There are several shocking statistics to understand the enormity of YouTube as a platform in 2020. Like, on average, each person in the world spends 8 minutes every day watching their videos; Every second its users upload 8 more hours of new content or that 37% of the global mobile data consumption is taken by its app, which of course is in first place.

A day like today just 15 years ago was uploaded to YouTube the first video of the platform, still available. In it -titled ‘Me at the zoo’– We saw a young man in his twenties talking to the camera without much to say in front of the elephant area.

“Okay, so here we are in front of the elephants. And the good thing about these guys is that they have very, very long tubes, and that’s great. And that’s all I have to say.”

** Jawed Karim in the first YouTube video **

That boy who didn’t have much to say about elephants was Jawed Karim, a young engineer who for the past few weeks had launched along with Chad Hurley and Steve Chen the same platform that that video was now uploading to. It was registered as a domain on February 14, 2005 and a month later it already had its first video. Today ‘Me at the zoo’ is given as an example of how the way of sharing content on the Internet changed and has more than 80 million views.

From ‘Me at the zoo’ to the purchase of Google: an immediate success

There are many stories about what led to Hurley, Chen and Karim to create YouTube. The three met while working at Paypal, and the original story they brought to the media is that it occurred to them during a party, when they saw that there was no possibility of sharing videos on the internet. Later everyone would recognize that this would be a simplified version of their story, and that even Karim at first thought about the possibility of the video to create a dating website.

In 2005 YouTube already had 50 million daily visits

One way or another, it can be said that they fell on their feet. At the end of that same year 2005, YouTube already had 50 million daily visits. An outrage considering the traffic of those years on the internet. They had hit the nail on the head, people wanted to share their home videos online in bulk, which was added to the flexibility of their API and sharing system, which got many music groups to start embedding their YouTube videos in then popular Myspace pages. The wheel spun non-stop.

All this produced, of course, that investors did not come soon. That same year Warner invested in YouTube, but the big lug came when Google acquired it in 2006 for the sum of $ 1.65 billion. It was a good investment. Today YouTube generates that every month only with its advertising system.

YouTube today generates 1 in 10 euros from Google

Since that time YouTube has continued to grow at an exponential rate, transforming the entertainment, music and how we consume content industry. Like much of the progress of the internet, it democratized what previously seemed a closed area such as video and its dissemination. And there, logically, the youtuber phenomenon has a lot to do with it.

Google bought YouTube for $ 1.65 billion. Today YouTube generates that every month only with its advertising system

Back in 2006 Time magazine dedicated its classic Person of the year to all internet creators under the title You with an illustration that simulated a YouTube channel. The phenomenon is endless today, generating familiar faces and props for brands and new forms of sponsorship, something that, however, has not prevented YouTube and its youtubers have continuous tug-of-war in recent months due to changes in their monetization policies, or something that the platform has been accused of on several occasions and on which we will come later: the polarization of its content.

Google revealed for the first time in its history how much YouTube generated as a subsidiary last February. More than 15,000 million dollars a year in advertising alone, representing 10% of the giant’s income from this route, which is its largest product.

Part of this success, for better or for worse, has been without its original creators. Hurley, Chen and Karim left the company with pockets full of shares at different stages, and Google has been taking different managers to the forefront of the platform, since 2014, Susan Wojcicki, part that is blamed for its exponential growth but also some of the controversies of recent years.

As for their creator parents, Chen and Hurley they tried to launch other video systems on the internet without finding anything solid, while Karim, somewhat more disappeared, criticized some of Google’s practices and founded an investment fund in university projects that made him, for example, one of the first investors in Airbnb.

Doubts about some products and controversies

While YouTube’s growth has spawned a new class of millionaires and celebrities, the platform’s growing pains, and often the contentious relationship with its creators, has not diminished over the years. Since the decline of demonetization to cases of toxic behavior Mismanaged, becoming a gateway to misinformation, conspiracies, and danger to children, YouTube, like many digital companies, is struggling with how to monitor the community around which it has been built. .

Much of this has to do with the design of your recommendation algorithm. Like all similar platforms, YouTube focuses on that its users stay longer on it, and that does it very well. The problem, as has been shown, is that it lends itself to offering its viewers a circle that can envelop them in a halo of disinformation. For example, if someone comes across a video about terraplanismo, you will serve him more. And it does not matter that this first content is a rigorous video denying that belief.

This same vicious circle of recommendation has been given and denounced by users with topics that are much more worrying, like pedophilia, or conspiracy theories.

This criticism of Youtube it has also been produced from within the company itself. Guillaume Chaslot is a 36 year old French programmer artificial intelligence expert who worked for Google for three years implementing the recommendation algorithm of Youtube. He was fired in 2013 for disagreements with the company and since then he has collaborated in investigations with the Wall Street Journal or the aforementioned one published by the New York Times in which the perverse functioning of the algorithm was revealed.

“The recommendation algorithm is not calibrated to prioritize the truth, but what makes you stay longer watching videos. In a way it gives the appearance that it is a reality that shows you your affinities, but it does it in a distorted way, ”Chaslot noted in an interview in The Guardian.

In his blog on Medium Chaslot, he delves a little deeper into the problem, which in part also lies in the large number of channels that use the platform in order to spread false information. According to him he has been able to trace, YouTube is much more likely to host conspiracies and hoaxes than Google results. As an example, the “land planner” theories find in the search engine 20% of results that defend it, while in the recommendation videos of Youtube this percentage goes up to 90%. In the same way it happens with the arguments that affirm that climate change is a falsehood, where its presence is up to three times greater in the recommendations of the video platform than in all the content it offers. Google.

This being the case – and as these dates have been rediscovered with the case of the COVID-19 pandemic – YouTube continues to have many aspects to polish in regards to its echo chamber of recommendation.

In another order, it remains to be seen how the platform is making profitable or not the new areas of content that it has launched in recent years, such as YouTube Music, Premium, and his own series and productions in a war against Spotify and streaming services in which it seems that for now he is only poking his head out.


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