On April 23rd, 2005 Jawed Karim, one of the creators of YouTube, uploaded this video:
As you can see, this is nothing special. It is just an 18 second video of Jawed at the zoo. How and why did YouTube get so popular so quickly when major players like Yahoo! and Google has a presence in the online video space? It started with a select group of people looking for an SNL skit.
In November 2005 YouTube was launched to the public for the first time. Just over one month later “Lazy Sunday”, an SNL skit by Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell aired on December 17th, 2005. Anyone that has seen this skit knows it is Andy and Chris rapping about going to see the Chronicles of Narnia on a lazy Sunday. This was one of the first “digital shorts” created by SNL.
After the SNL digital short was released thousands of diehard fans searched on the web to find the video. Not only did they find the video on YouTube but they found other fans uploaded their attempts at the rap. You can search plenty of them on YouTube today, almost ten years later.
YouTube was swarmed with traffic from social media sites Facebook and MySpace. Fans of the the skit were sharing the video to friends and family causing YouTube traffic to swell. Over 50% of the the initial traffic was from social websites. That quickly changed.
YouTube was one of the first websites to offer a button to email a link or video. Traffic from social websites dropped to around 33% and traffic from email skyrocketed around two days after the video was released. Once people were on the YouTube site they had the ability to search for other videos. They immediately started to see “Lazy Sunday” skits by everyday people. They would then email these videos to friends and family and YouTube was never the same. It took just 35 days for this social sharing video site to overtake its competition and become the place to watch online videos.
By July 2006 YouTube announced more than 65,000 new videos were being uploaded every day. The rest is history.
An interesting side note is that you will see many MySpace profile links in the Lazy Sunday skits created by early YouTube adopters.