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YouTube: A twelve year evolution in four videos

April 21, 2017

Brian Morris   

Blog contributor

Twelve years ago today, the first video was uploaded on YouTube. Since its conception in 2005, the online platform has become a living archive of content that has captured screaming goats, freefalls from the edge of space and everything weird, wonderful and extraordinary in between. YouTube kick-started a digital upheaval that resulted in all manner of online viewing platforms, from Netflix to Facebook Live.

With 1 billion global users and an eye watering average of 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, the content revolution shows no sign of slowing down. To celebrate this latest milestone, we’ve compiled a list of four clips that span the evolution of YouTube over the last twelve years.

Me at the Zoo

The video that sparked a digital revolution is pretty innocuous. It captures the ‘do-it-yourself’ spirit that defined the early days of YouTube, which was conceived when its founders became frustrated that there was nowhere for them to share their videos. It is an unpolished, spontaneous slice-of-life. In many ways, it is this sense of realism and authenticity that would propel YouTube forward to be the content sharing beast it is today.

Charlie bit my finger

Released in 2007, ‘Charlie bit my finger’ is one of the most recognised viral videos in YouTube history. Dethroned as most viewed video in 2011 by Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ and the VEVO-driven music video boom, the video to date has over 847 million views.

The video’s success demonstrated that even a regular everyday family could reach hundreds of millions of people. It’s important because it showed how literally anyone could tap into YouTube’s huge audience, given the right content.

Since then, we’ve seen hundreds of videos from everyday people reach millions of viewers worldwide. This number has increased exponentially in recent years, in large parts thanks to improvements in mobile video technology. Today almost everyone has a camera in their pocket, meaning we rarely miss an opportunity to share the extraordinary, funny, and emotional every day moments that unify us.

Rise of the vloggers

Zoe Sugg has an audience of 10.5 million on YouTube, reportedly making upwards of £50,000 a month through her lifestyle channel. In many ways she epitomises the rise of vloggers on YouTube and highlights a shift towards a new era of content for the platform.

What sets vloggers apart from modern celebrities is their humble beginnings. Having kick-started their careers with just a bedroom and a video camera, vloggers have an accessibility and authenticity that traditional celebrities simply can’t emulate. YouTube quickly identified the reach and influence of top vloggers, and created the ‘YouTube Partners’ collaboration to bring them all under one umbrella.

The reach of these individuals around the world has allowed YouTube to completely overhaul the way they promote content and collaborate within their community, in turn making it a formidable advertising platform for any brand.

Live video streams and Virtual Reality (VR)

In some ways, YouTube’s live streaming platform is a satisfying full circle to the very first YouTube post as live video is often unpolished and spontaneous. However, with a massive audience now in play, organisations are investing more and more money in creating immersive and engaging content.

An example is the recent NASA live stream. Over 50 years since the moon landing was broadcast around the world, NASA is today using YouTube as a new platform to engage the next generation. This particular event was ground breaking for being the first 360-degree live stream of a rocket launch.

With the rise in popularity, and accessibility, for VR headsets, 360-degree VR-enabled video experiences seems a natural next step for YouTube. We’re increasingly seeing more VR-enabled videos appearing that provide a new way to experience content and it’s likely we’ll see more and more as VR headsets penetrate the mainstream market.

What is required from networks for the VR and AR revolution to arrive? Read more here.