The Daring Future of YouTube
This article originally appeared on The Daily Dot
By Rae Votta
You start on a makeup tutorial, letting Michelle Phan teach you Lunar New Year beauty tips. Then you’re watching the beauty guru collaborate with Rosanna Pansino on a cupcake recipe. Suddenly you’re hungry and off on a YouTube bender: recipes, a vlogger’s rant about working in fast food, a viral candle complaint, an Old Spice ad that you can’t help but share, PewDiePie playing through virtual-reality “Zelda,” and then somehow you’re watching babies tasting lemons for the first time. There’s no light at the end of a YouTube rabbit hole.
Trying to define the future of the massive video-sharing site is like trying to define the future of the written word. It’s no single genre. It encompasses the future of the moving image as a whole.
In the beginning, YouTube was simply a space to share video content, with no agenda beyond the spread of information. In part, it was a reaction to the fact that after the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident of 2004, site creator Jawed Karim, then at Paypal, was annoyed he couldn’t find a clip of the moment online. YouTube was a repository for such major media moments, but it was also the playground for everyday people to upload any clip of themselves, their families, or their environments. From that came the birth of the modern viral video. Over time, the ability to court fame and advertising revenue led to the evolution of the YouTuber, a person who curated a channel with a fanbase that can rival the reach of many TV networks or indie films.
As YouTube transitioned from the medium of the video to that of the personality, its trajectory has shifted. In trying to define the future of YouTube, the common inclination is to relate it to the film or TV industry, or even the publishing industry. But YouTube isn’t analogous to books or movies. YouTube spans every imaginable segment of creativity, from vloggers discussing the minutiae of life to full-fledged film productions, cooking shows, music videos, and niche phenomena like ASMR sleep therapy. Variety is the key to YouTube’s success and the key to its continued growth. There’s no specific kind of content that makes the medium sustainable for a star because such a wide variety of stars are doing sustainable work. Instead of going niche, YouTube is as broad as humanity itself.
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Illustration by J. LongoTags: Michelle Phan, PewDiePie, Rosanna Pansino, SXSW, The Daily Dot, youtube, YouTube Creators