YouTube.com was registered ten years ago.
Since then, those 11 characters have been typed by billions of people — some of whom went on type many more characters in the site’s comment boxes. Those characters formed comments that carried joy, vitriol, anger, pedantry and weirdness — and in doing so YouTube changed the way we think about online discussions forever.
The site didn’t actually appear until May — its first video went up in April, but nobody could see it — so Google celebrates its birthday then. But like the Queen, YouTube can celebrate its birthday twice over.
Videos are less than half of YouTube — ultimately, it’s about comments. And about the commenters too, hundreds of millions of whom have slowly formed into different species, making the site the diverse and often weird place it is today.
Thumbs up if you’re listening in…
YouTube has now been around for long enough that its videos are old enough to prompt nostalgia. And there’s a whole genre of comments that has sprung up to celebrate the fact.
Commenters across YouTube tell other users to like if they're watching the video in the current year — presumably as a marker to the ages that the video lived on.
Perhaps the ultimate source of YouTube nostalgia, though, is the first video ever posted on the site. It appeared on April 23, 2005 — though it wasn’t visible until May — and shows a trip around a zoo.
The top comment on that video is from a user called ‘Oshy’, who writes “Like This As You are watching this video in 2015”. Some 5073 people have done so.
People pretending to be celebrities…
You can be anyone on the internet. And so thousands of people log onto YouTube every day to pretend to be celebrities — many of them obscure and just plain weird.
On the video for R Kelly’s ‘Ignition’, for instance, there is a man with the avatar and username “Tommy Wiseau”. Wiseau is the mysterious and often-mocked director of ‘The Room’, often referred to as the worst film ever made.
In the YouTube thread he writes: “Ah ha ha, so many beautiful women, yet none as beautiful as my Lisa”. It’s a reference to the plot of the film — but that doesn’t really help make sense of it.
Redditors pretending to be Redditors…
Not everyone is pretending to be celebrities, though. Over the last year or so, Reddit users have been devoted to flooding YouTube with posts by caricatures of themselves. That mostly means characters with avatars wearing fedoras, writing obnoxious and simplistic comments about atheism.
They also pose as other internet characters, such as “Berta Lovejoy”, an overzealous feminist woman who is used to mock gender debate on the internet.
The group seem to plan their attacks on a special subreddit, RedditArmie, where they also head to brag about their successes. The group see the best posts as those that get engaged with by other people — and share their best successes on Reddit.
Google+ users accidentally commenting on videos...
If you share a YouTube video on Google+, and write something about it as you do, then whatever you write will be pulled through as a comment on the video itself. That leads to thousands of people accidentally writing comments on YouTube that everyone can see.
They’ll usually write some variation on “check out this video”, though can sometimes include more personal information. Together they make up one of the biggest kinds of commenters on YouTube — despite never actually doing so.
People just there for a good time…
Ultimately YouTube is mostly about spreading joy. And sometimes YouTube comments are a simple expression of that joy.
It’s perhaps amazing that people will spend the time to type out a textual expression of that fact that they enjoyed a chameleon washing his hands. But for some time someone doing so was the only comment on this video, and the post received thousands and thousands of likes.
People who aren’t having a good time at all...
Sometimes the harsh banality of YouTube videos can be enough to prompt existential dread and angst in their viewers. Across YouTube, there are people who have been hit by the sheer pointlessness of most of the time spent on the site, expressing the horror that has just hit them.
But the proliferation of the comments across the site — on longer, weirder, videos they’re especially common — seems to indicate that people aren’t stopping watching.
People who aren’t even people...