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Unboxing refers to the practice of photographing or recording oneself while opening a new product out of its original packaging to showcase the contents as well as the recipient’s first impression of the product. On YouTube, unboxing videos are typically associated with consumer reviews of hi-tech gadgets like computers, video games or mobile phones, however, similar videos have been uploaded by beauty and fashion bloggers to show off their latest purchases from “hauls” or shopping sprees.
The practice of documenting the opening of a packaged product was initially referred to as “unpacking” as early as November 2004 in an Engadget article about opening a Nintendo DS box, as well as in Joystiq and TV Envy articles published in the fall of 2005. The earliest known usage of the term “unboxing” can be attributed to an article titled “Unpacking the Xbox 360; hot unboxing action" posted via Joystiq on November 16th, 2005.
In February 2006, Flickr user Josh Bancroft uploaded a series of unboxing photos to showcase his new MacBook Pro. The following month, the domain Unboxing.com was registered by the high-tech lifestyle blog Gear Live to feature its unboxing videos and photos of gadgets and devices. In June, a Flickr group was created for people to share their unboxing photos and the first YouTube video depicting the unboxing of Nokia E61 smartphone was uploaded by YouTuber UnBoxedIt.
The first definition for “unboxing” was added to Urban Dictionary on February 1st, 2008. Unboxing photo collections and videos have appeared on CNET, Slashgear, Mashable and Wired. The trend of unboxing videos on YouTube has been also covered by news sites including the Independent, Gizmodo and even made the front page of the Wall Street Journal print edition in December 2006. Additional blog posts are shared on Tumblr and Twitter using the hashtag #unboxing. As of September 2012, search for “unboxing” on YouTube yields approximately 547,000 videos.
While many of these types of videos focus on the latest gadgets on the market, unboxing is used to show off items purchased in shopping sprees for items including candles, beauty products and sneakers.
In April 2010, internet television channel Revision3 launched a web series titled “Unboxing Porn” (shown below left), combining the product showcase format with the tropes of cheesy pornographic films. The series ran for 35 episodes through September 2011. In December 2010, Revision3 launched “Unbox Therapy” (shown below, right), another series dedicated to serious unboxing of gaming, photography, and hi-tech audio equipment. As of September 2012, the show is still active and its YouTube channel has roughly 128,000 subscribers and more than 19 million views.
In March 2012, Funny or Die released a parody skit of unboxing videos in which Apple’s CEO Tim Cook describes his first experience of opening up an iPad.
Search interest began to appear in 2004 due to “unboxing” being a term for a type of coding apparent in Java and C#.
Cheap Ass Gamer – CheapyD’s PS3 Unboxing Appears on Wall Street Journal Front Page (screenshots of article)
Wall Street Journal – At New Video Sites, Opening Up the Box Is a Ritual to Savor