YouTube is a major entertainment force. Here’s the platform’s history, plus how to create a channel and upload videos.

YouTube is a major entertainment force. Here’s the platform’s history, plus how to create a channel and upload videos.

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A silhouette of a woman holding up a smartphone sits in front of the YouTube logo, a red play button.
YouTube was acquired by Google, and has since become a major revenue-generator for Alphabet, thanks to YouTube Premium.

  • YouTube is a massive online video platform that was acquired by Google nearly two decades ago.
  • YouTube’s most-viewed video currently has over 14 billion views.
  • It’s easy to make your own YouTube channel, but profiting from it is notoriously difficult.

YouTube is the world’s largest online video platform, with some 2.7 billion monthly users. Over time, it has evolved from an amateur video-sharing website into a multimedia powerhouse.

YouTube was registered as a website on February 14th, 2005, by friends and former PayPal coworkers Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim. Perhaps YouTube’s foundation falling on Valentine’s was a sign of the love that billions of people would develop for the platform within the coming years.

Growth was rapid, with more than two million daily video views by the end of 2005 and more than 100 million daily views by mid-2006. Google purchased YouTube by November of that year for an impressive $1.65 billion after the failure of its own video-sharing platform, Google Video.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki persuaded Google’s founders to acquire the platform after she saw how her children reacted to a video of a purple Muppet. (Coincidentally, Wojcicki’s family intertwined with Google in a way the following year when her younger sister Anne became Sergey Brin’s first wife).

Today, Google remains the owner of YouTube, whose headquarters are in San Bruno, California, just south of San Francisco. And YouTube is still a powerhouse in the media landscape.

YouTube has become one of Google’s most valuable purchases, alongside other major acquisitions like the navigation and traffic app Waze, and the AI research lab Google DeepMind.

YouTube is a major revenue generator for Alphabet, Google’s parent company. On his first-quarter earnings call in 2024, Sundar Pichai said YouTube had surpassed 100 million subscribers globally. Pichai projected that YouTube and Google Cloud combined would have a run rate of over $100 billion by the end of the year.

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The most viewed YouTube video

At the time of this writing, the most popular video on YouTube, at least according to the number of views, is the Baby Shark Dance. Posted by Pinkfong Kids’ Songs & Stories in the year 2015, at the time of this writing, Baby Shark has more than 14,480,310,500 views.

Baby Shark upset the music video for the song “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi (featuring Daddy Yankee) for the lead position in 2020, though that video is still performing well on YouTube with 8.437 billion views.

Other wildly popular YouTube videos include the Bath Song, Psy’s beloved music video for the song “Gangnam Style,” and Katy Perry’s “Roar.” The top hits are a unique mix of content targeted at younger kids and music created by and for adults.

The South Korean pop star Psy speaks into a microphone in front of a massive backdrop featuring a cartoon version of him doing the Gangnam Style dance.
The music video for Psy’s “Gangnam Style” is one of the most successful videos to hit YouTube.

How to download a YouTube video

If you’re wondering how to download a YouTube video so you can enjoy it any time, it couldn’t be much easier… assuming you have a paid YouTube Premium subscription. Without this subscription, you are essentially limited to filming your computer screen while a clip plays, but with YouTube Premium, on mobile or on the website, simply tap/click the word “Download” under the video. It will be saved to your YouTube library.

And if you need to cite a YouTube video, as in an article or term paper, if there is a clear creator of the video, MLA style guidelines prompt you to give the footnote or endnote in this format:

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Doe, John. “Video Name” YouTube, 1 Apr. 2024, www.youtube.com/webaddresshere.

For videos without a clear creator, use this format:

“Capybara Eat Huge Pumpkin.” YouTube, uploaded by Alex Smith, 12 Jan. 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YNwxZnABzA.

How to make money on YouTube

YouTube star Mr. Beast stands with his arms raised in a shopping mall, with hundreds of spectators watching and holding up their phones.
MrBeast is one of the most successful YouTubers, with a whopping 256 million followers.

At the time of this writing, the YouTube channel with the most subscribers is the India-based T-Series, which has 265 million followers at last check. A close second is the former reigning champ of YouTube subscribers, the YouTuber MrBeast, who has 256 million followers. Trailing MrBeast by a margin of tens of millions is the nursery rhyme channel Cocomelon, with 175 million subscribers.

If you’re interested in becoming a YouTube creator yourself and (ideally) making money on the platform, you’ll need to make a YouTube channel of your own. Creating a YouTube channel is not hard to do, though growing it into a profitable enterprise certainly will be.

To make a YouTube channel, sign into your YouTube account on mobile or on your computer. Then, in the top right corner of the screen, click your profile picture, then hit “Create a channel” in the dropdown menu. You’ll be asked to create a channel, and then you can go to your new channel and hit the word “Create” in the middle of the screen to start uploading content.

As for how to make money on YouTube, the way most people do it is through advertising. You need to join the YouTube Partner Program, which requires a minimum of 500 subscribers and at least three video uploads in a three-month period. Once you have joined that, you can begin to make money — split with YouTube, of course — every time someone views an ad on your content, you stand to make a bit of cash.

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Now, how much does YouTube pay? It depends on a few factors, including your viewer’s location, the advertiser’s budget, and more. Based on research for this article, the consensus seems to be that for 1,000 ad views, you would make around $18. So, true profitability might take a while.

What is YouTube TV?

YouTube TV is rather like a throwback to the days of “regular” TV. In Google’s own words, YouTube TV is “a TV streaming service that includes live TV from 100+ broadcast, cable, and regional sports networks.” You can watch live sports and news programs, see shows on cable and broadcast TV, and you get unlimited cloud DVR video storage space. One YouTube TV account allows six different users to access the same account. But before you get too excited about it, note that YouTube TV costs a hefty $72.99 per month.

How much is YouTube Premium?

Two shadowy hands hold up a smartphone displaying the YouTube Premium logo.
YouTube Premium lets you watch videos without being interrupted by ads, and gives access to YouTube Music.

First off, for the record, YouTube Premium has supplanted YouTube Red, which was discontinued. Today, YouTube Premium allows for ad-free viewing of content all across the site, and it grants access to the platform’s music streaming service, YouTube Music, as well as to the archive of content from YouTube Originals, which has also been wound down.

A YouTube Premium subscription costs $13.99 a month for an individual plan or as much as $22.99 for a multi-access family plan that lets five people use the subscription, but they all must live in the same household. Students can qualify for a reduced $7.99 YouTube Premium plan, so take advantage of that if you’re in school.

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