Happy (Sort of) Birthday, YouTube

By Scott McGrew
|  Monday, May 17, 2010  |  Updated 2:26 PM CDT
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Silicon Valley High-Tech Company Tour

YouTube

Conceived by a couple of guys who made their first millions at PayPal, San Bruno, Calif.-based YouTube reserved its web URL in February 2005. The first video, called "Me at the Zoo" was uploaded in April. The website went into public beta -- the first time people could see it -- in May 2005, what most people would consider the website's "birthday."

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It's hard to say exactly when it's the right time to celebrate a high-tech birthday, because high-tech ideas are not born, they develop.  So finding one specific day is a bit disingenuous. 

YouTube sort of turned five over the weekend, though even the site itself doesn't declare one specificday its birthday. Conceived by a couple of guys who made their first millions at PayPal, San Bruno, Calif.-based YouTube reserved its web URL in February 2005. The first video, called "Me at the Zoo," was uploaded in April. The website went into public beta -- the first time people could see it -- in May 2005, what most people would consider the website's "birthday."

After five years, much has changed at YouTube. It's been bought by Google, it's moved offices, it's started to offer movie downloads and other features. Today, it announced that that it has exceeded two billion video views per day.

The most significant change, however, may be best illustrated by Lady Gaga.

Gaga's bizarre "Bad Romance" video recently hit the number one spot on YouTube's most-watched with a flabbergasting 206 million times. The music video, part of YouTube's licensed video program called VEVO, is part of a new push by Hollywood and the recording industry to take control back from illegal uploaders.

Bad Romance takes the number one spot from "Charlie Bit Me," one of the most charming home videos ever shot. Wikipedia says the video was uploaded back in 2007 by a British father who wanted the children's godfather to see the video -- but it became a viral hit.

In the video, Charlie bites the finger of his older brother, Harry. Harry's response is classically British -- he never strikes his baby brother or even removes his finger. He just expresses baffled outrage. Then there's a giggle, a smile and all is forgiven.

So what to make that Gaga has supplanted Charlie? The parents of Harry and Charlie write on their blog "While I don't have a problem with music videos and I enjoy a great many. It is such a shame that they dominate everything. I feel sorry for everyone who will eventually simply be shown premium content and the home video will pale into insignificance."

Of course, life at the top can be fickle. Ironically, a home video of a cute kid covering a Lady Gaga song is quickly climbing the charts.

Here's a compilation of YouTube's beginnings.

 
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