The History of YouTube

YouTube founders

YouTube of Chad Hurley and Steve Chen

In February, 2005, a dinner party of fellow PayPal (the famous e-commerce Internet site for money transfers and payments) employees happened in San Francisco, California, in the apartment of some Steve Chen. Chen was born in August 1978 in Taiwan, his family came to the United States when he was eight years old, where he studied computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At this party, Chen and his friend, Chad Hurley (born in 1977 in Philadelphia, holder of a degree in fine arts from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the first-ever graphic designer of PayPal in the period 1999-2002), spent much of the party shooting videos and digital photos of each other. They easily uploaded the photos to the Web. But the videos? Not a chance.

Realizing that digital photographs were easier to share thanks to new Web sites like Flickr, they reasoned that a similar software package to share videos was possible, too, but… Stumbling across a need to publish a video to Internet, the friends decided to to create a video sharing website on which users can upload and share videos. And they had the means to address this need, because Chen was an exceptional code writer, and Hurley’s gift for design could give a new Web site a compelling look.

Hurley was living in Menlo Park, California, and had a garage on his property, where in February of 2005 he and Chen set to work on creating what became YouTube. Two months later Chen and Hurley called for help his ex-colleague from PayPal Jawed Karim, also a very good programmer. The domain name was activated the same month. Both founders agreed on a few caveats: The site had to be easy to use for a person with only a minimum of computer skills, and it would not require users to download any special software in order to upload or view videos. They also made it easy for site visitors to view clips without going through a registration process, and created a quick search function to access the archives.

YouTube relocated his work from the garage, to a modest office, situated above a pizzeria and Japanese restaurant in San Mateo, California and offered the public a beta test of the site in May 2005, six months before the official launch in November 2005. In the same month YouTube got a venture-capital kick-off—a US$11.5 million investment by Sequoia Capital and. The first YouTube video was uploaded in April 23, 2005, (it was entitled Me at the zoo, showing founder Jawed Karim at San Diego Zoo, still available on the site).

Before the launch of YouTube, there were few easy methods available for ordinary computer users who wanted to post videos online. With its simple interface, YouTube made it possible for anyone with an Internet connection to post a video that a worldwide audience could watch within a few minutes. The wide range of topics covered by YouTube has turned video sharing into one of the most important parts of Internet culture.

The site grew rapidly, and in July 2006 the company announced that more than 65000 new videos were being uploaded every day, and that the site was receiving 100 million video views per day. Hurley and Chen’s idea proved to be one of the biggest Internet phenomena of 2006. YouTube soon became the dominant provider of online video in the United States, with a market share of around 43 percent and more than six billion videos viewed in January 2009. It was estimated that 20 hours of new videos are uploaded to the site every minute, and that around three quarters of the material comes from outside the United States. It is also estimated that in 2007 YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet in 2000. In March 2008, YouTube’s bandwidth costs were estimated at approximately US$1 million a day.

In October 2006, Google Inc. announced that it had acquired YouTube for US$1.65 billion in Google stock. Thus YouTube founders became overnight multi-millionaires.

Viewing YouTube videos on a personal computer requires the Adobe Flash Player plug-in to be installed in the browser. The Adobe Flash Player plug-in is one of the most common pieces of software installed on personal computers and accounts for almost 75% of online video material. YouTube accepts videos uploaded in most container formats, including .AVI, .MKV, .MOV, .MP4, DivX, .FLV, and .OGG. These include video codecs such as MPEG-4, MPEG, and .WMV.

Videos uploaded to YouTube by standard account holders are limited to ten minutes in length and a file size of 2 GB. Initially 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. Partner accounts are permitted to upload videos longer than ten minutes, subject to acceptance by YouTube.


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