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The Long History & Amazing Evolution of YouTube

YouTube History Evolution

Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

YouTube has transformed and redefined our way of thinking, as well as how we view our surroundings. From the fuzzy, non-HD days, we’ve loyally watched comedic videos if we needed to smile, tagged videos if we wanted to delay studying and vlogged for inspiration. We’ve watched as YouTube veterans have gone on to impact music, fashion and comedy industries. We’ve left thousands of comments and likes to show our support, and dislikes to show our lack thereof. Indirectly or directly, we have all left our own imprint.

It’s pretty hard to believe that YouTube has become a major internet content source, especially when reflecting on its origins. Read on to see how Youtube has changed 11 years later.


YouTube was founded by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim, who were all former PayPal employees. Their original inspiration came from the desire for video accessibility. The first ever video uploaded features Karim and is titled, “Me at the zoo.” The video now has over 33 million views.


Only a year after YouTube was created, video veterans began founding their channels.

Michelle Phan, known for her beauty tutorials, currently has almost nine million subscribers. Phan is probably the ultimate success story, as her channel’s success led to her becoming a video makeup artist for Lancôme, creating a makeup line for L’Oréal and publishing a lifestyle guide. But like many others, her number of uploads has dwindled down to four videos or even one video a month as her time is taken up by other endeavors.

Fittingly, Michelle Phan’s first video was a makeup tutorial, which has now been viewed over 11 million times.


Despite all of the positive aspects of YouTube, it has also raised awareness about the serious issue of cyberbullying. Protected by anonymity and the screen they hide behind, internet trolls have become notorious for malicious comments belittling anyone from YouTubers to fellow commenters in order to point out flaws or leave complaints and criticism. Although not a full solution, content creators have disabled comments on certain videos of their choice.


Bethany Mota created her channel this year as a creative outlet to escape cyberbullying. She gained fame for popularizing clothing hauls and makeup tutorials and has perhaps helped further the label of “beauty gurus.” She currently has ten million subscribers which has led to a plethora of opportunities. Along her journey, she has interviewed President Barack Obama, created a clothing line with Aeropostale, released a single and finished in fourth place on season 19 of Dancing with the Stars. She has received backlash for creating less content after gaining fame and business opportunities.


Casey Neistat, who currently has 5 million subscribers, debuted his channel and set off the trend of vlogging channels of those wanting to document their lives. Casey has used his film talent to collaborate with Nike, Google and Mercedes-Benz and has raised awareness about creating a battery replacement for the Apple iPod among other protests.

Vidcon was created by Hank and John Green this year and was held in Los Angeles in order to dedicate an event to those who share a passion for online video. Typical schedules include panels led by content creators, meet-ups, as well as concerts. The amount of attendees has doubled each year since its debut. In 2017, for the first time, VidCon will be held outside of the US in Amsterdam.


Sponsorship deals have become more and more ubiquitous. Many viewers have complained about the frequency of sponsored videos. While all content creators claim to only work with reputable companies that they personally enjoy, whether or not we take their word for it is up to viewers.


There have been evident changes in how videos have been edited due to the fast-paced growth of technology. From time lapses to slow motion effects to music placement, YouTube had become competitive to see who possessed the most unique and forward editing skills and software.

YouTube’s creation has created conversation in the debate about privacy. Viewers and fans may feel entitled to knowing every aspect of YouTubers’ lives and content creators may begin to feel obligated if sharing their personal life had always been part of their channel. Many times, viewers may forget that YouTubers endure the same struggles and may not choose to disclose specific events in their life in order to maintain a positive environment.

There has also been the debate of freedom of speech vs. censorship. Since 2012, YouTube has been banned by countries in the eastern hemisphere like China, Iran, and Turkmenistan, to name a few, in order to limit media exposure and prevent social unrest. Certain videos are only accessible by those in a specific geographical region.


Possibly the golden year of YouTube, it was in this year that the online video industry seemed to have become as dominating as the music and film industry. Acknowledging this, the Teen Choice Awards created the category of Choice Web Star. Winners from 2014-2016 have been: Bethany Mota, Tyler Oakley, Zoe Sugg, Shawn Mendes, “Our 2nd Life,” Cameron Dallas, Colleen Ballinger, Kian Lawley, Lilly Singh, the Dolan Twins and Christina Grimmie.


Many common comments on videos are either “sub for sub” or “Check out my channel.” A lot of people began to follow the footsteps of veteran YouTubers in hopes of making it as big. However, soon, it became all about calculations. Whether it was calculations about creating specific content for a specific response or about sponsorship deals, the amount of views and amount of subscribers and less about a creative outlet and authenticity. This is perhaps why newly created channels have a small margin of success due to the constant recycling of hackneyed ideas and the lack of an original voice.


Many YouTubers have taken a backseat with videos in favor of focusing on their various social media accounts. Many have created websites or blogs. It hasn’t become uncommon for content creators to lose the vision they first had when they created their channel. For some, YouTube transitioned from a hobby into a job and eventually, a chore. As creators have matured, personally and creatively, and faced other opportunities, many have bid farewell to their channels but have left them running. Not the first and not the last, comedian Kevin Jumba quit Youtube in 2013 to return to university. Creators “Our 2nd Life” broke up in 2015, while Emily June moved on in early 2016.

YouTube has paved the way for more opportunities and has strengthened communities, virtual and physical. It has proven that there are no boundaries creativity-wise and career-wise. It is what Instagram and Twitter are not. The digital kingdoms created have changed us for the better. With every new upload, comment, and like, YouTube is evolving. We don’t know the next video trends and we don’t know the fate of YouTube. But for now, the pixels on our screen look pretty darn good.

Wanderess. Stamp collector. Writer. Has most likely already stalked you on Instagram and will show up if there’s cheese.