So How Did This Happen?


In August ’05 (around the time of its launch), YouTube had 58,000 visitors. By the late summer of this year there were over 20 million (per Nielsen). It became the breakout star of an ensemble show (online video) and in less than a year went from $0 to $1.65 billion. How did that happen?

Many people believe there was a moment or series of moments when YouTube took off. Here’s the historical account of the site’s development from Kevin Delaney at the WSJ (sub req’d). In particular:

But it started becoming clear to YouTube that users were sharing more than just their own videos, and viewership stretched far beyond circles of friends. By the time of the site’s official public release on Dec. 15, consumers were viewing YouTube videos more than three million times daily. Millions of users had watched clips starring Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho posted by sneaker giant Nike Inc. A few days later, someone posted to YouTube a skit from NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” dubbed “Lazy Sunday,” featuring two grown men rapping about cupcakes, red licorice candy and “The Chronicles of Narnia” film.

Many people believe it was this unauthorized posting of copyrighted material and the availability of other copyrighted material that helped the site become so popular. Once it had that momentum, it broke away from the pack (except arguably MySpace).

And speaking of MySpace, Google reportedly had an opportunity to buy the social networking site and passed. That experience, plus the failure of Google’s own video offering to catch fire made this something they didn’t want to pass up.

Now that copyright enforcement on YouTube, of necessity, will become more “rigorous,” shall we say, it will need to be offset with more content from professional producers. I’m sure those deals will start coming fast and furiously now.


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