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.
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'