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YouTube | Marking the Rise of a Social Media Behemoth

Ross Kelly



Amidst the rise of audio-only social networks, YouTube still remains one of the most popular platforms for content and creators.

Much like any social media platform today, it’s difficult to envisage a world without YouTube. As one of the most immersive and impactful social media platforms on earth, YouTube caters to everyone’s needs.

Fashion bloggers? An abundance. Podcasts? They’ve got you covered. Conspiracy theories? Hours of my life wasted.

On 23rd April 2005, the first video was uploaded to YouTube by co-founder Jawed Karim. Titled ‘Me at the zoo’, the video itself is rather mundane but has since accumulated more than 160 million views.

It’s what happened after that really counts, however, because few websites in the history of the web have had such an influence on our daily lives and online habits.

A Star Is Born

YouTube was born on the 14th February 2005, two months prior to Karim’s upload.

Started by three PayPal employees – the aforementioned Jawed Karim, Steve Chen and Chad Hurley – YouTube secured an initial investment of $11.5 million (£8.9 million) from Sequoia Capital.

While officially debuted in early 2005, a beta testing period saw some of the knots and kinks worked out on the platform ahead of its roll-out in December.

YouTube’s blissful youth was short-lived, though. Far from plodding along as just another platform, it quickly expanded and blossomed. Less than two years after its launch, Google paid $1.65 billion to acquire the firm.

Fast forward to 2021 and YouTube is still going toe-to-toe with some of the great social media superpowers.

According to Alexa statistics, YouTube ranks second in the list of the world’s top 500 most-visited sites, ranked only behind Google itself.

Amazon, Twitter, Instagram and Reddit, the ‘front door to the internet’, all trail behind YouTube, and one of the aforementioned platforms is trying its hardest to emulate its video-sharing capabilities.

More than two billion logged-in users visit YouTube every month, and each day people watch over a billion hours of video, generating billions of hits in the process.

YouTube’s rise to prominence has coincided with the rise of the smartphone, and the site certainly has capitalised on the trend. According to its own statistics, more than 70% of YouTube watch time now comes from mobile devices.

In June 2007, the site launched in the UK (along with eight other countries worldwide) and in the three years following saw partnerships with broadcasters, the introduction of new advertisements and HD video capability.


14 years later, the platform is localised in more than 100 countries and can be accessed in 80 different languages.

Indeed, it was during this period that content creators began to realise the value of YouTube. With dollar signs flashing before their eyes, gamers, musicians, video enthusiasts and film producers began to flock to the site.

YouTube isn’t just a platform for amateur video enthusiasts to publish their work – it is a staple for organisations, publications and news outlets around the world.

One would be hard-pressed to find a media company, big or small, without a YouTube channel, uploading videos to accompany their content.

While you’re here, why not check out DIGIT’s own YouTube channel and learn more about our range of events?

For the individual user, it has proved to be a platform through which a career can be forged and a (very lucrative) living can be made.

Global superstars have erupted into popular culture through YouTube, with content creators such as PewDewPie cultivating a fanbase stretching into the millions.

Over the past five years, YouTube has paid out more than $2 billion to creators who have chosen to monetise their content, according to the firm’s website.

Music stars, also, have found fame through YouTube. Justin Beiber was famously “discovered” through the platform and, well, we all know the rest.

YouTube’s rapid rise to dominance shows no signs of slowing, and in an increasingly competitive marketplace amidst the rise of audio-only social networks such as Clubhouse, the platform is holding its ground.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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