YouTube’s Evolving Cultural Influence

Ah, YouTube. Of all the things that the Internet has given us, few have impacted our world as much as that little post-a-vid venture. I mean, before it came along it took quite a bit of effort to find ways to waste your time on the Web.

But then three former PayPal employees—Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim—registered the youtube.com domain in early 2005 and created a way for some average shlub to post videos of himself and his girlfriend having a picnic at the beach, or as a means for a few local kids to share a clip of their band at the high school talent contest. It was just real, average, reality, sent ’round the world.

“That’s what we’re all about,” Chad Hurley said in 2005. “We’re the ultimate reality TV.”

By November of that year, YouTube’s eager let’s-give-this-thing-a-try users were uploading what the site’s founders defined as the equivalent of “one Blockbuster of videos every day.” By December, when the site moved from Beta testing to an official launch, it was up to two Blockbuster video stores worth of posted vids per day. And by November of 2006 the site was daily drawing in 65,000 new posted videos and 100 million views. Oh, and it was snatched up by Google for a cool $1.6 billion.

As you know, things didn’t simply remain all about silly cat videos or viral clips of chubby babies chomping a sibling’s finger, however. In time there was public demand for YouTube favs, YouTube channels and YouTube networks. Mega corporations started buying up everything. Eventually, average-guy-next-door YouTubers were quitting their jobs or dropping out of school so they could put some serious time into their online careers.

And, of course, as you start blending money-making zeal and other mixed motives into the batter, you get an online sugar treat that’s more apt to start shaping culture than just chronicling it. It’s a point this [irony alert] YouTube video makes with ease as it jabs a seriously satirical finger at YouTube and YouTubers for becoming everything that they have become. (Note that it contains a bit of immodesty and a few unnecessary song lyrics that may get under your spiritual skin.)

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

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