12 Fascinating Facts About YouTube
Like most of the world’s population with Internet access, we love YouTube. After all, where would society be without on-demand access to footage of cats getting stuck in boxes? Probably way more productive—but also a whole lot less entertaining. Check out 12 things you may not know about the world’s single biggest exporter of Rick Astley.
1. You could have given YouTube a secret retro look.
Founded in 2005, YouTube escaped the visual nightmare that was the Internet circa the 1990s. But the site allowed users to give give it a cool retro look for their Geek Week promotion in 2013 by typing a “/ geekweek” code into the search prompt.
2. One early YouTube attempt to find content was a little creepy.
According to the book YouTube: The Company and Its Founders, when the site needed some kind of video library during its 2005 launch, programmers decided to hit up Craig’s List in Los Angeles and Las Vegas with an offer: They’d pay $20 to any woman willing to upload 10 videos of herself to the site. Nobody replied.
3. Artificial intelligence loves YouTube cat videos, too.
In 2012, researchers at Google’x X lab constructed a neural computer network and let it “browse” YouTube. After combing through 10 million screen captures, the A.I. began to be able to distinguish between human and cat faces with consistency despite not being programmed to do so. Jeff Dean, who led the research, told press that “It basically invented the concept of a cat.”
4. One of the most popular YouTube cats isn't a real cat.
Simon’s Cat, an animated video series about a plump feline from animator Simon Tofield, has been viewed over a half-billion times, according to YouTube. That means Simon outranks actual kitten hall-of-famers like Maru, Grumpy Cat, and the one-hit wonder Surprised Kitty.
5. You can blur your face in a YouTube video.
We’ve all been there: taking police cars out for joyrides and recording it, but worried about identifying details. Fortunately, Google remedied that back in 2012 by introducing a face-blurring feature for uploaders. Software detects facial features and obscures them, but it’s not selective, so if you want to smudge one face, you’ll have to smudge them all.
6. YouTube once pulled down all the Hitlers.
Downfall, a film depicting the final days of Adolf Hitler, features a scene where the Fuhrer throws a bit of a tantrum. Ever since, hundreds of videos have been created that plug in subtitles to (mis)represent the leader making a fuss over everything from bad customer service to Ben Affleck being cast as Batman. In 2010, Constantin Film alerted the site to the parodies and wanted them removed. YouTube complied, but it was a game of Whack-a-Mole: New videos were being uploaded constantly—including one in which Hitler complains about being removed from YouTube.
7. Journey found their new lead singer on YouTube.
Losing a voice as distinctive as Steve Perry’s was a big blow to the band Journey, which had to make do without their lead vocalist beginning in 1996. In 2007, guitarist Neal Schon was browsing YouTube when he came across a video by Arnel Pineda, part of a Philippines Journey cover group. Pineda sounded so remarkably like Perry that Schon and the band signed him to a deal. They’ve been touring ever since.
8. Unboxing toys can make YouTube stars millionaires.
The thrill of opening boxes should never be underestimated. Ryan of Ryan ToysReview [sic] made $22 million between June of 2017 and June of 2018. Ryan, 7, unboxes toys of all kinds and is paid via advertisers and sponsors.
9. YouTube will give you a gold-plated button for getting one million subscribers.
Got a cute cat? Have a neat idea involving Diet Coke and Mentos? Then you just may have a shot at getting one million subscribers to your YouTube channel. If you do, the site will commemorate the occasion by sending you a 24-karat gold-plated Play button. Only 100,000 subs? That’s all right: they’ll send you a silver button. Less than 100,000? Get to work.
10. The longest video on YouTube is nearly 600 hours.
When Jonathan Harchick uploaded a 571 hour video comprised of photo slides he took while touring Chile, he dared someone to try and top it. No one did, so he took it upon himself. Via his Moldy Toaster Media channel, Harchick delivered a 596.5 hour slog of a two-tone color pattern switching places. Leave it on and come back in 24 days. It will still be playing.
11. One YouTube video was declared fine art.
Artist Petra Cortwright used her webcam to compose the above video, which she auctioned off during a 2013 digital art show held at the Phillips auction house. Titled rgb,d-lay, it depicts Cortwright holding her hair in a loop. The original video file was auctioned—Cortwright put a USB drive in a fancy box for the winner—and appraised based on the number of hits it had at the time of sale. It sold for $3200.
12. YouTube viewers really want to know how to kiss.
YouTube has long since replaced those old Time-Life books on home repair, with thousands of videos devoted to instructionals. But according to the site, the most-searched tutorial in 2015 wasn’t for fixing a leaky faucet: it was for how to kiss. (Number four: how to get a six-pack in three minutes.)