The history of YouTube as told through 10 iconic videos

YouTube takes the UN.
YouTube takes the UN.
Image: AP Photo/United Nations, Eskinder Debebe
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It’s been a fast 10 years, hasn’t it?

YouTube was founded on Feb. 14, 2005. What began with a guy standing at the zoo is now enlisting celebrities of its own creation to interview the leader of the free world.

In honor of YouTube’s 10th birthday, watch how the video-sharing site evolved from a small platform to a vital part of our lives. The videos below are what Quartz judges the most emblematic of the year of their uploading.

2005: “Me at the zoo”

This was the first video ever uploaded to YouTube. Featuring YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim standing in front of some elephants, the grainy, 19-second video now has over 17 million views. How far we’ve come.

2006: “Evolution of Dance”

Everyone has seen this one. Everyone. Six minutes of comedian Judson Laipply performing goofy dance moves became YouTube’s first bona fide viral sensation, accumulating 290 million views over the years. It showed what the scale of video on the internet could be.

2007: “The Show with Ze Frank”

This particular video isn’t too notable, but it underscores the beginning of YouTube stardom. Ze Frank was one of the very first YouTube celebrities who would frequently post “vlogs” and garner a loyal following. Frank turned his early YouTube fame into a legitimate career in the online video business, and proved that people could actually make money doing silly things on YouTube.

“Dramatic Chipmunk” is a close second.

2008: “Bill O’Reilly Flips Out”

Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly’s epic meltdown happened years before, but the internet never forgets. It was dug up and put on YouTube for millions to witness. Hilarity aside, it was among the first videos to put forth the notion that the internet will never allow you to hide from your secrets or embarrassing moments again. It knows all. I guess we all just have to do it live.

2009: “David after dentist”

Oh, David. David, David, David. Seven-year-old David is quite out of it after undergoing minor dental surgery. But “David after dentist” wouldn’t have been possible if ”Charlie bit my finger!” and other cute kid videos didn’t blaze a path to glory for it. Unfortunately, the reign of the cute young child was short-lived, soon being replaced in the internet’s collective heart with kittens.

Here’s little Davey in 2014. He is now medium-sized Davey.

2010: “Baby” by Justin Bieber

Hate him or hate him, Justin Bieber is a worldwide phenomenon, and he owes a lot of that to YouTube. Bieber was first discovered because of videos he put on YouTube. But unlike most YouTube celebrities, Bieber’s success quickly transcended internet video. “Baby” has over a billion views.

2011: “Friday”

The hokey music video was a resounding misfire…or was it strategic genius? We may never know. The point is that YouTube allowed those things to not be mutually exclusive. You didn’t need talent of any kind to become famous. You just needed a fantastically vapid song with some awkward dancing. It was the first true hate-watch, and none of us could look away.

2012: “Gangnam Style”

Two billion views. Popular at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and frat parties alike. Responsible for launching an obscure K-pop star into global notoriety. “Gangnam Style” might be the quintessential YouTube video. It has it all—an annoyingly catchy tune, ridiculous dancing, and, for better or worse, serious staying power.

2013: “The Harlem Shake”

“The Harlem Shake” was a natural progression from “Gangnam Style.” The intersection of weird dancing and group performance art, “The Harlem Shake” quickly got old, but was kind of endearing when it first began. Everyone could offer their own interpretations, and everyone did.

2014: “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman”

This video, by itself, precipitated a serious conversation about street harassment and misogyny. Like many viral videos, it turns out the video was less than totally truthful, but it nonetheless reverberated in the real world. It wasn’t the first video to do so and it certainly won’t be the last, but it was representative of the type of social significance a video on YouTube could now claim to have.

2015: “The YouTube Interview with President Obama”

Well, YouTube, you made it. You interviewed the president of the United States.

Where do we go from here?