YouTube is a video-sharing website on which users can upload, share, and view videos. Three former PayPal employees created YouTube in February 2005.[1] In November 2006, YouTube, LLC was bought by Google Inc. for $1.65 billion, and is now operated as a subsidiary of Google. The company is based in San Bruno, California, and uses Adobe Flash Video technology to display a wide variety of user-generated video content, including movie clips, TV clips, and music videos, as well as amateur content such as video blogging and short original videos. Most of the content on YouTube has been uploaded by individuals, although media corporations including CBS, the BBC, VEVO and other organizations offer some of their material via the site, as part of the YouTube partnership program.[2]

Unregistered users can watch the videos, while registered users are permitted to upload an unlimited number of videos. Videos that are considered to contain potentially offensive content are available only to registered users 18 and older.


Company historyEdit

Main article: History of YouTube

YouTube was founded by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, who were all early employees of PayPal.[3] Hurley studied design at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, while Chen and Karim studied computer science together at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.[4]

According to a story that has often been repeated in the media, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen developed the idea for YouTube during the early months of 2005, after they had experienced difficulty sharing videos that had been shot at a dinner party at Chen's apartment in San Francisco. Jawed Karim did not attend the party and denied that it had occurred, while Chad Hurley commented that the idea that YouTube was founded after a dinner party "was probably very strengthened by marketing ideas around creating a story that was very digestible."[5]

YouTube began as a venture-funded technology startup, primarily from a US$11.5 million investment by Sequoia Capital between November 2005 and April 2006.[6] YouTube's early headquarters were situated above a pizzeria and Japanese restaurant in San Mateo, California.[7] The domain name was activated on February 14, 2005, and the website was developed over the subsequent months.[8] The first YouTube video was entitled Me at the zoo, and shows founder Jawed Karim at San Diego Zoo.[9] The video was uploaded on April 23, 2005, and can still be viewed on the site.[10]

YouTube offered the public a beta test of the site in May 2005, six months before the official launch in November 2005. The site grew rapidly, and in July 2006 the company announced that more than 65,000 new videos were being uploaded every day, and that the site was receiving 100 million video views per day.[11] According to data published by market research company comScore, YouTube is the dominant provider of online video in the United States, with a market share of around 43 percent and more than 14 billion videos viewed in May 2010.[12] YouTube says that 24 hours of new videos are uploaded to the site every minute, and that around three quarters of the material comes from outside the United States.[13][14] It is estimated that in 2007 YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet in 2000.[15] Alexa ranks YouTube as the third most visited website on the Internet, behind Google and Facebook.[16]

The choice of the name led to problems for a similarly named website, The owner of the site, Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment, filed a lawsuit against YouTube in November 2006 after being overloaded on a regular basis by people looking for YouTube. Universal Tube has since changed the name of its website to[17][18] In October 2006, Google Inc. announced that it had acquired YouTube for US$1.65 billion in Google stock, and the deal was finalized on November 13, 2006.[19] Google does not provide detailed figures for YouTube's running costs, and YouTube's revenues in 2007 were noted as "not material" in a regulatory filing.[20] In June 2008, a Forbes magazine article projected the 2008 revenue at US$200 million, noting progress in advertising sales.[21]

In November 2008, YouTube reached an agreement with MGM, Lions Gate Entertainment and CBS, allowing the companies to post full-length films and television episodes on the site, accompanied by advertisements in a section for US viewers called "Shows". The move was intended to create competition with websites such as Hulu, which features material from NBC, Fox, and Disney.[22][23] In November 2009, YouTube launched a version of "Shows" available to UK viewers, offering around 4000 full-length shows from more than 60 partners.[24] Viewers in the United States can rent full length films from YouTube, and the service is scheduled to be launched worldwide.[25]

Starting in March 2010, YouTube started streaming all 60 cricket matches of the Indian Premier League worldwide for free, which YouTube claims is the first worldwide free online broadcast of a major sporting event.[26][27] On March 31, 2010, the YouTube website launched a new design, with the aim of simplifying the interface and increasing the time users spend on the site. Google product manager Shiva Rajaraman commented: "We really felt like we needed to step back and remove the clutter."[28] In May 2010, it was reported that YouTube was serving more than two billion videos a day, which it described as "nearly double the prime-time audience of all three major US television networks combined."[29]

Social impactEdit

Main article: Social impact of YouTube

Before the launch of YouTube in 2005, there were few easy methods available for ordinary computer users who wanted to post videos online. With its simple interface, YouTube made it possible for anyone with an Internet connection to post a video that a worldwide audience could watch within a few minutes. The wide range of topics covered by YouTube has turned video sharing into one of the most important parts of Internet culture.

An early example of the social impact of YouTube was the success of the Bus Uncle video in 2006. It shows a heated conversation between a youth and an older man on a bus in Hong Kong, and was discussed widely in the mainstream media.[30] Another YouTube video to receive extensive coverage is guitar,[31] which features a performance of Pachelbel's Canon on an electric guitar. The name of the performer is not given in the video, and after it received millions of views The New York Times revealed the identity of the guitarist as Jeong-Hyun Lim, a 23-year-old from South Korea who had recorded the track in his bedroom.[32]

YouTube was awarded a 2008 George Foster Peabody Award and cited for being "a 'Speakers' Corner' that both embodies and promotes democracy."[33][34] Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Providing a safe home for piano-playing cats, celeb goof-ups, and overzealous lip-synchers since 2005."[35]


Main article: Criticism of YouTube

Copyrighted materialEdit

YouTube has been criticized for failing to ensure that its videos respect the law of copyright. At the time of uploading a video, YouTube users are always shown a screen with the following message:

Do not upload any TV shows, music videos, music concerts or commercials without permission unless they consist entirely of content you created yourself. The Copyright Tips page and the Community Guidelines can help you determine whether your video infringes someone else's copyright.[36]
Despite this advice, there are still many unauthorized clips from television shows, films and music videos on YouTube. YouTube does not view videos before they are posted online, and it is left to copyright holders to issue a takedown notice under the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Organizations including Viacom, Mediaset and the English Premier League have filed lawsuits against YouTube, claiming that it has done too little to prevent the uploading of copyrighted material.[37][38][39] Viacom, demanding US$1 billion in damages, said that it had found more than 150,000 unauthorized clips of its material on YouTube that had been viewed "an astounding 1.5 billion times". YouTube responded by stating that it "goes far beyond its legal obligations in assisting content owners to protect their works". Since Viacom filed its lawsuit, YouTube has introduced a system called Video ID, which checks uploaded videos against a database of copyrighted content with the aim of reducing violations.[40][41] On June 23, 2010, Viacom's lawsuit against Google was rejected in a summary judgment, with Judge Louis Stanton stating that Google was protected by provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Viacom announced its intention to appeal against the ruling.[42]

In August 2008, a U.S. court ruled in Lenz v. Universal Music Corp. that copyright holders cannot order the removal of an online file without first determining whether the posting reflected fair use of the material. The case involved Stephanie Lenz from Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, who had made a home video of her 13-month-old son dancing to Prince's song "Let's Go Crazy" and posted the 29-second video on YouTube.[43]


In July 2008, Viacom won a court ruling requiring YouTube to hand over data detailing the viewing habits of every user who has watched videos on the site. The move led to concerns that the viewing habits of individual users could be identified through a combination of their IP addresses and login names. The decision was criticized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which called the court ruling "a set-back to privacy rights".[44] U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton dismissed the privacy concerns as "speculative", and ordered YouTube to hand over documents totalling around 12 terabytes of data. Judge Stanton rejected Viacom's request for YouTube to hand over the source code of its search engine system, saying that there was no evidence that YouTube treated videos infringing copyright differently.[45][46]

Controversial contentEdit

YouTube has also faced criticism over the offensive content in some of its videos. The uploading of videos containing defamation, pornography and material encouraging criminal conduct is prohibited by YouTube's terms of service.[47] Controversial areas for videos have included Holocaust denial and the Hillsborough Disaster, in which 96 football fans from Liverpool were crushed to death in 1989, conspiracy theories and religion.[48][49]

YouTube relies on its users to flag the content of videos as inappropriate, and a YouTube employee will view a flagged video to determine whether it violates the site's terms of service.[47] In July 2008 the Culture and Media Committee of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom stated that it was "unimpressed" with YouTube's system for policing its videos, and argued that "Proactive review of content should be standard practice for sites hosting user generated content." YouTube responded by stating: "We have strict rules on what's allowed, and a system that enables anyone who sees inappropriate content to report it to our 24/7 review team and have it dealt with promptly. We educate our community on the rules and include a direct link from every YouTube page to make this process as easy as possible for our users. Given the volume of content uploaded on our site, we think this is by far the most effective way to make sure that the tiny minority of videos that break the rules come down quickly."[50]


Main article: Blocking of YouTube

Several countries have blocked access to YouTube:

  • The People's Republic of China[51][52] blocked YouTube to prevent dissemination of July 2009 Ürümqi riots video.
  • Morocco shut down YouTube in 2008.[53]
  • Thailand blocks YouTube due to offensive videos relating to King Bhumibol Adulyadej.[54]
  • YouTube is currently blocked in Turkey after controversy over videos deemed insulting to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.[55] Despite the block, Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan admitted to journalists that he could access YouTube, since the site is still available in Turkey by using an open proxy.[56]
  • On December 3, 2006, Iran temporarily blocked access to YouTube, along with several other sites, after declaring them as violating social and moral codes of conduct. The YouTube block came after a video was posted online that appeared to show an Iranian soap opera star having sex.[57] The block was later lifted and then reinstated after Iran's 2009 presidential election.[58]
  • On February 23, 2008, Pakistan blocked YouTube because of "offensive material" towards the Islamic faith, including display of the Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.[59] This led to a near global blackout of the YouTube site for around two hours, as the Pakistani block was inadvertently transferred to other countries. Pakistan lifted its block on February 26, 2008.[60] Many Pakistanis circumvented the three-day block by using virtual private network software.[61] In May 2010, following the Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, Pakistan again blocked access to YouTube, citing "growing sacrilegious content".[62]
  • On January 24, 2010, Libya blocked access to YouTube after it featured videos of demonstrations in the Libyan city of Benghazi by families of detainees who were killed in Abu Salim prison in 1996, and videos of family members of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi at parties. The blocking was criticized by Human Rights Watch.[63]

Some schools have blocked access to YouTube, citing the inability to determine what sort of video material might be accessed by students.[64]

Video technologyEdit



Viewing YouTube videos on a personal computer requires the Adobe Flash Player plug-in to be installed in the browser. The Adobe Flash Player plug-in is one of the most common pieces of software installed on personal computers and accounts for almost 75% of online video material.[65]

In January 2010, YouTube launched an experimental version of the site that uses the built-in multimedia capabilities of web browsers supporting the HTML5 standard. This allows videos to be viewed without requiring Adobe Flash Player or any other plug-in to be installed.[66][67] The YouTube site has a page that allows supported browsers to opt in to the HTML5 trial. Only browsers that support HTML5 Video using the H.264 or WebM codecs can play the videos, and not all videos on the site are available.[68]


Videos uploaded to YouTube by standard account holders are limited to ten minutes in length and a file size of 2 GB.[69][70] When YouTube was launched in 2005 it was possible to upload longer videos, but a ten minute limit was introduced in March 2006 after YouTube found that the majority of videos exceeding this length were unauthorized uploads of television shows and films.[71][72] Partner accounts are permitted to upload videos longer than ten minutes, subject to acceptance by YouTube.[73]

YouTube accepts videos uploaded in most container formats, including .AVI, .MKV, .MOV, .MP4, DivX, .FLV, and .ogg and .ogv. These include video codecs such as MPEG-4, MPEG, and .WMV. It also supports 3GP, allowing videos to be uploaded from legacy mobile phones.[74]

Quality and codecsEdit

YouTube originally offered videos at only one quality level, but now has a range of quality levels as well as a format for viewing on mobile phones. The original format displayed videos at a resolution of 320x240 pixels using the H.263 Sorenson Spark codec, with mono MP3 audio.[75]

Since March 2008, YouTube videos have been available in a range of quality levels, with the higher quality levels offering improved picture definition.[76] In November 2008 720p HD support was added.[77] At the same time, the YouTube player was changed from a 4:3 aspect ratio to a widescreen 16:9. In November 2009, 1080p HD support was added. YouTube videos currently use the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC codec, with stereo AAC audio.[78]

Comparison of YouTube media types
240p 360p 480p 720p 1080p Medium WebM Mobile Old formats (pre Feb 2009)
Standard High Mobile
fmt value 5 34 35 22 37 18 45 17 0, 5 6 13
Container FLV MP4 WebM[79] 3GP FLV 3GP
Video Encoding H.263 MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) WebM MPEG-4 Visual H.263
Max Res Aspect ratio 16:9 4:3 16:9 11:9 4:3 11:9
Max Resolution 400×226 640×360 854×480 1280×720 1920×1080 480×360 1280×720 176×144 320×240 480×360 176×144
Audio Encoding MP3 AAC Vorbis AAC MP3 AMR
Channels 2 (stereo) 1 (mono)
Sampling rate (Hz) 22050 44100 22050 44100 8000

3D videosEdit

In a video posted on July 21, 2009,[80] YouTube software engineer Peter Bradshaw announced that YouTube users can now upload 3D videos. The videos can be viewed in several different ways, including the common anaglyph (cyan/red lens) method, which utilizes glasses worn by the viewer to achieve the 3D effect.[81][82][83]

Content accessibilityEdit

One of the key features of YouTube is the ability of users to view its videos on web pages outside the site. Each YouTube video is accompanied by a piece of HTML, which can be used to embed it on a page outside the YouTube website. This functionality is often used to embed YouTube videos in social networking pages and blogs.[84]

YouTube does not usually offer a download link for its videos, and intends that they are viewed through its website interface.[85] A small number of videos, such as the weekly addresses by President Barack Obama, can be downloaded as MP4 files.[86] Numerous third-party web sites, applications and browser plug-ins allow users to download YouTube videos.[87] In February 2009, YouTube announced a test service, allowing some partners to offer video downloads for free or for a fee paid through Google Checkout.[88]

Platforms Edit

Some smart phones are capable of accessing YouTube videos, dependent on the provider and the data plan. YouTube Mobile was launched in June 2007, and uses RTSP streaming for the video.[89] Not all of YouTube's videos are available on the mobile version of the site.[90]

Since June 2007, YouTube's videos have been available for viewing on a range of Apple products. This required YouTube's content to be transcoded into Apple's preferred video standard, H.264, a process that took several months. YouTube videos can be viewed on devices including Apple TV, iPod Touch and the iPhone.[91] A TiVo service update in July 2008 allowed the system to search and play YouTube videos.[92] In January 2009, YouTube launched "YouTube for TV", a version of the website tailored for set-top boxes and other TV-based media devices with web browsers, initially allowing its videos to be viewed on the PlayStation 3 and Wii video game consoles.[93][94] In June 2009, YouTube XL was introduced, which has a simplified interface designed for viewing on a standard television screen.[95]


In March 2010, YouTube announced that it was introducing automatic captioning for videos, in order to make the site more accessible for the deaf and hearing impaired. The technology is based on Google Voice Search, and at present is confined to a beta test for English language videos.[96]


On June 19, 2007, Google CEO Eric E. Schmidt was in Paris to launch the new localization system.[97] The entire interface of the website is now available with localized versions in 22 countries:

Country Language Launch date
Template:AUS English (Australia) Template:Dts[98]
Template:BRA Portuguese (Brazil) Template:Dts[97]
Template:CAN English (Canada) and French (Canada) Template:Dts[99]
Template:CZE Czech Template:Dts[100]
Template:FIN Finnish Template:Dts
Template:FRA French Template:Dts[97]
Template:GER German Template:Dts[101]
Template:GRE Greek Template:Dts
Template:HKG English and Chinese (Traditional) Template:Dts[102]
Template:HUN Hungarian Template:Dts[97]
Template:ISR English Template:Dts
Template:IND English (India) and Hindi Template:Dts[103]
Template:IRL English (Ireland) Template:Dts[97]
Template:ITA Italian Template:Dts[97]
Template:JPN Japanese Template:Dts[97]
Template:Flagicon Korea Korean Template:Dts
Template:MEX Spanish (Mexico) Template:Dts
Template:NLD Dutch Template:Dts[97]
Template:NZL English (New Zealand) Template:Dts[98]
Template:POL Polish Template:Dts[97]
Template:POR Portuguese (Portugal) Template:Dts[104]
Template:RUS Russian Template:Dts
Template:ESP Spanish Template:Dts[97]
Template:RSA Unknown Template:Dts[97]
Template:SWE Swedish Template:Dts
Template:TWN Chinese (Traditional) Template:Dts[102]
Template:UK English (United Kingdom) Template:Dts[97]

The YouTube interface suggests which local version should be chosen on the basis of the IP address of the user. In some cases, the message "This video is not available in your country" may appear because of copyright restrictions or inappropriate content.[105]

Plans for YouTube to create a local version in Turkey have run into problems, since the Turkish authorities asked YouTube to set up an office in Turkey, which would be subject to Turkish law. YouTube says that it has no intention of doing this, and that its videos are not subject to Turkish law. Turkish authorities have expressed concerns that YouTube has been used to post videos insulting to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and some material offensive to Muslims.[106][107]

In March 2009, a dispute between YouTube and the British royalty collection agency PRS for Music led to premium music videos being blocked for YouTube users in the United Kingdom. The removal of videos posted by the major record companies occurred after failure to reach agreement on a licensing deal. The dispute was resolved in September 2009.[108] In April 2009, a similar dispute led to the removal of premium music videos for users in Germany.[109]

April FoolsEdit

YouTube has featured April Fools on the site every year since 2008:

  • April 1, 2008: All the links to the videos on the main page were redirected to Rick Astley's music video "Never Gonna Give You Up", a prank known as "Rickrolling".[110][111]
  • April 1, 2009: When clicking on a video on the main page, the whole page turned upside down. YouTube claimed that this was a new layout.[112]
  • April 1, 2010: YouTube temporarily released a "TEXTp" mode, which translated the colors in the videos to random upper case letters. YouTube claimed in a message that this was done in order to reduce bandwidth costs by $1 per second.[113]

See alsoEdit

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External linksEdit


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