YouTube might seem like an obvious idea now, but back in 2004 it was just the smallest wisp of a proto-idea floating around the brains of cofounders Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim.
The trio reportedly started workshopping the idea at a dinner party in San Francisco in 2004, and after that, it didn’t take long for YouTube to spread like wildfire through the world.
Scarcely a year after they registered the domain name in early 2005, YouTube had been acquired by Google for a whopping $1.65 billion.
But you might be surprised where the first spark of the YouTube idea actually came from.
According to Jawed Karim, he was the one who initially came up with it. And he told USA Today it grew from two (very) different events: Janet Jackson’s “nipplegate” at the 2004 Super Bowl and the tsunami in Asia that same year.
While these events are about as different as you can get, what linked them for Karim was that, for both, it was hard to find video online.
USA Today writes, hilariously, “Karim recalled the difficulty involved in finding and watching videos online of Jackson accidentally baring her breast during the Super Bowl show.” The horror!
With that event as a partial inspiration, you might not be shocked that YouTube was also initially conceived of as a dating site called "Tune In Hook Up" — a name which is mostly likely a reference to psychedelic pioneer Timothy Leary’s counterculture slogan: "Turn on, tune in, drop out.”
According to Karim, that iteration drew “little interest.”
But luckily for everyone, the cofounders pivoted, and instead of another mediocre dating site, we got the most popular video website in the world.
If you want to read more about the history of YouTube, check out our timeline of its rapid rise to global domination.
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