When You Tube first made its Internet debut 5 years ago, the founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim may not expected the impact this video sharing website would have upon the world.
Indeed, in a world of "just add water" instant information, You Tube has provided more accessibility to the world at large. Live video feeds of cultural revolutions in Iran to an over-weight kid busting moves to a hip-hop tune is now available to both the bored housewife in Idaho and the businessman on Wall Street in a last-stance example of informational Democracy.
The power of You Tube has gone beyond being an information terminal.
Countless of individuals have become celebrities through acts of bravery or the stupidest of human tricks, all which are recorded and submitted on You Tube while numerous causes and movements gain support because of a 30 second video blurb that buzzes the Internet and become viral.
All because of a click of a mouse and a video sharing website. Somewhere in the Halls of Irony Heaven, Andy Warhol is smiling.
But You Tube has had its share of criticisms. Copyright infringement, government censorship, unlawful representation of people and places, illegal obtaining of images are negative parts of this website. All that remains of human intimacy and cultural dogma has now been dragged into public record by the "eye" of the video camera and the need to "broadcast yourself". We have seen our share of idiocy, apathy, criminality, indecency and crudeness all in the name of online attention by some lonely folks with video cameras.
On the other hand, You Tube has provided the world with videos of great human accomplishments and riveting social commentary. The 2009 social revolution in Iran gave us terrifying video of the government crackdown and made us cry as a young revolutionary girl, by the name of Neda, died online for the world to see. This compelling video and many others has introduced uncensored, citizen video journalism into our living-rooms. No small wonder that in 2008 You Tube was awarded the George Foster Peabody Award and cited for being "a 'Speakers' Corner' that both embodies and promotes democracy."
As is the case with our species, a tool in human hands can either be productive or destructive.
For creative folks, You Tube has become a great opportunity to present the world their art. Apart from social networking, You Tube has become one of the most effective marketing tools in the 21st century. The need to spend thousands of dollars in radio or TV time to promote one's wares, has been practically eliminated. All one needs to do is upload their You Tube video on a Blog or Facebook and it could be potentially seen by thousands by one simple click.
One could even go as far as saying You Tube is shaping the way American sees and elects its leaders.
The impact You Tube has on a group promoting a social agenda or an apolitical group to get their message out cannot be overlooked. President Obama mobilized a large group of individuals by You Tube ads whereas the non-partisan, grass-roots organization (and based in Buffalo) I Need a Frickin' Job has seen an increase of over 200,000 hits to their website because of their poignant videos (and the media buzz about an INFJ billboard as Obama drove on the 33 to get into downtown Buffalo). The idea that through You Tube a message can reach folks in a more expedient, broader and colorful way than traditional media means is revolutionizing how campaigns are being managed, agendas are being presented and how non-political groups can galvanize a message by a simple 30 second video.
So, Happy Birthday, You Tube and thanks for five years of providing beautifully profound and socially driving videos, or as Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Providing a safe home for piano-playing cats, celeb goof-ups, and overzealous lip-synchers since 2005."