Can you imagine a world without YouTube? A world where you couldn't watch Susan Boyle's transformation over and over, where you couldn't watch an iPhone run through a blender, where your fellow web surfers hadn't watched a baby laughing 150 million times?
It's hard to believe, but five years ago, that's exactly where we lived. Back on April 23, 2005, YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim was preparing to upload the site's first ever video. In 'Me at the Zoo', Karim stands for 18 seconds in front of the elephants at San Diego Zoo. "The cool thing about these guys is that they have really, really, really long, uhm... trunks," he says.
Since then, an idea dreamed up after a dinner party has changed our lives. In 2006, Google bought Karim, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen out for $1.65 billion. Today, it hosts more than a billion video views a day and has replaced Yahoo as the world's second-largest search engine.
The secret to YouTube's success is that it is easy. Uploading videos is a foolproof process, and footage can be viewed within minutes. Whether that footage is of a revolution in Iran or a cat flushing a toilet doesn't seem to matter -- the point is, anyone can do it. And anyone does.
By now, of course, YouTube is a part of mainstream culture. President Obama posts regular updates, corporations post ads, and amateurs post just about anything. Mash-ups and memes (viral videos) are part of the vernacular, and celebrity cock-ups can reach an audience of millions within days.
Is that a good or a bad thing? Probably both. But it's damned entertaining.
Susan Boyle's Metamorphosis
It was the moment an ugly duckling became a swan. Susan Boyle, the 47-year-old who had never been kissed, wowed the sniggering judges on Britain's Got Talent with a note-perfect rendition of 'I Dreamed a Dream'. The video has been viewed more than 91 million times.
www.youtube. com/watch?v= 9lp0IWv8QZY
Lady Gaga, 'Bad Romance'
The most viewed video on YouTube? We shouldn't be surprised to hear it's Lady Gaga, whose 'Bad Romance' video has 185 million views. "This girl should be the next Chuck Norris or whatever she wants to be," one poster comments. "President, Santa Claus, even god."
The Ice Guy
2010 brought Ireland its coldest winter in decades. Councils were running out of salt. We needed a hero, and we got one in the shape of an unwitting passer-by, filmed by RTE News as he slipped spectacularly.
www. youtube.com/ watch?v=iJAezIlvC2M
The Laughing Baby
The Swedish baby, filmed by his father as he laughs helplessly for 1'40", has ratcheted up more than 115 million views. A bit long, maybe, but damn it, it's heart-warming.
www.youtube. com/watch?v= 5P6UU6m3cqk
Senator George Allen's 'Macaca'
Republican Senator George Allen, speaking in Virginia, referred to an Indian-American man filming his campaign speech as 'macaca'. The clip crossed over to TV, and Allen kissed his chances of a presidential nomination goodbye.
www.youtube.com/watch? v= r90z0PMnKwI
Bill O' Reilly gets Rick-Rolled
The clip that combines two YouTube phenomena -- Rick-rolling (where an unsuspecting viewer is tricked into watching a video of Rick Astley) and the onscreen meltdown. O'Reilly, the Fox News presenter, throws a standout hissy fit.
Crystal Swing, 'He Drinks Tequila'
Mary Murray-Burke and her kids, Derek and Dervla, shot this video to drum-up wedding business for their band. Instead, they drummed up a viral sensation, propelling them all the way from East Cork to an appearance on Ellen.
Groovy Dancing Girl
With almost 600,000 views, Crystal Swing have an audience most Irish performers can only dream of. They still have a way to go to catch Ireland's No 1 YouTube sensation. Groovy Dancing Girl (Sophie Merry does what it says on the tin) has been watched more than 4.75 million times.
Bringing Down the Warehouse
It's actually quite beautiful, this. Russian security camera footage shows two forklifts pottering about a Russian warehouse. One reverses into the stock, tipping more than €100,000 worth of alcohol. A domino effect leads to the most epic workplace accident you may ever see.
Christian Bale Freaks Out
Christian Bale may have played the good guy in Terminator Salvation, but things were different off-camera, as this nasty audio clip revealed. Bale throws a tantrum at a crew member, and the results have been endlessly remixed and parodied.
LonelyGirl15, AKA 16-year-old video blogger Bree, taught us not to trust everything we saw on YouTube. After several months of musings on her teenage life, Bree was outed in September 2006 as actress Jessica Rose. Her video diary, a fictional series, remains YouTube's best-known hoax.
Leave Britney Alone!
After Britney Spears' widely ridiculed comeback appearance at the 2007 MTV Awards, a tearful Chris Crocker took to the internet to defend his heroine. The result is horrifically embarrassing. It also snagged four million views in 24 hours.
The Evolution of Dance
21st-century technology has changed film in all manner of ways, but on YouTube, the simplest concepts often work best. Judson Laipply's irrepressible one-man performance, featuring himself, a spotlight and a medley of tunes, has won more than 141 million views.
John Joe Brennan
Eight-year-old John Joe Brennan took the Late Late Toy Show by storm in 2008, charming the audience with his articulate book reviews and an on-the-spot analysis of Ryan Tubridy's watch. He now has 250,000 views on YouTube.
www. youtube.com watch?v=3n6Jx_ XiLKE
The Internet Granddad
Kids are often the stars of viral videos, but 82-year-old Peter Oakley has endeared himself to millions with a series of down-to-earth video diaries. Oakley's videos, posted from his Leicester home, have spawned one of the Internet's best-known catchphrases: "Hello YouTubers!"
www.youtube. com/watch ?v=p_ YMig ZmUuk
Charlie Bit Me... Again!
Young boy puts finger in his baby brother's mouth. Baby bites. Young boy does it again. With 181 million views, 'Charlie Bit Me' is the second-most popular YouTube video of all time.
Randy Pausch's Last Lecture
"My father always told me that when there's an elephant in the room, (you should) introduce him," Randy Pausch told his audience at Carnegie Mellon University. The elephant was pancreatic cancer, and Pausch died months later. But his 'Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams' lecture lives on.
www.youtube. com /watch? v=ji5_MqicxSo
Jack Rebney is a force of nature. And this series of outtakes, charting the TV presenter's profane implosion as he tries to sell a Winnebago, is a work of editing genius. The language is choice, the build up of anger quite breathtaking, and the result is the subject of a feature-length documentary due for release this year.
www.youtube.com /watch?v= zSWUWPx2VeQ
The Hand of Henry
Nothing beats YouTube for moments of sporting genius. But nothing beats it for catching cheats either, as this painful footage of Thierry Henry's famous handball attests. www.youtube.com/ watch? =4KIqwTNm8ZA
OK Go, 'Here It Goes Again'
LA-based OK Go danced their way into music history in this wacky video, performing a ridiculously catchy choreographed routine on treadmills. It's a simple idea, but the video already has more than 50 million views and bagged its director a Grammy award.