster ratings and long-term viewership for Saturday Night Live, "Lazy Sunday"'s status as an early viral video helped established YouTube as an important website. Unofficial uploads of the skit to YouTube drew in more than five million collective views by February 2006 before they were removed when NBCUniversal requested it two month later based on copyright concerns. Despite eventually being taken down, these duplicate uploads of the skit helped popularize YouTube's reach and led to the upload of further third-party content. The site grew rapidly and, in July 2006, the company announced that more than 65,000 new videos were being uploaded every day, and that the site was receiving 100 million video views per day.
The choice of the name www.youtube.com led to problems for a similarly named website, www.utube.com. That site's owner, Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment, filed a lawsuit against YouTube in November 2006 after being regularly overloaded by people looking for YouTube. Universal Tube subsequently changed its website towww.utubeonline.com.