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YouTube’s Rise to Power Pt.1 – The First Video Ever Uploaded

In a 10 year time span, YouTube has managed to take the world by storm. What started off as a video sharing venture between three former colleagues, turned into something markedly larger. The success of the company is well known, but the beginning less so.

Most people wouldn’t guess that the beginning of YouTube started at a zoo. On Saturday, April 23, 2005, “Me At the Zoo” was uploaded to YouTube. This 19 second clip of founder Jawed Karim, explaining what makes elephants so cool, was the first video ever uploaded to the media hosting supergiant.

As the story goes, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, three former employees of PayPal shot some videos and quickly realized they had no way to share them. Flush with cash from eBay’s 1.54 billion purchase of PayPal in 2002, the trio decided to come up with a solution – Youtube.



Karim has said that two events inspired the creation of YouTube. One, the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and two, Janet Jackson’s mid-performance “wardrobe malfunction” during Super Bowl XXXVIII. Everyone was talking of both events, but they were difficult to find and share online. Contrasting Karim, Hurley and Chen state that the beginning of YouTube was much more humble, the potential only realized as the platform developed a life of it’s own.

In the beginning it was unclear exactly the direction that YouTube would take. Initially, the founders were unsure how to market the company and described it as a dating site. Another vision was that it would become a messaging service, sharing videos between a close network of individuals. Desperate to bring people to the site: 

There was zero response to the ads, oh how the tables have turned. Eventually, users began to upload videos not with the purpose of sharing to close networks, but the world. YouTube quickly went from “Me at the Zoo” to a video sharing powerhouse.

YouTube’s success has been accredited to:
1. Its easy to use platform
2. The ability to easily embed videos on other sites
3. It always worked
However, it was still missing one piece.. viral videos.

part 2 - going viral
Check back with us next week to learn how viral videos forever changed YouTube’s fate.


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