It doesn't feel like it's been 10 years since YouTube launched.
The site, like Google and Facebook and Wikipedia, is now so culturally entrenched that recalling the web without it is pretty hard, actually. But I still remember clearly some of the first YouTube videos that got passed around among my friends in the early years. There were local TV spots from my youth, a woolly mammoth of a caterpillar crawling across some distant patio, these random guys ghost-riding a Volvo, and the sickest breakdancing I'd ever seen. (This video of Bob Fosse-choreographed dance moves to the tune of "Walk It Out," which probably inspired Beyoncé and which I can no longer find on YouTube, may top them all.)
YouTube was then—and it is now—part nostalgia-portal and part talent-show. It's also a great place for learning how to do stuff. And not just learning how but having someone show you how—which, in plenty of cases, is the best way to figure it out. YouTube tutorials aren't just about how to tie a tie or braid a French braid—the instructional videos you might expect—though there's plenty of that, too. They are a kaleidoscope of weird, mundane, extraordinary Internet niche. In other words, you can learn how to do anything on YouTube because so many different people use it. Like, for instance, if you want to know how to throw a boomerang, this guy will show you:
Or if you need to learn how to swaddle a baby:
Or how to moonwalk:
Or how to core a fennel bulb:
Or how to change the speed of a GIF in Photoshop CS6:
Or how to surprise someone with a banana:
Or how to play the oboe:
Or how to pull off the craziest Mario Kart shortcut ever:
Or how to make yourself look like Barbie as a zombie:
It goes on and on and on and on and on. And, considered in aggregate, there's something about all these how-to videos that is deeply human. Because YouTube tutorials hint at the vast and marvelous breadth of human curiosity. People see something cool, or interesting, or challenging, or strange, and they immediately want to know: How did you do that? (And, based on YouTube's autocompletion of the search term "how to," a lot of people really want to know how to draw, how to make a paper airplane, how to get a six pack in three minutes, and how to kiss.)
There are entire channels—Monkey See, Howcast—devoted to how-tos. And there are just sweet, wonderful, Internet-inclined individuals who want to share their knowledge with the world—and, okay, maybe they're after the preroll ad revenue too. But still! These are the same people who keep eBay honest and make Craigslist work, the people who use the Internet as a tool to help other people. And that, as much as any anniversary, is worth celebrating.
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