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YouTube is a video hosting and sharing website created in February 2005. With eight hundred million unique visitors a month, it is one of the most trafficked websites on the internet along with Facebook and Google.
Although YouTube is often considered one of the early trendsetters in the social media game, other video-hosting platforms like Metacafe and Vimeo had been in existence prior to the launch of YouTube in 2005. According to one of the co-founders Jawed Karim, YouTube was originally envisioned as the video version of the beauty rating site Hot or Not, which has been also credited as the source of inspiration for the social networking service Facebook.
The site was founded by three former employees of PayPal, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim on February 14th, 2005 and the first YouTube video titled “Me at the zoo” was uploaded on April 23rd, which featured one of the co-founders Jawed Karim in front of elephants at the San Diego Zoo. The beta version of the site became publicly available in May of that year, followed by its official launch in November 2005.
The registered userbase continued to grow rapidly in the following months. By July 2006, the company revealed an impressive record of 65,000 new uploads and 100 million video views per day. In October 2006, Google announced that it had acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in Google stock; the deal was finalized in mid-November. In late March 2010, the YouTube website launched a new design, with the aim of simplifying the interface and increasing the time users spend on the site.
In November 2011, the Google+ social networking site was integrated directly with YouTube and the Chrome web browser, allowing YouTube videos to be viewed from within the Google+ interface (shown below, left). In December 2011, YouTube launched a new version of the site interface (shown below, right), with the video channels displayed in a central column on the home page, similar to the news feeds of social networking sites.
The basic features of YouTube consists of uploading videos, watching videos uploaded by other users and interacting with other users via comments and response videos. Unregistered visitors can watch videos without ever signing up for an account, but the registration is required for uploading videos and commenting on other uploads. YouTube initially allowed users to upload long-format videos, but later implemented a ten-minute length limit on all uploads in March 2006 after learning that the majority of videos exceeding the ten minute mark were unauthorized or copyright-infringing materials such as TV show episodes and films.
In addition to the basic functions of a video-streaming platform, YouTube offers a variety of optional tools to improve the viewing experience, such as closed captioning services, automatic speech recognition, in-video annotations and 3D anaglyphic playback.
The near-ubiquitous presence of YouTube videos on the Internet can be credited to its easy video embedding feature, which allows users to copy and paste the video player object into almost any blog or website that supports HTML.
Registered users (sometimes referred to as YouTubers) of the site can interact with others through a number of different channels, from private messaging and wall posts on the channel page to comments in the video pages and response videos that can be linked to the referenced video. Users can also rank a video or a video comment through an upvoting / downvoting system.
Shows & Rentals
YouTube also runs a section called “Shows,” which allows major U.S. entertainment studios and distributors to upload full-length films and TV episodes to the site with advertisement options. The Shows page can be seen as Google’s effort to openly compete against Hulu, a subscription-based video streaming site that syndicates materials from major U.S. networks like NBC, Fox and Disney. In November 2009, this feature was expanded to the United Kingdom visitors. In January 2010, YouTube introduced an online film rentals service offering more than 6,000 films, which is available only to users in the US, Canada and the UK as of July 2012.
- Snake Game: In July 2010, YouTube released an easter egg feature with its new video player which enables users to launch an impromptu game of Snake by holding down the left and up arrow keys during pause and playback. This feature only works on YouTube video pages without any annotations or advertisements.
- Snowflake Animation: In December 2011, YouTube added a snowflake button as a holiday special easter egg on its video player. Upon clicking, the feature would trigger animated snowflakes to fall from the top of the video.
- 500 Error Message: In 2010, YouTube began displaying a 500 Internal Server Error message that read “500 Internal Server Error: Sorry, something went wrong. A team of highly trained monkeys has been dispatched to deal with this situation. If you see them, show them this information” followd by a random code.
- Nyan Cat Progress Bar: In June 2011, YouTube temporarily enabled a custom flash player for the original Nyan Cat video page, which displayed an animated miniature Nyan Cat flying across the progress bar with a rainbow trail during playback.
- The Wadsworth Parameter: In October 2011, YouTube employee and Redditor newtuber enabled the new video URL parameter “&wadsworth=1,” which can be suffixed to any YouTube video URL to load the video at 30% of the total length in reference to The Wadsworth Constant.
- Self-Subscription: In 2012, YouTube began displaying a mouseover error message that read “No need to subscribe to yourself!” when a user attempted to subscribe to one’s own channel.
- Psy Character Sprite: In December 2012, YouTube added an animated character sprite of Psy doing the horse dance on the Gangnam Style video page to commemorate the unprecedented milestone of passing 1 billion views on the site.
- Harlem Shake Search Results: In March 2013, YouTube introduced an easter egg for the search option in which typing in “do the harlem shake” would trigger various components of the search results page to wobble in the style of Harlem Shake dancers.
- VHS Tape Mode: In April 2013, YouTube enabled a VHS tape emulator button on a limited selection of videos in homage to the 57th anniversary of the first commercially available videocassette recorder (VCR). Upon clicking, the video quality would be downgraded to match the aesthetics of VHS image resolution, such as white static lines, fuzzy grains, occasional vertical holds and even distortion of images when in pause mode.
Paid Subscription Channels
On January 29th, 2013, the advertising industry news blog AdAge published an article reporting that YouTube has a plan to launch paid subscriptions for a select few channels in April. The article included a quote from a Google spokesperson, who stated that the company believed certain types of content require alternative payment models. On the following day, YouTuber PrettyMuchIt uploaded a video in support of the idea, asserting that paid subscriptions could provide users with more options and better content (shown below, left). Also on January 30th, YouTuber Lamarr Wilson uploaded a video in which he criticized the paid subscription model (shown below, right), arguing that no one should have to pay for content on the video-sharing site.
On May 9th, YouTube launched the pilot program for its paid subscription service, offering its users free trial access to premium content published by more than 50 channels for the first two weeks, after which a monthly fee ranging from $0.99 to $7.99 would be charged per subscription. In the coming days, the new service was reported on by Yahoo,CNN, The Wall Street Journal and CNET among many others. As of May 10th, there are 54 paid channels available, including Sesame Street, National Geographic, Rap Battle Network, Recipe.TV and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Since its launch and subsequent rise to prominence, YouTube has played an essential role in the creative process of internet memes in a multitude if ways, foremostly as the ground zero site of countless viral videos and spawning pool of user-generated videos, and secondly as the primary exchange ground for social commentaries and discussions on topical events. The site’s strong affinity with both amateur videobloggers and mainstream media outlets also gave rise to an uncharted era of citizen journalism, public discourse and internet stardom, thus establishing itself as a hubsite of user-generated content.
Largely due to the broad range of content hosted on the site and its virtual monopoly over video hosting services, the scope of this section is limited to internet memes that have emerged as a result of interacting with other users or using a specific feature on the site. For more comprehensive listings of viral videos and catchphrases that have originated from YouTube, check out KYM Tag – Origin:YouTube. For an index of notable YouTube video bloggers and celebrities, browse KYM Tag – Origin:YouTube Category:Person.
The 301 Phenomenon
One of the longest enduring mysteries of YouTube features has been the seemingly arbitrary view counter that gets stuck at 301 or 302, which soon became regarded as a positive sign that the video is undergoing a significant lift in viewership. The number 301 displayed under a video can be read as the minimum threshold of view-counts required to initiate a new counting method or “a statistical verification process” designed to filter out any counterfeit or invalid view counts from being taken into account.
YouTube Automatic Caption Fails
YouTube Automatic Caption Fails are the humorous, incorrect captions produced by Google’s automatic speech recognition technology for videos on YouTube. Both real and fake screenshots of particularly absurd automatic transcriptions are often posted on various sites.
I’m 12 Years Old and What is This?
“I’m 12 Years Old and What is This?”, also known as “I’m 12 and what is this?”, is a catchphrase typically used to react to something that is considered vulgar or outlandish, such as x-rated media. The comment was posted in a video titled “Jonas Brother Live On Stage” during Operation YouTube in May 2009, when 4chan users flooded the site with x-rated clips under the guise of popular teen idols like Lazy Town, Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus.
The Wadsworth Constant
The Wadsworth Constant is an Internet axiom which states that the first 30% of any video can be skipped because it contains no worthwhile or interesting information. This observation was named after Redditor Wadsworth, who defined the term in a discussion thread about how to properly fold a bed sheet.
X People Missed the Like Button
X People Missed the Like Button is a type of comment usually found on YouTube, in which the “x” represents the number of dislikes the video has accumulated at the time of the commenter’s viewing. The phrase can also be modified to take on a biased tone as to criticize the viewers who chose to dislike the video.
Am I Ugly?
“Am I Ugly?” is a YouTube trend in which adolescents upload videos of themselves asking for commenters to rate their physical attractiveness. In February of 2012, the phenomenon rose in visibility after news media began criticizing the trend as an unhealthy means of seeking approval.
Reply Girls, often spelled “reply girl”, is an Internet slang term used to identify female YouTubers who mainly upload videos as a “reply” to an already popular or trending video in an attempt to capitalize on the high view counts. They typically use sexually suggestive thumbnails, often with prominently exposed cleavage, to gain views. Reply Girls seek to gain YouTube partnerships through high view counts, and then make/steal money for every video they produce.
As of January 2012, YouTube has a Quantcast US score of 3, Alexa Global and US rank of 3, and Compete rank of 4. On January 23rd, 2012, YouTube announced that it was receiving an average of more than four billion views a day on both computers and mobile web, as well as an hourlong worth of footage uploaded per second. To better illustrate the vast numbers and statistics associated with YouTube videos, YouTube launched the site One Hour Per Second in December 2011.
Search queries for YouTube began to increase visibly in February 2006 and the total volume of online interest has been steadily on the rise ever since.