On 14th February 2005, YouTube turned 10.
We’re lighting each candle with a warm glow in our hearts, each candle shaped as strange talking unicorns and babies biting fingers. The cake is enormous, decorated with a zillion cats, some pooping rainbows, some riding a robot vacuum in a shark costume, while others are just happily napping.
Many people are in attendance – every person who had ever made a vlog, the ones who made their millions from it are decked up with some serious bling, and other accidental heroes are also running around – David back from yet another visit from the dentist, Antoine Dodson is hiding your kids and hiding your wife, and Nick Pitera sings every part of the birthday song in every gender imaginable by himself.
It’s a grand celebration, to put it lightly, because there is a large community that has built their careers on YouTube. It’s not quite TV after all – the once permanent fixture in our house is now just a way to watch our YouTube videos on a much bigger screen. It’s full of serials and movies that are full of amazing stories and emotions that seem to rival, or even take over what television used to be.
And it’s full of something more, something larger than our own imagination.
There are celebrities that we probably wouldn’t have known without YouTube, like Charice and Justin Beiber, though some of us probably regret the latter, and cult followings that have sprung up around YouTube-centric shows like “Kids React To” or “Bee And Puppycat”. YouTubers come in all shapes and sizes, and the YouTube celebrity actually became a real thing (just ask Singapore’s Night Owl Cinematics).
The room that this party is held is infinite, with walls you cannot see. YouTube, you see, is about diversity and difference. It celebrates every facet of the human mind, from the quirky to the strange, to the down right mundane – and everyone is invited. In the far corner pulses the “weird part of YouTube”, with talking barbie dolls and songs about badgers and snakes. Every person who turns to look blinks for several minutes trying to forget what they had seen, suppressing the deep part of their soul that secretly loves that shit.
I remember a Christmas here in Singapore where my family plugged our laptop into the TV just so we could play 8-hour-long video of a fire crackling in a fireplace and pretend we were having a real white Christmas. The idea of using the internet to look up 8-hour-long videos of fireplaces (or 8 hour long anything) probably wouldn’t have existed without YouTube, and the memory fills me with a warmth as visually real as the fire itself.
That is the magic of YouTube – it stretches our imagination wider than we could have ever known, it has dreamt up things that we’ve never believed we would enjoy – from endless cat videos to crackling fires to the new and frankly creepy ASMR trend. Psy has danced across our screens, and we’ve learnt what the fox said in a way that is terrifyingly addictive – and yet people are still all ears to hear what Emma Watson has to say about gender equality or what Malala hopes for world peace.
We watched thousand, no millions, of people dumped buckets of ice on their heads because we wanted to make a difference.
And as YouTube looms over to blow out the candles, and three parents grin in pride as they think back to their Paypal days and how glad they were that they couldn’t find a way to share videos from that one dinner party they went for. And while most 10 year olds are lugging their backpacks to school and looking forward to the weekend, weekend (we, we, we so excited), YouTube has become something more – an entity independent of itself, powered by the strange and beautiful community that drives each and every video that it hosts.
And all of us are in the room too. Because we all watch YouTube, and we all love, and share, and like videos on YouTube. It holds all the songs we love, and the videos we laugh at, and the movie trailers we’ve been dying to see. And as YouTube cuts the massive, cat-covered cake, we try to think back to a time before YouTube existed. It is as impossible to comprehend as the girl who can’t sing, and as painful to imagine as Miley Cyrus twerking.
Happy 10th Birthday YouTube, you weird son of a bitch.