In today’s digital content obsessed culture, it’s hard to believe that there was once a time when it was really hard just to share a video online. YouTube is currently the second most visited website on the internet, but when it launched as a modest video sharing site in 2005, it received barely any traffic. The first viral video to hit the site was SNL’s digital short “Lazy Sunday,” which catapulted YouTube to become the go-to site for posting homemade video content.
YouTube was created in February, 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steven Chen, and Jawed Karim, three former PayPal employees whose original business plan was to develop a video-based dating site. After finding it overly difficult to find enough content, they opened the site up to accept any type of video upload.
The first video shared to YouTube was a brief, mundane clip of Jawed Karim in front of some elephants at the zoo, but it set the stage for the type of content that their site would soon become famous for. But despite some minor success, YouTube did not have much market recognition at the time of launch.
It wasn’t until Lazy Sunday hit the site that YouTube started to become a household name, with the video reaching over 5 million views before being removed. Soon after, Nike uploaded a video of soccer star Ronaldinho, which proved the site to be a valuable marketing platform and became the first video to hit 1 million views.
The site grew rapidly, mostly due to unique, amateur content that, despite being cheaply made, would become the first truly “viral” videos. Suddenly, unlikely people like Gary Brolsma (the Numa Numa guy) and Tay Zonday (Chocolate Rain) were becoming overnight celebrities.
By October 2006, YouTube was clearly becoming the go-to site for digital content, and Google wisely acquired the company for US $1.65 billion. Meanwhile the site continued to grow rapidly, and in 2007 YouTube was consumed as much bandwidth as the entire internet did in 2000. By 2010 it was bringing in more than two billion views per day.
The site now maintains a whopping 2 billion users, who collectively consume over 1 billion hours of video every day.