This Saturday, February 14th, is a big day. Favorite memories will be shared with friends and colleagues. Old jokes will be replayed one more time. And we’ll be shocked if there isn’t a snazzy new doodle on the homepage over at Google.
YouTube’s turning 10.
That’s right — one decade ago this Saturday, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim activated the YouTube.com domain. It’d be another 3 months until a public preview was ready, and still 6 more until the site was officially open for use, but Valentine’s Day 2005 marked the first step forward in what’s been no less than YouTube’s complete rewriting of what it means to share online.
It’s worth taking a minute to consider what the web was like in 2005. HTML and CSS were already well adopted, and most sites had adopted the standards for navigation we still see today. From a structural standpoint, the Internet had already taken significant steps toward modernity.
Social elements too were on the rise. Geocities and LiveJournal had already introduced web users to blogging, and Friendster broke ground in creating the digital cliques we now consider part of traditional social media. By 2005, MySpace was paving the road for social networking to be an everyday activity for everyone.
But while the framework was coming together, another essential element of the modern web was sorely lacking — visual information.
In early 2005 most web users still relied on dial-up web access — broadband wouldn’t become the primary way Americans access the web until later that year. It’d be another few years until web designers trusted that enough visitors came in via broadband to retune their websites to take advantage of the improved technology.
That meant that for much of the 2000’s the web relied on static imagery. If something was going to move on the page, it was almost certainly a simple Flash animation — and even then, sparingly, lest slow load times convince visitors to bounce from the page.
It’s not that it wasn’t possible to share video online, of course — it’s just that doing so was complicated, time consuming, and expensive. Better left to the AV professionals and the dedicated hobbyists — the kinds of people who might’ve actually had the pricey digital camcorders needed to produce video in a format that would’ve been possible to share online anyway.
If you wanted to share information, insights, or ideas digitally — on a webpage, in an email, on one of the burgeoning social networks, or anywhere else — your options for doing so really started and ended with the 26 letters on your keyboard.
Just 10 short years ago, a niche, format-driven, social sharing site was launched upon the Internet. Its effects would be felt no differently than those first experienced almost a century prior, when Philo Farnsworth launched its technological forbear, television. It’s worth noting that only one president has been elected since YouTube was launched.
In many ways, YouTube’s introduction in 2005 was a feat of perfect timing. In the middle 2000’s, video files had just become less expensive to store in digital formats than in analog. Broadband web access would pass dial-up, enabling web users to access more and more complex content. Digital video cameras were on their way to supplanting film-based camcorders — and to becoming standard equipment in the coming waves of laptops and smartphones. Producing video had never been easier — and YouTube arrived right as people began to take advantage of that fact.
It didn’t take long. Less than a year after launch YouTube already had its first one million-hit video — in a bit of foreshadowing, it was a Nike soccer ad. In 2006, YouTube would both sign a distribution deal with NBC and take a $1.6 billion offer from Google. The company would feature on the cover of Time Magazine, when the publication lauded the social web by naming “You” its person of the year. Web video was for real.
YouTube proved that virtually any kind of information could be shared with online video.
In doing all this, YouTube has itself become a resource virtually unparalleled. Today the site is the second largest search engine in the world, behind only parent company Google. The visual nature of its medium has made it the go-to solution for questions on anything from how to tie a tie to how to troubleshoot a server.
Moreover, YouTube has become an inextricable part of our cultural currency, serving us equally as a means for reference and relaxation. Whether your goal is to find out everything there is to know about a new coding language, or just find out what people are laughing at online this week, YouTube is where you’ll wind up.
In the world of digital video, YouTube has been the giant’s shoulders upon which a new generation of video solutions now stands.
The video-enhanced web has seen video rapidly supplement (and in some cases replace) text across the web. Whether it’s a candidate’s complete platform, an enthusiast’s comprehensive demo and tutorial, or a handyman’s favorite how-tos, the web-based video YouTube pioneered has quickly become our go-to means for presenting information.
Video streamed online is reshaping entertainment. Heavyweights like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube itself have jumped headlong into everything from content development and syndication to simple delivery, and in the process have brought most every form of televised entertainment online.
Online video is changing the way we learn — opening new doors to college educations with distance learning, lecture capture, flipping the classroom, and Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and offering new ways to learn job skills for the 21st Century with sites like Khan Academy, Udacity, and (once again), YouTube itself.
The social sharing YouTube was founded on has now been adopted into most every social channel — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and even SlideShare now offer native support for video, allowing their users to share information just by pressing “record”.
Businesses and universities too have seen video become an important part of their own organizations. Corporate YouTubes like Panopto are enabling companies to scale training, expand corporate communications, boost social learning and sales enablement, and even broadcast corporate events and town halls, right from their own secure, searchable company video library. Campus YouTubes, meanwhile, are making it possible for universities to record and share tens of thousands of hours of educational lectures, student presentations, campus events, and more.
As innovations like 4k, 60fps, Microsoft Hololens and untold thousands of future inventions continue to make video easier to create and more valuable to share, online video will continue to grow as a part of how people connect, create, and communicate. And while the future will no doubt see that video spread across a range of new video systems, tools, and platforms, we’ll all have one common forerunner to thank.
So happy birthday, YouTube. And thank you.
Panopto is a video platform designed to make it easy for businesses and universities to record, share, and search video in a central, secure library. To learn more about Panopto, or to try Panopto at your organization, contact our team for a free trial today.