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...because they're the world’s pioneer and brand name in online video distribution (like, duh?). The company laid the basis for the tech startup model when it debuted in 2005 only to be purchased by Google one year later. With over a billion users creating, uploading and watching content, YouTube attracts an astounding number of viewers worldwide every single day. The company’s model has adapted well to emerging platforms, as half of all views are now on mobile devices.


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When a brand name works its way into the lexicon via other word forms – e.g. Googling, Facebooking or YouTubing – it definitely means something. Before YouTube, Internet videos were downloaded via clunky file-sharing software or streamed on specific interest (i.e. porn) sites through a third party program like QuickTime. When company founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim couldn’t find any online clips of Janet Jackson’s infamous exposure during the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004, they decided something needed to be done to correct this egregious omission of an embarrassing moment from the web’s history. Initially, YouTube modeled itself on the novelty dating site Hot or Not, but soon expanded to the more democratic, user-uploaded content site we know today. After a few kids made online fools of themselves by showing off light saber moves, calling school superintendents to complain or singing love songs to their crushes, viral videos quickly became the established trend. Companies like Nike and established media producers like Saturday Night Live embraced the site as a way to attract a wider audience of consumers. While YouTube does function as an alternate platform for TV and film content, the real innovation of the site still lies in creating a new category of video media and celebrity.

For filmmakers and artists, YouTube has opened up an entirely new means of distribution. While it certainly lacks the glamour of a star-studded, traffic-stopping premiere at the Chinese Theater, any director who makes a film can theoretically release it to billions of viewers on YouTube. In addition to cats doing the craziest things, original content on YouTube has taken the form of short comedy videos, vlogs, tutorials, mash-ups or web series. The YouTube stardom of vloggers like Jenna Marbles has now more or less created an established industry of new media production around these “YouTuber” personalities. And the website’s biggest discovery to date is of course the Canadian pop sensation Justin Bieber. While it may take YouTube a while to fully atone for that sin, the company has taken legitimate steps towards more serious, quality-oriented content. YouTube launched its own awards show in 2007, which has spawned others like the Webby and Streamy Awards. Recently, the company has partnered up with Ridley Scott’s production company to host an online short film festival, with the semi-finalists to form the basis for a new channel and the ten best submissions to screen at the Venice Film Festival.

With over a billion users watching hundreds of millions of hours worth of videos each and every day, it’s safe to say YouTube is pretty big. In this case, size kind of matters, because with so much content there is actually a ton of worthwhile material. If you’re one of the millions of people who watches big names like Jenna Marbles, Tyler Oakley or the Brazilian lady who opens up toys, that’s totally fine. However, YouTube is also a great resource for anyone interested in film. Many of the classics of early silent cinema, including films mentioned right here on Watch Meet Make, stream right there on YouTube, often with the kind of classic soundtrack needed for full appreciation. Or have you been looking for an obscure film or series that’s not available from Netflix, Amazon or any of the usual suspects? There’s a good chance it’s on YouTube, though if it’s foreign you may have to learn the language first...which you can probably do using a YouTube tutorial series.


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