Since its creation in 2005, YouTube has grown to become the most popular video sharing website on the Internet. It features everything from home videos to professional content created by media corporations such as the CBS and the BBC, and attracts over one billion unique viewers every month. Ordinary people have been catapulted to fame when their videos go viral overnight, and media outlets and record labels spend millions trying to emulate their success. It’s difficult to summarise exactly what makes a video go viral, but following are ten of the most enduring YouTube classics.
Psy – Gangnam Style
Upload Date: July 15th, 2012
“Gangnam Style” is the definition of a viral video. It is the most popular YouTube video of all time, and has transformed Korean songwriter and rapper Psy into an international phenomenon. It features Psy performing his infectious classic “Gangnam Style”, and to date is the only YouTube video to exceed one billion views. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0)
Charlie Bit My Finger – Again!
Upload Date: May 22nd, 2007
“Charlie Bit My Finger – Again!” is the most popular user-generated video on YouTube. This simple home video features two adorable British tots, Harry and Charlie. Harry decides to place his finger in Charlie’s mouth, and his indignation at what follows has had millions of viewers in stitches since 2007. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OBlgSz8sSM)
Rémi Gaillard – Mario Kart
Upload Date: December 3rd, 2008
Professional prankster Rémi Gaillard has captured so many of his hilarious escapades on film that it’s difficult to choose just one. “Mario Kart” is one of his most elaborate practical jokes. In this video he dresses up as Mario, the Italian plumber from the famous video game series, and takes to the street in a perfect replicate of the Mario Kart – with a supply of banana peels, of course. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MytfhzcSF-Y)
September 11th, 2001 Video
Upload Date: December 29th, 2006
Uploaded five years after the tragic events of 9/11, this anonymous home video has become the most-viewed recording of the collapse of the World Trade Center. It is shot from an apartment shockingly close to the disaster, and is a chilling but culturally significant monument to the events of that day. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNNTcHq5Tzk)
Upload Date: June 19th, 2007
This video clip is only five seconds long, and perfect in its simplicity. It features a chipmunk turning its head to the sound of a dramatic musical score, and has become one of YouTube’s viral classics. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=a1Y73sPHKxw)
Trapped in an Elevator for 41 Hours
Upload Date: April 14th, 2008
In October of 1999, Nicholas White was trapped in an elevator in New York’s McGraw-Hill Building for forty-one hours. A security camera caught his entire ordeal on film. This is one of the most bizarre and fascinating videos on YouTube. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=p_bMhNI_TY8)
Ducks Blown Off Their Feet by the Wind
Upload Date: November 7th, 2010
What happens when ducklings go out for a walk in a strong wind? Over thirty million people have felt compelled to watch this video and find out. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEBLt6Kd9EY&list=PL54856EB4DCF67FD6&index=30)
Otters Holding Hands
Upload Date: March 19th, 2007
People love animals who behave like humans, especially cute and furry animals like sea otters. These two otters look just like a pair of human lovers as they drift off to sleep, a resemblance that has garnered them YouTube fame. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=epUk3T2Kfno)
Usain Bolt Celebrates Early…Very Early
Upload Date: August 22nd, 2008
In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt shattered the world record for the 100 metre dash, an achievement made more remarkable by the fact that he visibly slowed down to celebrate before crossing the finish lane. This video is a hilarious parody of that race. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzSpPaCIG0g)
Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams
Upload Date: December 20th, 2007
How did a lecture given by a professor of computer science achieve viral status on YouTube? Well, this lecture was given by Randy Pausch shortly before he died of pancreatic cancer, but manages to be both upbeat and inspiring, and covers a topic that everyone can relate to. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ji5_MqicxSo)
Watching viral videos on YouTube can be baffling as well as entertaining. There seems to be no common denominator that makes these videos popular. Some are funny, some are heartwarming and some are inspiring. Others are silly or just downright weird. What YouTube has managed to do is bring together the entire breadth of human experience in a vast and eclectic collection of videos, and for this reason it has become a global cultural phenomenon.
This article was written by Katie, she is an entertainment blogger, currently studying for her masters in public relations.