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Everything is impossible until it's not: April edition

From a trip to see elephants to 2 billion logged-in users visiting each month, this month we're looking at the anniversary of Youtube.


Everything is impossible — until it isn’t. At Strike, we’re looking back on disruptive moments that changed the world. From technology that has shaped our lives to feats of human strength and resilience that were never thought possible, every month we’ll bring you a moment in history that changed everything.

This month we’re heading back to a simpler time. A time when watching video content meant dusting off a DVD or a VHS tape from the shelf. When everything video-related – from favourite TV episodes to home movies – came in an over-sized plastic box (as well as having us frantically searching under the sofa cushions to find the remote). But one April in 2005, 15 years ago, all that changed (well, maybe not the remote in the sofa cushions). 

All it took was a low-res, 18-second video upload and the landscape of online videos has never looked back. On April 23rd 2005, YouTube was born.

“So here we are, in front of the elephants.”

“Me at the zoo” was uploaded by YouTube co-founder, Jawed Karim. Karim can be seen in the foreground at San Diego Zoo standing in front of a group of elephants. Most of the short video is taken up with a description of the animals: 

“The cool thing about these guys is that they have really, really, really long trunks, and that's, that's cool. And that's pretty much all there is to say.”

The clip is a reminder that while the video may go down in internet history, that doesn’t necessarily make it a David Attenborough documentary. That said, Karim’s upload has since had over 90 million views – not bad for a day at the zoo.

YouTube had initially been conceived as an online dating website, yet a month after Karim’s video was uploaded the decision was made to keep it as a platform for sharing online video content. After the platform officially launched, it was then shared with the public in November 2005.

While Karim’s involvement has undoubtedly shaped YouTube history, his time with YouTube was short-lived and he left the company in 2005. He then went on to found venture capital firm Youniversity Ventures, which has since invested in a number of successful — and disruptive — companies, including Airbnb. 

From golden boots to election hubs

Since 2005, YouTube has gone from strength to strength. In September 2005, Nike saw YouTube’s potential as a promotional tool. They uploaded a video of Brazilian football player Ronaldinho wearing a pair of Nike’s “golden boots”. In the video, after performing a series of impressive tricks, Ronaldinho hits the football against the goal crossbar so that the ball rebounds back to him – a feat which led many to, falsely, claim that the video was fake.

This made no difference to its popularity, however, and the video quickly went viral – it was the first YouTube video to reach one million views

Despite all its success, YouTube faced a number of financial difficulties in its early years. The platform struggled without any steady source of income, and the financial burden of being drawn into a series of lawsuits for copyright infringement only made things worse. It was at this point that Google stepped in. 

Seeing the popularity YouTube had already gained, Google noted YouTube’s incredible potential as a money-making source. In October 2006, Google bought YouTube for a whopping $1.65 billion, and quickly started enabling ads on the platform as a way of creating income. 

From this point on YouTube hasn’t looked back. By June 2008, Forbes magazine reported that YouTube was making somewhere around $200 million annually, mostly due to progress in advertising sales. 

The platform has also changed the course of history, with its impact spanning the cultural, political, and social arenas. From launching its popular “YouTube Election Hub” in 2012, where viewers could watch election content from eight different news outlets, to introducing a 15-year-old Justin Bieber to the world in 2010 via his pop music video “Baby”, YouTube has brought the worlds of culture, music and politics directly into our homes. Even if the reception to some of its content has sometimes been mixed (Bieber’s music video “Baby” is still one of the most disliked videos in YouTube history, but we reckon he’s done pretty well just the same). 

Now YouTube, according to its figures, has more than 2 billion logged-in users visiting each month. It also estimates that 1 billion hours of content are watched daily. Which is pretty amazing given that it all started one day in April with a simple trip to the zoo to see the elephants.

We're always looking to dream bigger and find ways to make the impossible possible. Next month, we'll be back with another moment that changed everything.