The History of YouTube

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /] is just over two years old, and it is already the fourth most visited website in the world. I wanted to find out how YouTube became so immensely popular in such a short period of time. Also, I wanted to know how the three young founders of YouTube managed to turn such a simple idea into a billion-dollar company. And, finally, I wanted to know what this had to do with the users of YouTube, the people who have used the site to form a community that provides them with entertainment, friendship, and support. In searching for the answers to these questions, I learned a great deal about the history of YouTube. My video attempts to present the answers I found. I have included the script from my video here, along with references.

This is the story of YouTube

This is a story about three friends with an idea.

- Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim were employees of PayPal, and saw an opening in the market for a website where users could upload and share videos. They registered the domain name on February 15, 2005.

- The first video was posted on April 23, 2005,

- …and in May an official public beta was launched, attracting an average of 30,000 viewers per day.

  • Sam McManis, Sacramento Bee, March 14, 2006

- With the promise to give out a freeiPod Nano to one random member every day until the end of the year, it’s user-base steadily grew until venture capital firms began to take notice.

-When Jon Stewart appeared on CNN’s Crossfire in October, more people watched the clip on YouTube than saw it on television.

  • Kevin Allison, Financial Times, London, England, April 10, 2006

- In November, YouTube received $3.5 million in funding from Sequoia Capital. At this point, YouTube had over 200,000 registered users and was showing over 2 million videos per day.

  • Jefferson Graham, USA Today, November 22, 2005

- After building up a strong reputation and user-base in its beta stage, had a staff of 20 and made its official debut on December 15, 2005.

  • Ben Ratliff, The New York Times, February 3, 2006

This is a story about very big numbers.-By January, 2006, users were watching 25 million videos per day.

  • Kevin Allison, Financial Times, London, England, April 10, 2006

- In March, the total number of clips available on YouTube also reached 25 million,

  • Maxine Shen, New York Post, March 9, 2006

- …with users uploading 20,000 new videos a day.

  • Richard Gray, Scotland on Sunday, March 19 2006

-By April, with bandwidth costs approaching $1 million per month,

  • Dan Frommer,, April 28, 2006 2006/04/27/video-youtube-myspace_cx_df_0428video.html
  • Please note: Personal communication with Chad Hurley suggests that YouTube in fact had technology that allowed them to handle the great bandwidth strains comparatively cheaply.

- …YouTube gained an aditional $8 million in funding from Sequoia Capital.

  • Chris Nuttall, Financial Times, London, England, April 6, 2006

- The Evolution of Dance, the most watched YouTube video of all time, was uploaded on April 06.

-In May, YouTube’s viewership surpassed that of,

  • Paul Boutin, Slate Magazine, Oct 18, 2006

- …and it was responsible for 43% of all videos viewed on the Internet.

  • Steve Bryant, Google Watch, May 24, 2006 video_search_youtube_dominates_google_video_no_5.html

-On July 16, YouTube announced that users were currently viewing 100 million videos per day. The staff remained at just over 30 members.

  • Reuters, USA Today, July 16, 2006 views_x.htm

- …the users of YouTube were beginning to form a cohesive community, starting online movements that spread across the web and across the globe.

  • Free Hugs Campaign videos from Korea and Venezuela linked from the original at

This is a story about money and fame.- On October 9, 2006, it was announced that YouTube was being purchased by Google for 1.65 Billion in stock.

  • Google Press Center, October 9, 2006

-At the time, it was the biggest purchase Google had ever made.

  • David Kirkpatrick,, October 19, 2006

- The deal was finalized on November 13.

  • Reuters,, November 14, 2006 2006/11/14/1163266548827.html

- That same month, YouTube was named Time Magazine’s Invention of the Year for 2006.

  • Bill Hutchinson, Daily News (New York), November 6, 2006

- It its final issue of the year, Time magazine named you, yes you, person of the year, in recognition of the importance of the user-generated content, driving sites such asYouTube.

  • Lev Grossman, Time Magazine, December 13, 2006,9171,1569514,00.html

- In 2007, YouTube has become more popular than ever, but legal trouble is never far off. On March 13, Viacom sued Google for 1 billion dollars for copyright infringement. The suit is still ongoing and may have major implications for the future of YouTube.

  • Anne Broache and Greg Sandoval, CNET, March 13, 2007

But for now, remains the forth most visited website in the world

  • traffic rankings, as of May 14, 2007.

- because, most importantly, this is a story about people. Google wasn’t investing $1.65 billion dollars in the technology of YouTube, but in all the users of YouTube, a massive amount of people of all ages, from all places, who come together to share the things that make them laugh and the things that make them cry. Google wasn’t buying a company, it was buying a community: potentially millions of new users. If you are a YouTube user, Google was buying you.
- Did they get their money’s worth?
- The future history of YouTube is up to you.

  • Author’s conclusion

“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.” – Winston Churchill

  • Internet quote database at

Music by: David Aubrun, MEA, Omars Attacks, JCRZ.

  • All music found at
  • Creative Commons license

Created by Robert Hinderliter, Digital Ethnography at Kansas State University, Spring 2007.


Associate professor of cultural anthropology. Ed Traceur. Hacker. Car-free.

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25 Responses

  1. matilda2007 says: today announces YouTube Robot 2.0, a tool that enables you to download video from onto your PC, convert it to various formats to watch it when you are on the road on mobile devices like mobile phone, iPod, iPhone, Pocket PC, PSP, or Zune.
    Product page:
    Direct download link:
    Company web-site:

  2. Lucy says:

    This is a comprehensive, cogent history of Youtube…well done!

  3. Hugh Kelsey says:

    Thanks for the YouTube history.

    As a trained historian and public health informatician, I appreciated your placing the events along YouTube’s timeline in the context of digital technologies in general and the importance of people in particular. Your recognition of YouTube as a means to an end (communication, connection, etc.) as well as an end in itself was refreshing and hopeful.

    Another thing I took away from your work was an awareness of the fluidity of our information technology/Web 2.0 infrastructure and, ultimately, the fragility of it. The relatively rapid change in technical innovation in the 19th century had profound implications for the way people lived and worked all over the globe. Another way to think of the First World War (1914 – 1918), generally acknowledged to have ended the 19th century. is to see it as the first truly global meeting of people in a highly industrialized, technologically advanced setting. Ten million people died on battlefields. The connections they made allowed up to 50 million more to die from contagious disease from 1918 – 1920 (influenza epidemic: literal “viral marketing”).

    What will our technical innovations do in a post-industrial world where the meeting of minds also sharpens the awareness of differences and inequalities?

    Thanks for the inspirational thinking an keep up the good work. We’re going to need all of it we can get.

  4. Anthony says:

    Thank you for this very informational history of Youtube. I need to do a project on a piece of technology (physical or not, so Youtube is fine) and I believe that you have given me all the non-oppinionated information I need. A+, here I come!

  5. Thanks for this. You was help me. Article who your writen was so important for me. Thanks again :) I am reading all articles in happily

  6. Duane Nason says:

    Great job on putting this together!

  7. Kaila says:

    It is amazing! I’ve never read the article about Youtube history like this. Excellent!! It did help me a lot :)

  8. bSQUAD says:

    NICE I love your work.

  9. Mark Rhoads says:

    I was researching an article on You Tube and this site was very helpful. I only wish the timeline could be updated through October 2008.

  10. neelo says:

    thanks to your remarkable work on history of youtube. i was able to make my presentation on evolution of youtube.
    nice work man!!!!

  11. sandrar says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

  12. Chacaal says:

    thank you very good and very nice post :))))

  13. tiger woods says:

    I love watching myself on youtube.

  14. pogo says:

    is it possible to have a copy of this video so I can use it for my English classes in France? thanks.

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