It's hard to believe YouTube is only five years old. How ever did we procrastinate without videos of babies break-dancing and chumps wiping out on treadmills? Then again, it's also remarkable that the video-sharing site has lasted this long: five minutes is a more typical Internet life span. But YouTube the world's third most visited website after Google and Facebook shows no signs of slowing down. The site marked the May anniversary of its 2005 beta launch with another milestone: YouTube's users now clock more than 2 billion views every single day.
That kind of reach must have been inconceivable for former PayPal co-workers Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, who created YouTube as a Flickr-style sharing site for videos in February 2005. They posted their first clip, a 19-second shot of Karim at the San Diego Zoo, that April. By November, with the aid of neophyte-friendly uploading software, YouTube users were sending 8 terabytes of data flickering across the Internet every day the equivalent, Hurley noted, of the entire contents of a Blockbuster store. By the time Google paid $1.65 billion in stock for the company in the fall of 2006, the site boasted more than 700 million views a week. Today more video is uploaded to YouTube in 60 days than all three U.S. television networks have created in 60 years.
Backlash was inevitable, of course, and YouTube has been slammed for encouraging everything from narcissism to piracy. It has also reportedly lost money every year so far. But maybe not for long: already its signature amateur content is giving way to professional fare that's more attractive to advertisers. (In April, the slick video for Lady Gaga's hit single "Bad Romance" became YouTube's most popular video ever.) Which means YouTube might be a very different company by the time it celebrates birthday No. 10.