YouTube 15 Years On – The Journey From Startup To Tech Giant

By Emeric Brard
on 17 February 2020

In 1991, the launch of the worldwide web paved the way for the likes of Facebook, MySpace and a whole new world of opportunities regarding communication and content sharing.

Fourteen years later, three men by the names of Chad Hurley, Steven Chen and Jawed Karim – who at the time worked at Paypal – had an idea for a startup website with video upload options that they would go on to call “YouTube“.

Today, YouTube is the world’s biggest video-sharing platform and has transformed the way we engage with content and created a platform for people to express themselves and along the way become the home to numerous YouTube stars.

Let’s take a look at YouTube’s remarkable journey from a humble startup to video world-beater.

2005 YouTube Launches

Founded by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim – the site was activated on the 14th of February, 2005, with its first video titled ‘Me at the zoo’ uploaded in April by Jawed Karim.

The 18-second video today has over 84 million views.

Later that year, YouTube received an initial investment of $3.5 million from the venture firm Sequoia Capital, who then invested a further $8 million the following year.

2006 YouTube Hits 100 Million Views Per Day

This was the pivotal year in YouTube’s growth. Its popularity rose exponentially, gaining 100 million video views per day in July and an average of 20 million visitors per month.

This attracted the attention of NBC, earning them a marketing and advertising partnership with them.

A few months later in October, Google showed their interest and bought YouTube for US$1.65 billion in stock. With Google being one of the biggest companies in the world at the time, YouTube was almost certainly going to skyrocket from there with the support and financial backing available to them.

youtube, person of the year

In 2006, Times Magazine famously named “You.” as ‘Person of the Year’ featuring a YouTube screen in recognition of the upcoming information age being pushed by its users.

2007 YouTube Hosts First Awards

Smosh (left-to-right: Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla) won ‘Best Comedy Video’

YouTube hosted its first-ever YouTube Awards recognising the most popular videos of the year voted by the YouTube community.


An agreement was made between MGM, Lions Gate Entertainment and CBS for YouTube to post full-length films and TV shows in the hopes of competing with Hulu, NBC, Fox, and Disney.


Fred, Lucas Cruikshank
Lucas ‘Fred’ Cruikshank

Lucas Cruishank’s FRED channel is the first channel to reach one million subscribers.


  • For the first time, users could rent films right from YouTube
  • YouTube stated that they were serving around two billion videos a day


The Google+ social networking site was integrated directly with YouTube and the Google Chrome browser. This was followed by a whole new interface change that saw video channels on the home screen like news feeds on social networking sites.

YouTube layout as of December 2011
  • YouTube stated that they were now serving three billion videos a day


By 2012, it was reported that there were about 60 hours of new videos being uploaded to YouTube every minute.

  • YouTube also stated that the number of videos they were serving a day had once again increased, this time to four billion.


Unique monthly visitors reached one billion!


60 fps videos were released


  • 360-degree videos
  • YouTube Red launches


YouTube subscription service became available.


  • The most-watched YouTube video of the decade and of all time is ‘Despacito’ by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee which is currently at 6.6 billion views – that’s only about one billion less than the world’s entire population.
  • The first solo channel to reach 100 million subscribers is Felix ‘PewDiePie’ Kjellberg
PewDiePie, YouTube
PewDiePie unboxes his 100 million subscribers plaque

Elise Strachan, the Aussie YouTube sensation in the world of sweets and lifestyle, is just one example of how video-sharing platforms have provided a platform for good content makers to become stars. With her channel, My Cupcake Addiction, Queensland mum of two Elise shows you how to create gorgeous cakes, cupcakes and cake pop masterpieces from her kitchen. She has uploaded over 450 videos and has racked up 3.16 million subscribers.

Today, in 2020, YouTube’s viewing figures are simply incredible:

  • It has two billion logged-in monthly users
  • 81% of 15-25 year-olds in the US use YouTube
  • 500 hours of video is uploaded every minute (440 hours more than in 2012)
  • In 2019, YouTube’s advertising grew 36% (US$15 billion)
  • Up to 250 million hours are watched by users every day
Luis Fonsi’s ‘Despacito’ featuring Daddy Yankee racked up
6.6 billion not only making it the most-viewed video of the
decade but of all time.

Its domination throughout the 2010s has been immense.

The question now is whether or not they can keep up with new short-form video platforms like TikTok, Byte and video-streaming services like Netflix. We’d love to hear your thoughts on YouTube and what you think of its future and how it may continue to evolve.

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