In 2006, YouTube was absorbed by Google in a then-unprecedented $1.65 billion sale. That same year, the folks over at Time pissed a bunch of people off by naming YOU – you, with your iPod mini and Hot Pockets and 24 DVDs – the Person of the Year. And this was way before you learned how to selfie.
Why did they pick you? What did you (or I) do that was so great? The cover of the magazine bore an image of a computer monitor, complete with a reflective panel, creating the illusion that you were the star of a real live internet video. Which, in real life, you probably weren’t. Yet.
It was around this time that I started watching YouTube videos. Initially, it was for a class project that was intended to reveal what made any given YouTube video more popular than another. I asked this question largely because it seemed like a lot of worthless garbage was getting huge attention, and I had no idea why. And eight years later, beyond the reliability of Justin Bieber, cats, and boobs, I still don’t really know.
But I was watching. And I soon found that my packrat-ish tendencies could manifest themselves in the digital world through the use of YouTube’s ‘Favorite’ feature. One click, and you’d ensure that anytime you needed to watch that video of a guy drinking a whole bottle of shampoo, it would only be one click away. Favorites are sorted into an easy-to-browse playlist that is, by default, hidden from the public.
But today, I step out of the shadows, in the first installment of Dan’s Favs – where I will dust off selections from the 600 little wastes of time that I call my YouTube Favorites.
Today’s theme – DAWN OF THE ‘TUBE. These vids are pulled from the very beginning of the list. Each helped me understand what YouTube was and how it would eventually dominate the internet.
Diet Coke and Mentos TO THE FACE!!!
Uploader – bisonwing13, 9/18/06 Views – 229,146
This video was uploaded by a friend of mine, who also happened to be my partner for the aforementioned class project. It’s short and sweet. A young man (bisonwing13) kneels in front of a bottle of Diet Coke, staring down a makeshift spout. Urged on by the cameraman, Bisonwing drops a Mentos into the bottle – ostensibly unaware of the chemical reaction he’s triggered. Guess he hadn’t gotten the memo.
Only he totally had. Bisonwing had totally seen the OG DC/Mentos video, and knew exactly how much aspartame he’d be wringing out of his eyebrows. IT WAS ALL FAKE. And this was mere weeks after one of the first YouTube hoaxers, lonelygirl15, had been proven not to be an actual lonely girl. For me, this Fav represents two seminal YouConcepts.
1. The views make the man. You ain’t famous on YouTube unless you got views. Many of the first websites to host videos didn’t have view counters, because most videos were not uploaded by users and also who cares. But since YouTube is about YOU, it needed a way to let you show your stripes, and that came in the form of a view count.
2. Trust no one. Bisonwing and Lonelygirl would not be the last to lie to the YouTube community. Hell, even our network talk show hosts lie to us now. And mainstream acceptance of YouTube hoaxing means that videos are now guilty until proven innocent.
Star Wars: The Phantom Homework (low quality)
Uploader – ichase, 11/15/05 Views – 5,603
Low quality my ass! I mean, sure, this Star Wars fan video doesn’t have much of a story, and the enemies are just pictures of action figures, and it features a dazzling cameo by Mom – but look at those lightsabers! My brother and I were brushing our shoulders off when we learned how to use the dissolve feature in Windows Movie Maker, and these kids were straight up using the Force.
This video predates the Google acquisition, and my YouTube account. But it’s a prime example of the seeds that were planted and eventually grew into a vibrant digital community of content creators. For every time you saw a user-made special effect in a video, you could also find a friendly and free tutorial that encouraged you to contribute. And it’s not just for filmmakers. Cooking, building, repairing, destroying – there are even tutorials on making tutorials.
Jim Carrey Karate instructer WANABE
Uploader – i r teething, 4/19/06 Views – 16,184
In 1995, I watched three VHS tapes of movies from 1994. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber. And like most eight-year-old boys, while I didn’t quite get all the jokes, I fell in love with Jim Carrey. He made funny faces, talked out of his butt, and then made out with Cameron Diaz. 1994 Cameron Diaz. Also in 1994 – In Living Color, a sketch comedy show created by and starring the Wayans family, was cancelled.
And that could’ve been the final word for this segment, were it not for YouTube. I might not have ever heard of the show, but through some random combination of search terms involving Mr. Carrey, I found and Fav’d the ‘Karate Instructor’ sketch, and learned that Jim’s movie stardom was immediately preceded by a five-season run on a predominantly African-American sketch comedy show (rare then, sadly rare now). And don’t let the view count fool you. A re-upload of this same clip has 10.2 mil, and it’s one of dozens. Now, did I become In Living Color’s biggest post-mortem fan? No. But I had discovered a new TV show, by accident, with no context, in a medium that networks now heavily depend on to spread the word about their shows. Sketch shows like Key and Peele, The Birthday Boys, and Portlandia dump out truckloads of free content in hopes that you might just find what you’re not looking for. And seriously, I can’t vouch for In Living Color. But if you’ve ever wanted to see Jamie Foxx wear a dress and go cross-eyed…
Chad Vader : Day Shift Manager – Dog In The Store S1 E4
Uploader – BlameSociety, 10/11/06 Views – 4,040,243
Chad Vader was a Channel 101 pilot from June 2006 that was axed after its second episode screened in July, when “web series” was just starting to become part of the vernacular. Its creators decided to press on, and the first season earned them a Good Morning America appearance and an Official Star Wars Fan Film Award – as selected by George Lucas himself. While this Fav has less personal significance for me (except I ❤ SW), this kind of recognition for an independently-produced project with YouTube as its sole distribution method was an unprecedented breakthrough for amateur content creators. And with web content starting to make the leap to TV (plz watch Red Hour’s Burning Love), and Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix all producing top-quality online-only shows of their own, the line between your gif-tumblr-turned-web series and actual real American dollars is getting thinner by the day!
Do you have any YouTube Favs that I may have missed? Comment below and you might get a mention in an upcoming column.
Watch for more installments of Dan’s Favs, coming soon to Tube Top Television. And follow @dmillstein if you dare.