What Was the First Ever YouTube Video?

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A Brief History

On April 23, 2005, the video world was treated to the first ever YouTube video, a video created by YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim, under the screen name of “jawed.”  The 18 second video was of the Elephant exhibit at the San Diego Zoo, and was so brief we can include the entire script here: “All right, so here we are in front of the, uh, elephants, and the cool thing about these guys is that, is that they have really, really, really long, um, trunks, and that’s, that’s cool, and that’s pretty much all there is to say.”  The video was titled “Me at the Zoo.”  Not only has YouTube turned into an important part of the flow of information in the digital age we live in, it is also a fantastic source of entertainment and probably most importantly, History and Headlines has its own (high quality) YouTube channel with a current count of 270 videos!  (We highly value our over 10,200 subscribers!)

Digging Deeper

Now a subsidiary of Google, YouTube has been a wonderful way for everybody to post the videos they want to share with their friends or the world, from funny personal bloopers, to weird people at Walmart, to traffic accidents, crimes in progress, movie, car and product reviews, self-help and how to videos, an endless supply of lists, movie reviews and some spectacular fishing and sports videos.  Most endearing of the YouTube videos are those that include Dachshunds and Basset Hounds, and to a lesser extent, other cute animals.  Of course, if anything can be abused, it will, and people have made the tasteless blunder of posting video of crimes, including ones they themselves were involved in.  In recent years and months, the powers that be at YouTube have become quite a bit more particular about content and the types of videos they are willing to host on their site.  Criticism about political video and the misleading nature of some of those types of videos has recently stung YouTube.  The way YouTube goes about censoring and paying for content has drawn much debate, and the rules and laws of copyrighted content are another point of contention.

Another nifty factor regarding YouTube is the ability of the average person to create their own channel, and when they meet certain criteria (which has become much more stringent in the past year or 2) their videos can become “monetized,” and the channel owner (or “creator”) can profit from people watching their videos.  Not all videos are monetized, as some content is deemed unsuitable for advertisers due to political, racial, sexual, violent or other content deemed to be offensive to enough people that an advertiser would not want to be associated with it.  This would include coarse language, hate speech, and general intolerance.

Not only can you learn a tremendous amount about history from our channel, you can also listen to just about any song ever recorded, including watching live performances of those songs going back to the 1950’s.  In some cases, you can watch entire feature films, let alone television episodes and documentaries.  In the days of coronavirus lockdown, you can make virtual trips around the world and see all the sites you are (currently) not allowed travel to.

The sheer quantity of content on YouTube is staggering.  Every MINUTE 500 hours of video is now being uploaded!  About 5 billion videos are watched every day, and the number is likely to be rising because of the pandemic lockdowns.  About 1.3 billion people watch YouTube, perhaps 30 million or more per day.  Watch hours on YouTube are around 3.25 billion hours per month!  A total of 76 different languages makes YouTube accessible to most of the world, although one odd fact is that males watch YouTube considerably more than females, about 62% male and 38% female.  An incredible 80% of YouTube views originate from outside the United States.  About a fifth of all videos are clicked off in the first 10 seconds!  (This implies the importance of having an introduction that grabs the viewers.) The company reports revenues of over $15 billion annually.  Consider that income compared to the price Google paid to acquire YouTube in 2006, a paltry $1.65 billion.

Sorry “Baby Shark Dance,” the most watched YouTube video of all time (to date) is “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi, featuring Daddy Yankee, with 6.72 billion views in the past 3 years.   So now you know the answer to 2 trivia questions, what was the first YouTube video and what is the most watched YouTuve video!

Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite YouTube video of all?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Ciampa, Rob and Theresa Moore. YouTube Channels For Dummies. For Dummies, 2015.

Hogue, Joseph. Crushing YouTube: How to Start a YouTube Channel, Launch Your YouTube Business and Make Money. Amazon, 2019.

The featured image in this article, a picture taken by Robin Brown of Jawed Karim, has been released into the public domain worldwide by its author, Jawed.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.