Just The Facts
- YouTube is a free website that allows anyone with an internet connection to broadcast whatever they like to anyone else with an Internet connection willing to watch.
- YouTube is simultaneously the greatest triumph and most abysmal failure of the First Amendment to date.
- The comments section on YouTube is generally regarded as a black hole of intelligence in the space-time continuum of the Internet.
The Alleged History of YouTube
The common mythology has it that YouTube was intended as a vehicle for a very lofty ideal: putting the means of distribution for video content in the hands of the masses. No longer constrained by the hegemonic control of television and movie theaters by large studios, anyone could be an artist. The idea was that, with arguably the most powerful tool since Gutenberg’s printing press right at their fingertips, people would begin to express themselves freely. The internet would finally realize the intellectual and artistic utopia promised by the nickname "information super highway."
Anyone who has spent any time on YouTube, however, will realize that it did not turn out this way. Thus, we must consider the possibility that the popularly accepted history is wrong.
A More Likely History of YouTube
During the 1990s, ABC developed a television show called America’s Funniest Home Videos (the title has since been shortened to America’s Funniest Videos, or AFV if you’re hip enough to use acronyms). The premise of the show was to watch home videos of animals and/or babies doing adorable things and dudes getting hit in the nuts. People seemed to enjoy this format very much, but the host’s commentary proved troublesome.
"America’s Funniest Home Videos" was originally hosted by Bob Saget, an admittedly funny dude. The restrictions of prime-time network television, however, prevented him from being anywhere near filthy enough to be funny. Over the years, the hosts got progressively less funny. This led many people to wish (either secretly or out loud) that they could see the same baby, animal, and nutshot videos without the annoying commentary.
And that’s why God invented YouTube. The end.