YouTube History Timeline

Updated on 26 June 2020

YouTube History Timeline


Set up in 2005 by three former PayPal employees and originally intended as a dating service, YouTube is now the world’s most popular online video-sharing platform. Responsible for 4 billion hours worth of videos watched on a monthly basis and 72 hours worth of new material uploaded every minute, YouTube has evolved from a site dedicated to amateur footage to a service that distributes original content.

Apart from being everyone’s go-to video-streaming channel, it boasts other merits as well:

  • Played an instrumental role during the Arab Spring and in jumpstarting the careers of artists like Justin Bieber and Korean pop sensation Psy.
  • Received a Peabody Award in 2008 and was cited as a ”'Speakers' Corner' that both embodies and promotes democracy.”

To pay homage to this influential source of entertainment (and endless procrastination in many cases), we’ve created this blog post along with the YouTube Timeline, which illustrates the company’s evolution since its launch.

Outlining some of the most memorable moments throughout the history of the video content giant, the graphic also includes a few feature releases (hidden but accessible when dowloading the slide).

Key Turning Points in YouTube’s Story

  • Registration of YouTube trademark, logo and domain on Valentine’s Day, 2005

A year before YouTube’s official launch, former PayPal employees Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim came up with the idea while attending a dinner party in San Francisco. As Karim declared in a 2006 interview, the propelling factor resided in the difficulty of finding online videos of Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction at the 2004’s Super Bowl and of that winter’s devastating tsunami.

  • Launch of its beta site in May, 2005

To understand the long way YouTube has come since this event, here’s a preview of the website’s initial homepage.

YouTube 2005 homepage

Image source: Wayback Machine

  • First video posted to the site (which is 19 seconds long) on April 23, 2005

Considering the type of broadcasts that are regularly going viral on YouTube, one might think the first video ever posted on the website must have been something insane. Well, it’s actually a very short clip of co-founder Jawed Karim standing near some elephants at the zoo and describing their “really, really long trunks.” The video is appropriately titled “Me at the Zoo” and has since been viewed more than 45 million times.

  • Reaching its first one million-hit video in September, 2005

The viral clip that helped YouTube score this record was a Nike ad showing Brazilian soccer player Ronaldinho receiving his pair of Golden Boots. This didn’t attract only the huge number of views, but Nike’s recognition of YouTube’s promotional potential as well.

  • Officially launching out of beta on December 15, 2005

Thanks to the $3,5 million investment made by Sequoia Capital, YouTube was able to launch their site to the public by improving their servers and increasing their bandwidth.

  • Deal with NBC in June, 2006 ushering new digital era for the traditional media company

In February 2006, NBC requested YouTube to withdraw one of the former’s broadcast SNL clips (”Lazy Sunday”), citing copyrights infringement. Not only did the video-sharing site comply, but it also launched its Content Verification Program, thus helping other content owners prevent similar situations from reocurring (by locating and removing videos that infringe their copyrights).

However, NBC later changed its tune and proposed that YouTube would promote its fall’s TV lineup. This deal paved the way for profitable partnerships with other content providers.

  • Acquisition by Google in October, 2006

Seeing the potential in what they called ”the next step in the evolution of Internet”, Google acquired the rapidly growing video-sharing platform for $1,65 billion.

  • Launching its Partner Program in May, 2007

By taking this step, YouTube allowed everyday people get paid for their viral content. Thus, some users have succeeded in turning their hobbies into lucrative businesses, earning six-figure incomes from YouTube.

  • Earning even more widespread recognition in 2009

With the 111th U.S. Congress launching its official Congressional YouTube channels in January 2009, many American citizens gained access to the government like never before, and YouTube became mainstream. The Vatican followed the lead and launched its own YouTube channel a month later.

  • Launching YouTube Live in April, 2011

By doing so, YouTube entered the broadcast business and started streaming a wide range of live content, from concerts and the royal wedding to news coverage and the Olympics.

  • Reaching its first one billion-hit video in December, 2012

The Korean pop artist’s video for ”Gangam Style” brought in more than 1.3 billion views for YouTube, becoming its #1 most-watched clip (surpassed by ”Despacito” with over 6.8 billion views as of June 2020).

That year was huge for the video-sharing platform for other reasons too, as it became the go-to place for the presidential election coverage in August, 2012.

About the YouTube History Timeline

The YouTube chronology was created with the help of Office Timeline, a flexible PowerPoint add-in that allows users to quickly generate timelines, Gantt charts and other similar visuals for business or academic presentations. To update the downloadable slide (which is free to copy and share) or build new ones effortlessly, we recommend using Office Timeline Pro Edition.

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