Five years of YouTube: The ups, the downs

YouTube has had its ups and downs over the last half-decade from lawsuits, porn attacks, and winning the George W. Polk award

YouTube turns five today, and with 2 billion daily users to celebrate the birthday, is safe to say the video site is having a good life. Still, the road to the big "zero five" -- that's a long time in Internet years -- wasn't without potholes. Here's a look back at the milestones and missteps of the Web's biggest video site:

April 2005: YouTube is Born

Here's the first video to appear on YouTube, showing co-founder Jawed Karim in front of an elephant exhibit at the San Diego Zoo. From here, the site could only improve.

October 2006: The Google Acquisition

Google spent US$1.65 billion to get YouTube, which had already become the premiere location on the Web for amateur videos. However, the site had also gained notoriety for hosting pirated video, which leads us to the next milestone:

March 2007: Viacom Sues Google

In February 2007, Viacom demanded that Google remove more than 100,000 copyright-infringing clips from YouTube. Google complied, but it wasn't enough. A month later, Viacom sued for $1 billion over copyright infringement, alleging that YouTube was practically built on piracy. The lawsuit is ongoing, even though Google introduced automatic anti-piracy filters in October 2007.

December 2008: YouTube Goes HD

Seeking to banish a reputation for grainy or low-quality videos, YouTube introduced high-definition video uploads, pushing maximum resolution to 720p. A year later, the site added 1080p video uploads as well.

April 2009: Premium Video Goes Legit

YouTube wasn't an industry leader in offering licensed, copyrighted movies and TV shows on its site -- that distinction goes to Hulu -- but Google is trying, inking partnerships with major studios in Hollywood and elsewhere. Finally, there's a place on the Web to watch all seven seasons of MacGyver.

May 2009: Porn Attacks

Supposedly in response to YouTube's periodic deletion of music from the site, pranksters on the bulletin board 4Chan bombarded YouTube with thousands of pornographic videos. The videos were named after popular search terms and many of them contained links to malware. Google acted quickly and banished the videos and its users.

June 2009: Shining a Light on Iran

YouTube was one of several tech tools available to protesters of Iranian elections. One anonymously-shot video, showing a woman dying on the streets of Iran, won a George W. Polk award, a top prize for journalism.

October 2009: The Big 1 Billion

Talk about growth: It took three years from Google's acquisition of YouTube for the site to reach 1 billion videos served per day. Seven months later, the number of daily video views has doubled.

January 2010: A Source for Movie Rentals

YouTube recently opened a modest storefront for paid content with video rentals. A deal with the Sundance Film Festival let film buffs watch five selections from the 2009 and 2010 festivals, and now the service is expanding to include indie studios, Bollywood films and some content from Lionsgate.

May 2010: YouTube Turns Five, With 2 Billion Daily Views

How to celebrate? Read up on what happened to some of the Internets biggest stars or check out YouTube's video channel commemorating the big birthday.

Tags digital videoyoutube

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Jared Newman

PC World (US online)

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