The YouTube (R)evolution Turns 5

Superstardom

Though the Internet has produced many superstars (here's a look at where some of them are now), it's hard to think of a site that has enabled more people to achieve insta-fame than YouTube has. There is even a Wikipedia entry for List of YouTube personalities.

Everyone has a favorite YouTube superstar--from the Evolution of Dance guy and the Numa Numa kid to Susan Boyle and VenetianPrincess.

Politics

The year 2008 has been widely acclaimed the year that the Internet changed campaign politics, and YouTube was at the epicenter of McCain/Obama drama.

According to the Pew Research Center, 2 percent of participants in its survey identified YouTube specifically as a place where they routinely obtained campaign news. The site also made the election markedly funnier (as evidenced by Crush on Obama, Barack roll, and the post-election turkey slaughter video featuring then-Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska). Perhaps most significantly, YouTube brought citizen users' questions to the Democratic primary debate.

The Music Video

With this week's announcement that MTV is removing music television from its logo, the music video has unmistakably moved online--to YouTube, specifically, where it has been residing unofficially for quite a while.

In fact, the third most watched clip of all time on the site is Miley Cyrus's video for "7 Things," which has garnered more than 110 million views.

The News

Like a host of other blogs and sites, YouTube has fostered the growing ranks of citizen journalists. It developed a "reporter's center" to educate aspiring YouTube journalists, and it entered into a partnership with the Pulitzer Center to recognize the best nonprofessional reporters.

Most recently, the site unveiled YouTube Direct, a platform which was designed to better integrate and redistribute clips from YouTube users to media organizations.

Conclusions

Ridiculous squirrel videos are hardly in the past, but YouTube's other accomplishments now tend to overshadow them. One of the most notable of these is the fact that, in the United States, more searches are done on YouTube than any other site besides Google itself. YouTube is also beginning a video rental service, it has unveiled 3D capabilities, it recently added HTML5 support, its site traffic surpassed a billion page views a day, and it underwent a design makeover.

But as for the success that matters most to a world starved for genuine culture... where else can you find Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords performing "Hey Ya" with the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra?

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