January. 01, 17
The YouTube story is a curious mixture of a solution that solved a specific problem (efficiently sharing video content
YouTube, the now ubiquitous video-sharing site, was founded in 2005 and acquired by Google in 2006 for $1.65 billion. The site immediately became one of the fastest growing destinations online. By July 2006, there were 65,000 videos uploaded per day that generated 100 million views.
By 2014, some 1 billion YouTube users post 100 hours of video content per minute. The average user spends almost eight hours a month on the site, which reaches more adults age 18-34 in the United States than any cable network.
YouTube’s success can be traced to its multi-level appeal. It is a social network like Facebook in that users can follow one another, comment on video content, create playlists, and publish their own channels. At the same time, channels can be used as an advertising platform or for the pure delivery of content.
A YouTube channel is an “everyman’s” venue to publishing video content that, if it goes viral, can be a ticket to a music career, acting roles, or television or movie contracts. For some, YouTube has literally been a place where dreams come true.
It began, however, in a garage in Menlo Park, California. Three former PayPal employees wanted to share some video of a party the night before. They weren’t sure how to do it, so they started brainstorming, bought a domain name, spent some months developing the site, and released a public beta in May 2005 populated with videos of PJ, a cat that belonged to one of the founders.
Initially they tried to create buzz by giving away an iPod Nano to a random user every day for two months, but in the end, their connections may have been their greatest asset.
“The former CFO of PayPal, Roelof Botha ran into YouTube founder Steve Chen at a party. They talked about the new site, and Botha posted clips of his Italian honeymoon. Word of mouth in the tech community picked up, and Botha started to look at YouTube as a potential investment.
The YouTube story is a curious mixture of a solution that solved a specific problem (efficiently sharing video content in an accessible way), luck (knowing the right people), and virality.
The proliferation of camera phones drove the success of photo posting sites like Instagram and social sharing on Facebook and Twitter, but users were at something of a loss about what to do with their phone’s video capability.
Emailing large files multiple times was too bulky, there were always issues with compatibility, and far too much overall friction for the experience to be enjoyable.
YouTube solved all those problems, and instantly began to capitalize on other social media sites by making sharing to Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other sites a one click proposition.
Now, YouTube content is so enmeshed in the social commerce inherent in those sites, that it is, itself, a growth hacking engine for emerging sites seeking a channel to create viral videos.