February 16, 2020
As YouTube celebrates its 15th birthday, we talk to five early adopters about how the all-singing all-dancing platform has evolved
YouTube at 15: what happened to some of the platform’s biggest early stars?
Late on the evening of 14 February 2005, Jawed Karim, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen registered the website YouTube.com. Two months later, when the first video (of Karim briefly describing the elephant enclosure at the San Diego Zoo) was uploaded, a platform was launched that has gone on to change the world.
Today, more than 2bn of us visit YouTube monthly, and 500 hours of footage is uploaded every minute. That’s a far cry from the 18-second video that started it all. Its stars are multi-millionaires: YouTube’s highest earner in 2019 was an eight-year-old called Ryan, who netted $26m. The number of creators earning five or six figures has increased by more than 40% year on year. At first, users earned a few hundred pounds for mentioning products in their videos; now they can make hundreds of thousands, and much more through exclusive brand deals. Not many like talking about their income: it makes them less relatable.
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