The name "YouTuber" refers to individual whose main or only platform are YouTube channel, personalized subpages of the YouTube video sharing platform.
The Internet domain name "www.youtube.com" was activated on February 14, 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, when they worked for PayPal. The first YouTube channel "Jawed" was created on April 23, 2005 PDT by the YouTube co-founder of the same name. He uploaded the first YouTube video, a short vlog clip titled Me at the zoo, on the same day. In October 2005, YouTube introduced the ability to subscribe to YouTube channels. The New York Times claims that most YouTube videos up until 2006 were focused on different forms of talent, citing back-flip stunts, lip-syncing, and other people's talents being uploaded via clips such as clips of Saturday Night Live. By June 2006, recognized Hollywood and music industry firms had begun to establish formal business ties with "homegrown" YouTube talent—the first believed to be comedian blogger Brooke "Brookers" Brodack, then singer Justin Bieber, and physician-become-political satirist Bassem Youssef. In 2007 YouTube started its "Partner Program", an ad-revenue-sharing arrangement that allowed for YouTubers to make money off the videos they uploaded to YouTube. By October 2015, there were more than 17,000 YouTube channels with more than 100,000 subscribers, and nearly 1,500 with more than a million. These numbers have grown to almost 44,000 channels with at least 250,000 subscribers in January 2019.
According to multiple studies, YouTubers have become an important source of information and entertainment for the millennial and Generation Z-generations. Influential YouTubers are frequently described as microcelebrities. Since YouTube is widely conceived as a bottom-up social media video platform, microcelebrities do not appear to be involved with the established and commercial system of celebrity culture but rather appear self-governed and independent. This appearance, in turn, leads to YouTubers being seen as more relatable and authentic, also fostered by the direct connection between artist and viewer using the medium of YouTube. These microcelebrities often communicate with their viewers which gives a more friendly outlook. The content- creators of YouTube create content on a wide range of variety including vlogs, instructive, how to, informative videos, and more. In a 2014 survey conducted by the University of Southern California among 13-18 year-olds in the United States on whether 10 YouTube celebrities or 10 traditional celebrities were more influential, YouTube personalities took the first five spots of the ranking, with Smosh ranking as most influential. When repeated in 2015, the survey found six YouTubers on the first ranks, with KSI ranked as most influential. Several prominent YouTubers and their influence were subjects for scientific studies, such as Zoella and PewDiePie. Because of this level of influence, Robert Hovden argued for the creation of a new index similar to the g-index and h-index to evaluate a person's output and impact on YouTube.
YouTubers can earn revenue off of Google AdSense. Additionally, they can supplement their income through affiliate links, merchandising, and 3rd party memberships such as ones on Patreon. Popular channels have garnered corporate sponsors, who pay to be included in the videos. In 2018, Walmart, Nordstrom, and others sought YouTube stars as influencers. In 2015, NME stated that "vlogging has become big business." In 2015, Forbes reported that Felix Kjellberg, known on YouTube as PewDiePie, had earned $12 million in 2014, more than some popular actors such as Cameron Diaz or Gwyneth Paltrow. Additionally, YouTube stars have crossed over to other media platforms including late-night television such as Canadian Youtuber Lilly Singh, who hosts the talk showA Little Late with Lilly Singh on NBC.