YouTube is an American online video-sharing platform headquartered in San Bruno, California. Three former PayPal employees—Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim—created the service in February 2005. Google bought the site in November 2006 for US$1.65 billion; YouTube now operates as one of Google’s subsidiaries.
YouTube allows users to upload, view, rate, share, add to playlists, report, comment on videos, and subscribe to other users. It offers a wide variety of user-generated and corporate media videos. Available content includes video clips, TV show clips, music videos, short and documentary films, audio recordings, movie trailers, live streams, and other content such as video blogging, short original videos, and educational videos. Most content on YouTube is uploaded by individuals, but media corporations including CBS, the BBC, Vevo, and Hulu offer some of their material via YouTube as part of the YouTube partnership program. Unregistered users can only watch (but not upload) videos on the site, while registered users are also permitted to upload an unlimited number of videos and add comments to videos. Videos that are age-restricted are available only to registered users affirming themselves to be at least 18 years old.
YouTube and selected creators earn advertising revenue from Google AdSense, a program which targets ads according to site content and audience. The vast majority of its videos are free to view, but there are exceptions, including subscription-based premium channels, film rentals, as well as YouTube Music and YouTube Premium, subscription services respectively offering premium and ad-free music streaming, and ad-free access to all content, including exclusive content commissioned from notable personalities. As of February 2017, there were more than 400 hours of content uploaded to YouTube each minute, and one billion hours of content being watched on YouTube every day. As of August 2018, the website is ranked as the second-most popular site in the world, according to Alexa Internet, just behind Google. As of May 2019, more than 500 hours of video content are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Based on reported quarterly advertising revenue, YouTube is estimated to have US$15 billion in annual revenues.
YouTube has faced criticism over aspects of its operations, including its handling of copyrighted content contained within uploaded videos, its recommendation algorithms perpetuating videos that promote conspiracy theories and falsehoods, hosting videos ostensibly targeting children but containing violent and/or sexually suggestive content involving popular characters, videos of minors attracting pedophilic activities in their comment sections, and fluctuating policies on the types of content that is eligible to be monetized with advertising.
Founding and initial growth (2005–2006)
YouTube was founded by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim, who were all early employees of PayPal. Hurley had studied design at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Chen and Karim studied computer science together at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.
Karim said the inspiration for YouTube first came from Janet Jackson‘s role in the 2004 Super Bowl incident when her breast was exposed during her performance, and later from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Karim could not easily find video clips of either event online, which led to the idea of a video sharing site. Hurley and Chen said that the original idea for YouTube was a video version of an online dating service, and had been influenced by the website Hot or Not. Difficulty in finding enough dating videos led to a change of plans, with the site’s founders deciding to accept uploads of any type of video.
According to a story that has often been repeated in the media, Hurley and Chen developed the idea for YouTube during the early months of 2005, after they had experienced difficulty sharing videos that had been shot at a dinner party at Chen’s apartment in San Francisco. Karim did not attend the party and denied that it had occurred, but Chen commented that the idea that YouTube was founded after a dinner party “was probably very strengthened by marketing ideas around creating a story that was very digestible”.
YouTube began as a venture capital–funded technology startup, primarily from an $11.5 million investment by Sequoia Capital and an $8 million investment from Artis Capital Management between November 2005 and April 2006. YouTube’s early headquarters were situated above a pizzeria and Japanese restaurant in San Mateo, California. The domain name
www.youtube.com was activated on February 14, 2005, and the website was developed over the subsequent months. The first YouTube video, titled Me at the zoo, shows co-founder Jawed Karim at the San Diego Zoo. The video was uploaded on April 23, 2005, and can still be viewed on the site. YouTube offered the public a beta test of the site in May 2005. The first video to reach one million views was a Nike advertisement featuring Ronaldinho in November 2005. Following a $3.5 million investment from Sequoia Capital in November, the site launched officially on December 15, 2005, by which time the site was receiving 8 million views a day.
At the time of the official launch, YouTube did not have much market recognition. It was not the first video-sharing site on the Internet; Vimeo predated it having been launched in November 2004, though it remained a side project of its developers from CollegeHumor at the time and did not grow much either. The week of YouTube’s launch, NBC-Universal’s Saturday Night Live ran a skit “Lazy Sunday” by The Lonely Island. Besides helping to bolster ratings and long-term viewership for Saturday Night Live, “Lazy Sunday” established YouTube as an important website as one of the first viral videos. Unofficial uploads of the skit to YouTube drew in more than five million collective views by February 2006 before they were removed at request of NBC-Universal about two months later, raising questions of copyright related to viral content. Even their short presence at the site not only helped spread the name of YouTube, but allowed users to see it was not just for video lovers and people who create their own video content, but a means to share other types of videos, such as television clips and music videos. The site grew rapidly and, in July 2006, the company announced that more than 65,000 new videos were being uploaded every day, and that the site was receiving 100 million video views per day.
The choice of the name
www.youtube.com led to problems for a similarly named website,
www.utube.com. The site’s owner, Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment, filed a lawsuit against YouTube in November 2006 after being regularly overloaded by people looking for YouTube. Universal Tube has since changed the name of its website to
Acquisition by Google (2006–2013)
On October 9, 2006, Google Inc. announced that it had acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in Google stock, and the deal was finalized on November 13, 2006. Google’s acquisition of YouTube launched a newfound interest in video-sharing sites; IAC which now owned Vimeo after acquiring CollegeHumor, used its asset to develop a competing site to YouTube, though focused on supporting the content creator to distinguish itself from YouTube.
In March 2010, YouTube began free streaming of certain content, including 60 cricket matches of the Indian Premier League. According to YouTube, this was the first worldwide free online broadcast of a major sporting event. On March 31, 2010, the YouTube website launched a new design, with the aim of simplifying the interface and increasing the time users spend on the site. Google product manager Shiva Rajaraman commented: “We really felt like we needed to step back and remove the clutter.” In May 2010, YouTube videos were watched more than two billion times per day. This increased to three billion in May 2011, and four billion in January 2012. In February 2017, one billion hours of YouTube was watched every day.
According to data published by market research company comScore, YouTube is the dominant provider of online video in the United States, with a market share of around 43% and more than 14 billion views of videos in May 2010.
In October 2010, Hurley announced that he would be stepping down as chief executive officer of YouTube to take an advisory role, and that Salar Kamangar would take over as head of the company. In April 2011, James Zern, a YouTube software engineer, revealed that 30% of videos accounted for 99% of views on the site. In November 2011, the Google+ social networking site was integrated directly with YouTube and the Chrome web browser, allowing YouTube videos to be viewed from within the Google+ interface.
In May 2011, 48 hours of new videos were uploaded to the site every minute, which increased to 60 hours every minute in January 2012, 100 hours every minute in May 2013, 300 hours every minute in November 2014, and 400 hours every minute in February 2017. As of January 2012, the site had 800 million unique users a month. It has been claimed, by The Daily Telegraph in 2008, that in 2007, YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet in 2000. According to third-party web analytics providers, Alexa and SimilarWeb, YouTube is the second-most visited website in the world, as of December 2016; SimilarWeb also lists YouTube as the top TV and video website globally, attracting more than 15 billion visitors per month. In October 2006, YouTube moved to a new office in San Bruno, California.
In December 2011, YouTube launched a new version of the site interface, with the video channels displayed in a central column on the home page, similar to the news feeds of social networking sites. At the same time, a new version of the YouTube logo was introduced with a darker shade of red, the first change in design since October 2006.
In early March 2013, YouTube finalized the transition for all channels to the previously[when?] optional “One Channel Layout,” which removed many customization options and custom background images for consistency, and split up the channel information to different tabs (Home/Feed, Videos Playlists, Discussion, About) rather than one unified page.
New revenue streams (2013–ongoing)
In May 2013, YouTube launched a pilot program for content providers to offer premium, subscription-based channels within the platform. In February 2014, Susan Wojcicki was appointed CEO of YouTube. In November 2014, YouTube announced a subscription service known as “Music Key,” which bundled ad-free streaming of music content on YouTube with the existing Google Play Music service.
In February 2015, YouTube released a secondary mobile app known as YouTube Kids. The app is designed to provide an experience optimized for children. It features a simplified user interface, curated selections of channels featuring age-appropriate content, and parental control features. Later on August 26, 2015, YouTube launched YouTube Gaming—a video gaming-oriented vertical and app for videos and live streaming, intended to compete with the Amazon.com-owned Twitch.
In October 2015, YouTube announced YouTube Red (now YouTube Premium), a new premium service that would offer ad-free access to all content on the platform (succeeding the Music Key service released the previous year), premium original series and films produced by YouTube personalities, as well as background playback of content on mobile devices. YouTube also released YouTube Music, a third app oriented towards streaming and discovering the music content hosted on the YouTube platform.
In January 2016, YouTube expanded its headquarters in San Bruno by purchasing an office park for $215 million. The complex has 554,000 square feet of space and can house up to 2,800 employees.
On August 29, 2017, YouTube officially launched the “polymer” redesign of its user interfaces based on Material Design language as its default, as well a redesigned logo that is built around the service’s play button emblem.
On May 17, 2018, YouTube announced the re-branding of YouTube Red as YouTube Premium (accompanied by a major expansion of the service into Canada and 13 European markets), as well as the upcoming launch of a separate YouTube Music subscription.
In September 2018, YouTube began to phase out the separate YouTube Gaming website and app, and introduced a new Gaming portal within the main service. YouTube staff argued that the separate platform was causing confusion and that the integration would allow the features developed for the service (including game-based portals and enhanced discoverability of gaming-related videos and live streaming) to reach a broader audience through the main YouTube website.
In July 2019, It was announced that YouTube will discontinue support for Nintendo 3DS systems on September 3, 2019. However, owners of New Nintendo 3DS, or New Nintendo 3DS XL, can still access YouTube on the Internet browser.
In November 2019, it was announced that YouTube was gradually phasing out the classic version of its Creator Studio across all users by the spring of 2020. Currently, some users have access to Creator Studio Classic by the end of March or April 2020.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when most of the world was under stay-at-home orders, usage of services such as YouTube grew greatly. In response to EU officials requesting that such services reduce bandwidth as to make sure medical entities had sufficient bandwidth to share information, YouTube along with Netflix stated they would reduce streaming quality for at least thirty days as to cut bandwidth use of their services by 25% to comply with the EU’s request. YouTube later announced that they will continue with this move worldwide, “We continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the globe to do our part to minimize stress on the system during this unprecedented situation”.
Previously, viewing YouTube videos on a personal computer required the Adobe Flash Player plug-in to be installed in the browser. In January 2010, YouTube launched an experimental version of the site that used the built-in multimedia capabilities of web browsers supporting the HTML5 standard. This allowed videos to be viewed without requiring Adobe Flash Player or any other plug-in to be installed. The YouTube site had a page that allowed supported browsers to opt into the HTML5 trial. Only browsers that supported HTML5 Video using the MP4 (with H.264 video) or WebM (with VP8 video) formats could play the videos, and not all videos on the site were available.
On January 27, 2015, YouTube announced that HTML5 would be the default playback method on supported browsers. YouTube used to employ Adobe Dynamic Streaming for Flash, but with the switch to HTML5 video now streams video using Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (MPEG-DASH), an adaptive bit-rate HTTP-based streaming solution optimizing the bitrate and quality for the available network.
All YouTube users can upload videos up to 15 minutes each in duration. Users who have a good track record of complying with the site’s Community Guidelines may be offered the ability to upload videos up to 12 hours in length, as well as live streams, which requires verifying the account, normally through a mobile phone. When YouTube was launched in 2005, it was possible to upload longer videos, but a ten-minute limit was introduced in March 2006 after YouTube found that the majority of videos exceeding this length were unauthorized uploads of television shows and films. The 10-minute limit was increased to 15 minutes in July 2010. In the past, it was possible to upload videos longer than 12 hours. Videos can be at most 128 GB in size. Video captions are made using speech recognition technology when uploaded. Such captioning is usually not perfectly accurate, so YouTube provides several options for manually entering the captions for greater accuracy.
YouTube accepts videos that are uploaded in most container formats, including AVI, MP4, MPEG-PS, QuickTime File Format and FLV. It supports WebM files and also 3GP, allowing videos to be uploaded from mobile phones.
Videos with progressive scanning or interlaced scanning can be uploaded, but for the best video quality, YouTube suggests interlaced videos be deinterlaced before uploading. All the video formats on YouTube use progressive scanning. YouTube’s statistics shows that interlaced videos are still being uploaded to YouTube, and there is no sign of that actually dwindling. YouTube attributes this to uploading of made-for-TV content.
Quality and formats
YouTube originally offered videos at only one quality level, displayed at a resolution of 320×240 pixels using the Sorenson Spark codec (a variant of H.263), with mono MP3 audio. In June 2007, YouTube added an option to watch videos in 3GP format on mobile phones. In March 2008, a high-quality mode was added, which increased the resolution to 480×360 pixels. In December 2008, 720p HD support was added. At the time of the 720p launch, the YouTube player was changed from a 4:3 aspect ratio to a widescreen 16:9. With this new feature, YouTube began a switchover to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC as its default video compression format. In November 2009, 1080p HD support was added. In July 2010, YouTube announced that it had launched a range of videos in 4K format, which allows a resolution of up to 4096×3072 pixels. In March 2015, support for 4K resolution was added, with the videos playing at 3840 × 2160 pixels. In June 2015, support for 8K resolution was added, with the videos playing at 7680×4320 pixels. In November 2016, support for HDR video was added which can be encoded with Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) or Perceptual Quantizer (PQ). HDR video can be encoded with the Rec. 2020 color space.
In June 2014, YouTube began to deploy support for high frame rate videos up to 60 frames per second (as opposed to 30 before), becoming available for user uploads in October. YouTube stated that this would enhance “motion-intensive” videos, such as video game footage.
YouTube videos are available in a range of quality levels. The former names of standard quality (SQ), high quality (HQ), and high definition (HD) have been replaced by numerical values representing the vertical resolution of the video. The default video stream is encoded in the VP9 format with stereo Opus audio; if VP9/WebM is not supported in the browser/device or the browser’s user agent reports Windows XP, then H.264/MPEG-4 AVC video with stereo AAC audio is used instead.
2020 picture quality cut
On March 18, 2020, Thierry Breton, a European commissioner in charge of digital policy of the European Union urged streaming services including YouTube to limit their services. The request came as a result of the prevention of Europe’s broadband networks from crashing as tens of millions of people started telecommuting, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe. According to the EU, the streaming platforms should consider offering only standard definition, rather than high-definition, programs and users should be responsible for their data consumption. On March 20, YouTube responded by temporarily downgrading the videos in standard definition across the EU including the traffic in the UK as well.
From 2008 to 2017, users could add “annotations” to their videos—such as pop-up text messages and hyperlinks. These functions were notably used as the basis for interactive videos, which used hyperlinks to other videos to achieve branching elements. In March 2017, it was announced that the annotations editor had been discontinued and the feature would be sunset, because their use had fallen rapidly, users had found them to be an annoyance, and because they were incompatible with mobile versions of the service. Annotations were removed entirely from all videos on January 15, 2019. YouTube had introduced standardized widgets intended to replace annotations in a cross-platform manner, including “end screens” (a customizable array of thumbnails for specified videos displayed near the end of the video) and “cards”, but they are not backwards compatible with existing annotations, while the removal of annotations will also break all interactive experiences which depended on them.
YouTube carried out early experiments with live streaming, including a concert by U2 in 2009, and a question-and-answer session with US President Barack Obama in February 2010. These tests had relied on technology from 3rd-party partners, but in September 2010, YouTube began testing its own live streaming infrastructure. In April 2011, YouTube announced the rollout of YouTube Live, with a portal page at the URL “www.youtube.com/live”. The creation of live streams was initially limited to select partners. It was used for real-time broadcasting of events such as the 2012 Olympics in London. In October 2012, more than 8 million people watched Felix Baumgartner‘s jump from the edge of space as a live stream on YouTube.
In May 2013, creation of live streams was opened to verified users with at least 1,000 subscribers; in August of that year the number was reduced to 100 subscribers, and in December the limit was removed. In February 2017, live streaming was introduced to the official YouTube mobile app. Live streaming via mobile was initially restricted to users with at least 10,000 subscribers, but as of mid-2017 it has been reduced to 100 subscribers. Live streams can be up to 4K resolution at 60 fps, and also support 360° video. In February 2017, a live streaming feature called Super Chat was introduced, which allows viewers to donate between $1 and $500 to have their comment highlighted.
In a video posted on July 21, 2009, YouTube software engineer Peter Bradshaw announced that YouTube users could now upload 3D videos. The videos can be viewed in several different ways, including the common anaglyph (cyan/red lens) method which utilizes glasses worn by the viewer to achieve the 3D effect. The YouTube Flash player can display stereoscopic content interleaved in rows, columns or a checkerboard pattern, side-by-side or anaglyph using a red/cyan, green/magenta or blue/yellow combination. In May 2011, an HTML5 version of the YouTube player began supporting side-by-side 3D footage that is compatible with Nvidia 3D Vision. The feature set has since been reduced, and the 3D feature currently only supports red/cyan anaglyph with no side-by-side support.
In January 2015, Google announced that 360-degree video would be natively supported on YouTube. On March 13, 2015, YouTube enabled 360° videos which can be viewed from Google Cardboard, a virtual reality system. YouTube 360 can also be viewed from all other virtual reality headsets. Live streaming of 360° video at up to 4K resolution is also supported.
In 2017, YouTube began to promote an alternative stereoscopic video format known as VR180, which is limited to a 180-degree field of view but is promoted as being easier to produce than 360-degree video and allowing more depth to be maintained by not subjecting the video to equirectangular projection.
In late November 2018, YouTube announced that it would introduce a “Story” feature, similar to ones used by Snapchat and Instagram, which would allow its content creators to engage fans without posting a full video. The stories, called “Reels,” would be up to 30 seconds in length and would allow users to add “filters, music, text and more, including new “YouTube-y” stickers.” Unlike those of other platforms, YouTube’s stories could be made multiple times and would not expire. Instead of being placed at the top of the user interface as is commonly done, the “Reels” option would be featured as a separate tab on the creator’s channel. As of its announcement, only certain content creators would have access to the “Reels” option, which would be utilized as a beta-version for further feedback and testing. If users engage more with the “Reels” option, it may end up as a more permanent feature and “trigger their appearance on the viewer’s YouTube home page as recommendations.” As of November 28, 2018, YouTube did not specify when “Reels” would arrive in Beta or when it would be publicly released.