None other than YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley dropped by the company’s blog yesterday to remind us that he and his two co-conspirators registered the domain YouTube.com exactly five years ago. It wasn’t until two months later that the first video actually appeared on YouTube, but Hurley used the domain birthday to remind us of the basic beliefs that drove the founding of the site.
Of course, the exact details of YouTube’s beginnings have been disputed. Hurley and co-founder Steve Chen originally claimed they came up with the idea for the video sharing site during a dinner party due to their frustration over the lack of options to share videos online. However, the third co-founder Jawed Karim, who left the company early on, has long disputed the story, and Hurley eventually told Time Magazine that the dinner party founding myth was “strengthened by marketing ideas around creating a story.” Turns out, this hasn’t been the only case of selective memory.
Let’s face it: There’s nothing better than a company founded with a huge goal in mind that eventually becomes true. Take Google for example, and the idea to organize the world’s information. Or Apple, and its quest to revolutionize the world of personal computing — a goal that can every so often be invoked again, most recently with the introduction of the iPad.
Hurley wrote in his blog post that the “core beliefs and principles that guided YouTube’s creation” were shared success, quick evolution and the idea that “video gives people a voice,” something he illustrated by referencing the uprising in Iran, the earthquake in Haiti and the U.S. President. Of course, one could wonder whether the Obama really needs to be given a voice, but that’s beside the point. Rather, it would be interesting to ask: Was YouTube’s founding really about empowering people all around the world?
Not if we can believe numerous articles that have been written about the company in the past. The original idea apparently was to do something like a Hot or Not for videos and have lots of pretty girls on the site to drive traffic. Videos as an asset for Ebay and similar auction sites was another early scenario for the company, according to the aforementioned Time Magazine piece. It wasn’t until people actually started to use the site that its real direction became clear.
Of course, there would be no shame in admitting this. After all, isn’t the whole Silicon Valley comprised of accidental empires? Maybe it’s time for YouTube to get real and stop with the spin about its history.
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