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article imageViral videos: A look back at the last 10 years

By Holly L. Walters     Feb 27, 2015 in Internet
YouTube turned 10 years old this month, and this means that viral videos have now made it through an entire decade. Instead of being merely a fad that faded out quickly, viral videos have become one of the most popular aspects of online life.
In fact, these videos are so wide-reaching, they are now used for everything from showcasing animals like Grumpy Cat to advertising new products and services. YouTube is now celebrating its latest milestone, and this gives everyone an opportunity to reflect on some of the most effective viral videos of the past 10 years.
When YouTube first began, it took several months for the site to go beyond the preview stage. However, according to USA Today, the site created by three entrepreneurs who met while working for PayPal grew very quickly. The very first video, “Me at the Zoo,” went live on April 23, 2005, and there would be 65,000 new uploads per month by July 2006. Although this showcases the quick growth of YouTube, it does not paint a clear picture of the obstacles that the video sharing site faced when it was first launched.
In 2005, there were only 46.9 million broadband subscribers in the U.S., and smartphones accounted for only 4 percent of all cellphone purchases. To put this into perspective, smartphones are now used by almost 69 percent of Americans, and 277.4 million people in the U.S. have access to the Internet. That YouTube was able to thrive 10 years ago is a testament to how intriguing viral videos are. Today, YouTube is ranked as the third most popular website in the world, according to Alexa traffic ranking, and the site also receives an estimated 432,000 new hours of video footage every day from more than 1 billion registered users.
These stats provide an interesting look at just how quickly YouTube was able to grow from a start-up into a major company, but they also fail to offer the one thing that every viral video fan enjoys: the videos themselves. One of the latest uploads to YouTube provides a brief overview of the evolution of viral videos. Within the slightly more than 16 minutes that it takes to view the upload "10 Years of YouTube: Evolution of Viral Video" below, you will be able to take a trip down memory lane and see some of the most popular videos you missed the first time around.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about YouTube’s huge success is that the videos that achieve viral status can all tell us something about society. For example, the most popular video of all time, "Gangnam Style,” has racked up more than 2.2 billion views since July 15, 2012, and this highlights that music and laughter are typically prioritized over topics of a more serious nature.
However, posts of a topical nature can also become popular extremely quickly. The large quantity of snow that has piled up in the eastern portion of the U.S. has led to some unusual situations. One of the most popular new videos is “My cat jump [sic] through the snowbank.” The recorded antics of a house-cat that was really tired of all of the snow gathered more than 3 million views in just nine days.
It is no surprise that cat videos are so popular. After all, Google’s so-called artificial brain is a huge fan of watching videos that feature cats. Although it is impossible to say for certain which videos will go viral within the next decade, it is almost a certainty that those that contain popular music, cats and humor will stay at the top of the list.
More about youtube viral videos, Youtube video, Gangnam style, grumpy cat, cat videos
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