5 Me at the Zoo
Something has to be the first video ever uploaded to YouTube, but you’d think site co-founder Jawed Karim could’ve come up with something better than this 20-second “tour” of the San Diego Zoo. The video really consists of nothing more than Karim standing in front of the elephants’ enclosure saying something about their trunks. And yet, it’s still managed to rack up over 10 million views. It’s a fair bet if this video were posted in, say, 2013, it wouldn’t get more than a handful of views at most. But it still gets talked about, and it still gets trotted out and passed around by people who were really curious to see the first video ever posted on YouTube. Their reactions run the gamut from “so this is it?” to “interesting.”
4 Lightning Bolt!
In 2005, live-action role playing—or LARPing—wasn’t exactly a mainstream activity. This video, like many other 2005 YouTube hits, already had a measure of popularity on the Internet—in particular with LARPers, and people who enjoyed making fun of LARPers. The namesake of this 24-second long video is one guy who keeps repeatedly throwing beanbags or something at an enemy player and screaming “Lightning bolt!” For whatever reason, several million people found this highly amusing.
3 Christmas Lights Gone Wild
YouTube user John Boyd uploaded a video of a neighbor’s Christmas lights display—16,000 lights sequenced and timed with music for a 3-minute-long performance. The video may not have been the greatest quality but it sparked a lot of discussion amongst the millions of people who watched it, and spawned plenty of copycat productions. The video was highly circulated via email prior to YouTube, and became so popular the display was even used in a beer commercial.
2 Boom Goes the Dynamite
Everybody has to start somewhere. For 19-year-old Ball State freshman Brian Collins, it seemed that opportunity had arrived when he heard the sports anchor for the university’s student-run newscast was home sick. Collins probably should’ve stayed behind the camera rather than venturing in front of it. What followed was a debacle of such epic proportions the Internet dubbed him the “worst sports guy in the world.” Joke’s on the Internet, though—Collins graduated from Ball State and became a professional newscaster, and millions of people are still using his catch phrase “boom goes the dynamite.”
1 Charlie the Unicorn
Charlie already had a cult following when creator Jason Steele uploaded the first episode to YouTube in 2005, giving the animated unicorn new legions of fans. The short clip chronicles three unicorns’ trip to Candy Mountain—”a land of sweets and joy and joyness”—and ends with a black-out and a missing kidney. Sounds amazing, right? Steele created several follow-up episodes and even a gift shop where fans can buy Charlie-themed merchandise.