What is the most watched, most viewed YouTube video of all time? Here’s a hint. It has garnered over 2 billion views since it was published on YouTube back in July 15, 2012. Its runner-up, “Baby” by Justin Bieber featuring Ludacris, is the only other video with views passed the billion view mark. A quick visit to Google to search for the most watched youtube video would net you the strange and quirky “Gangnam Style” by Psy, a South Korean novelty singer. As for the top 30 to top 10 youtube videos, they’re all songs or music videos since, you know, MTV isn’t Music Television any longer, the name of the company doesn’t even make sense at all that you might as well call it RTV or Reality Television. Therefore it makes perfect sense that all the Top 30 most watched videos on YouTube in 2014 are also most of the Top 40 songs of the decade.
The Most Subscribed Channels and Most Watched Vids Showcase YouTube History
However, what about the non-song categories of YouTube? What sort of story do they paint in regards to the evolution of site from being mostly user-generated to a billion-dollar, billion-views conglomerate that doubles as a promotional vehicle for musicians and celebrities? Actually, a quick look at the most subscribed channels showcase YouTube’s eventual rise to commercial success.
The Early Years of User-Generated YouTube Weirdness (2006-2007):
Back in 2006, when you watch youtube videos that aren’t uploaded copyrighted content of others, it was user-generated content like lip-synching videos. It’s therefore no surprise that the very first most watched video on YouTube was the Pokemon Theme lip-synched by the comedy duo of Smosh (Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox). They were then surpassed by Judons Laipply of Evolution of Dance fame in terms of subscribers, then Brook Allison Brodack of “Brooker” fame.
This was also the Vlogdays of YouTube also saw the rise of users like “geriatric1927” or Peter Oakley (1927-2014), who made five-to-ten minute autobiographical videos about life before YouTube. Afterwards, came “lonelygirl15”, a vlog channel outed as a fake fictional vlog about a young vlogging girl Bree Avery, played by Jessica Lee Rose. Eventually, Smosh regained the top spot for a second time all the way through 2008 when they diversified their content. The early days of YouTube became a musical chairs game of most subscribed turnovers.
The Comedy Skit and “Fred” Years of YouTube (2008-2010):
Throughout 2008 up until 2010, the most subscribed YouTube channels all boiled down to two accounts, Niga Higa by Ryan Higa and Fred by Lucas Cruikshank. Ryan Higa was able to surpass Smosh’s brand of comedy by concentrating on more elaborate skits, parodies, and creative stories.
It was also during this time that users like the Angry Video Game Nerd and the Nostalgia Critic saw their rise. They moved on to other video sites because of YouTube’s increasingly strict interpretation of copyright and fair use policies, which meant comedians like Shane Dawson was able to find his niche. Most of these three years were dominated by Fred, played by Lucas Cruikshank, so much so that he eventually starred in multiple movies.
The Comedy Skit Show and Viral Video Years of YouTube (2011-2012):
In order to bypass fair use laws, more and more “YouTubers” began concentrating on more parodies and skits. Smosh remained in the top spot by emulating the success of current trends, whether it’s slow down youtube videos or synchro-vox videos like Annoying Orange.
When Ryan Higa was on top, they made more skits. When Ray William Johnson created reaction videos on viral videos, they did too by hiring Mari Takahashi and making the weekly Smosh Pit video series covering the latest trending videos. Their diversification helped them enough of a foothold to regain the top most subscribed spot.
The Let’s Play and Video Game Personalities of YouTube (2013-2014):
Due to a change in the YouTube algorithm wherein not only views but engagement (that is, the amount of time people watch a vid as opposed to just clicking it) saw the rise of Let’s Players like PewDiePie. Gamer channels have always been around (like Machinima or Game Grumps), but no other gaming personality (even AVGN) has garnered a following as large as PewDiePie.
Because Let’s Play produces hours of content you have to watch all the way through to enjoy and because PewDiePie himself has an international following, that’s how he gained the top spot today. As per usual, Smosh diversified their content again in light of this trend by making a gaming channel called Smosh Games and partnering closely with PewDiePie for extra exposure, ensuring their number 2 spot as most subscribed regardless.
Feel free to post comments and/or suggestions about what’s in and what’s no of the youtube world.