YouTube confession: Original plan for video sharing platform exposed

YouTube, founded in 2005, is an American online platform that has become an international sensation. Three former PayPal employees came up with the idea for a website for uploading and sharing videos after noticing the cultural impact of Janet Jackson’s 2004 Superbowl performance, and wanting to replay the controversial moments of her performance. They also recognised how video clips of the devastating 2004 Tsunami by the Indian Ocean were difficult to obtain and view.

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However, these are two widely different types of video — and before they recognised how universal their platform could become, they wanted to make it a video dating website.

Co-founder Steve Chen originally wanted it to be a way for singles to upload a video of themselves talking about their ideal partner.

Speaking at the SXSW conference in 2016, he said: “We always thought there was something with video there, but what would be the actual practical application?

“We thought dating would be the obvious choice.”

YouTube

YouTube (Image: Getty)

Two of YouTube co-founders, Steve Chen and Chad Hurley

Two of YouTube co-founders, Steve Chen and Chad Hurley (Image: Getty)

In 2015, co-founder Jawed Karim also told Motherboard that he and his two colleagues had even started hashing out details of their new site.

He said: “We even had a slogan for it: Tune in, Hook up.

“[But] the whole thing didn’t make any sense.

“We were so desperate for some actual dating videos, whatever that means, that we turned to the website any desperate person would turn to, Craigslist.”

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Google bought YouTube in 2006

Google bought YouTube in 2006 (Image: Getty)

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The co-founders, Mr Chen, Mr Karim and Chad Hurley, offered women $20 (£16) to upload videos of themselves to YouTube — however, nobody came forward.

As a result they had to address their strategy.

Mr Chen told the SXSW conference in 2016 that they then decided: “OK, forget the dating aspect, let’s just open it up to any video.”

Mr Karim then uploaded the first ever video to YouTube called ‘Me at the Zoo’.

The 18 second video has now accumulated close to 90million views.

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Bill Clinton with the three co-founders -- Chen, Hurley and Karim

Bill Clinton with the three co-founders — Chen, Hurley and Karim (Image: Getty)

The Queen visiting Google headquarters

The Queen visiting Google headquarters (Image: Getty)

Now, even royals such as Sarah Ferguson have got involved with the platform.

She launched a new YouTube channel called ‘Storytime with Fergie and Friends’ this week, where she reads books aloud for children’s entertainment.

Many people have since made their fame and fortune through YouTube — known as YouTubers — while other people have had their musical talents discovered by posting videos of themselves singing, such as Justin Bieber.

However, as Rolling Stone magazine pointed out earlier this year, “YouTube was the right idea at the right time”.

YouTube has paved the way for platforms such as Netflix

YouTube has paved the way for platforms such as Netflix (Image: Getty)

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It continued: “Social media was just starting in February 2004 — we were all on Friendster, MySpace was catching on, and Facebook launched three days after the Super Bowl. “

The platform also led to the creation of other popular apps such as Netflix.

Robert Kyncl — who used to work at Netflix and is now the chief business officer at YouTube — explained how the platform was a revelation.

In his 2017 book Streampunks, he wrote: “YouTube clearly demonstrated that people were willing to trade fidelity for convenience and speed.

“Witnessing the popularity of YouTube was a revelation.”