Who Was The First YouTuber?

who was the first youtuber - featured image, man on the moon with a YouTube flag
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Before you start your own YouTube journey, it’s a good idea to know some of the basics of its history. YouTube is a constantly changing ecosystem with little quirks and lore explaining how it works. Beyond simple trivia, it’s useful to know the answer to questions like “Who was the first YouTuber?” These tiny details can give you insight into the company, how it works, and how it became the service it is today.

As you dive into a lifelong devotion to content creation on the world’s largest video platform, ensure you know the basics. Here are some important famous firsts on YouTube. Ask yourself, “what can I learn from these stories?”

1. On April 23, 2005, Jawed Karim, the co-founder of YouTube uploaded the video “Me at the Zoo,” making him the first YouTuber.

Karim and cofounders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen launched the site on February 14, 2005. However, the first video wasn’t uploaded until April. You can see it here. 

The video shows Karim standing in front of the elephant exhibit at the San Diego Zoo and is exactly 00:19 long. Yes, someone has gone back over time to add chapter markers

The idea that anyone can make content on YouTube wasn’t accurate when the service launched. It was in a closed Beta until December 2005. Naturally, the first creators of the service would be its founders. However, things started to get interesting on December 15, 2005, when the service was opened to the general public. 

2. Soulja Boy claims to be the first rapper on YouTube, but that title actually belongs to Philadelphia battle rapper Reed Dollaz

For years, Soulja Boy has claimed to be the first rapper on YouTube. 

Soulja Boy’s first YouTube video hit within months of the service’s launch. While the first YouTube video was uploaded in April 2005, the service was in a closed beta until December 2005. Regular users couldn’t upload their videos yet. Soulja Boy is correct that he was one of the first rappers on YouTube. 

He launched his first video on March 15, 2006, slightly over three months after the closed Beta ended. You can see that video here.  

However, his claim to being the first rapper on YouTube isn’t exactly true. According to 100.3 RnB Philly, the first rapper on YouTube is Reed Dollaz, a Philly battle rapper who rose to fame through viral rap cyphers posted on the blossoming streaming service. You can see Reed Dollaz’s first YouTube video below. Notice its upload date: December 24, 2005. 

Dollaz was an important voice in the early 2000s Philadelphia rap scene whose name still carries much respect to this day. As recently as August 2023, his Philly peer Meek Mill contemplated the idea of a battle rap rematch against Dollaz. During an interview with RapCaviar, Mill shouted out the performer as his greatest rival, even more significant than Drake. 


When Reed Dollaz reposted the clip on Instagram, Meek Mill showed up in the comments to show his respect. The star commented, “We might neeed (sic) to battle again verse for verse.” So, apologies to Soulja Boy. While you deserve your flowers for being on the ground floor, Reed Dollazs, thanks to the channel of Money Mike, was there a little bit sooner. 

3. Lucas Cruikshank was the first YouTuber to hit 1 million subscribers 

The ability for users to gain subscribers is one of the first things YouTube launched, debuting the feature in October 2005. That’s before it was even out of Beta. However, although the site experienced immediate success, it wasn’t until 2009 that creators started to form mega followings like we see today. So, who was the first YouTuber to hit 1 million subscribers? 

Why, it’s Fred! Or, more preciously, Lucas Cruikshank and his character Fred Figglehorn. Guinness World Records recognize Cruikshank as the first creator to hit 1 million subscribers on YouTube for his work as the “six-year-old in the body of an adult” Fred.

His channel had 1 million subscribers in April 2009. You can see his announcement video right here. Warning: if you’re using headphones and are new to Fred, the voice can be grating.

4. PewDiePie, real name Felix Kjellberg, was the first YouTuber to reach 50 million subscribers

While it took a little over five years from launch for the first YouTuber to hit 1 million subscribers, many more creators began to explode in popularity. One month after Fred hit 1 million subscribers, Ryan Higa’s and Sean Fujiyoshi’s channel Nigahiga also hit 1 million subs. To that end, on December 8, 2016, PewDiePie, a gaming icon and Sweden’s top export (besides Abba and Robyn), became the first YouTuber with 50 million subscribers. 

Granted, the way he hit 50 million is a story in itself. With his popularity exploding in 2016, PewDiePie, real name Felix Kjellberg claimed YouTube kept his videos from being seen by his viewers while recommending other content. Additionally, Kjellberg said YouTube had unsubscribed him from channels he followed and wondered if the same was happening to his fans. 

While his viewers were still high, he noticed they were dropping compared to his other videos. So PewDiePie made a strange ultimatum. On December 2, 2016, Kjellberg posted the following video claiming he would delete the channel when he reached 50 million followers. 

On December 9, 2016, PieDiePie hit 50 million subscribers. He also didn’t delete his channel, though his battles with YouTube have continued over the years. However, the creator did explain his side of the video in his 50 million subscribers announcement video. 

We’ll dive deeper into PewDiePie’s history in the future, but there are two important lessons from this story. First, there’s no such thing as “being so big a company won’t mess with you.” Second, you should always take it with a grain of salt when a rich and powerful person says they will walk away from a meal ticket, even if they’re fighting. 

5. In 2012l, South Korean rapper/pop star PSY became the first artist to have a music video hit 1 billion views with “Gangnam Style”

Let’s step away from drama for a minute to celebrate when the world came together to dance. According to Guinness World Records, in January 2012, YouTube’s first music video hit 1 billion views. On December 21, 2012, PSY, a South Korean rapper/pop star, became the first artist to have a music video hit 1 billion views with his legendary hit “Gangnam Style.” The international hit found a massive audience thanks to its infectious dance routines, charismatic star, and incredible music video. 

Take a moment to yourself today and gallop along with the King. 

6.Baby Shark became the first YouTube video to hit 10 billion views in February 2021

Given the joyful story of PSY’s international dominance, it pains us to bring you the story of the first YouTube video to reach 10 billion views. The honor belongs to a song beloved by children and dreaded by parents, babysitters, siblings, aunts, and uncles around the world; “Baby Shark.” 

Originally the song was simply the most-viewed children’s video of all time, before usurping Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” in 2020 to become the most-viewed music video of all time. In February 2021, “Baby Shark” became the first YouTube video to reach 10 billion views, more than the population of the Earth, according to Guinness World Records.

If you can handle the horror gaze into the maw of nature’s greatest predator, the hook from “Baby Shark,” awaits.  

7. The first viral music video to be uploaded on YouTube is Two Chinese Boys: I Want It That Way

Sadly, there is no definitive scholarship on this matter. However, it is believed that the first viral music video to be uploaded on YouTube is “Two Chinese Boys: I Want It That Way.” The original video, uploaded on June 25, 2005, can be found here but is now private. 

According to the web historians at Know Your Meme (heavy content warning for sensitive readers who might not have visited KYM before), the video didn’t originate on YouTube. Wei Wei (韋煒) and Huang Yixin (黃藝馨), two Chinese students, made the video in college while attending the Guangzhou Arts Institute. Originally, it was uploaded to the student network, but it soon found a life of its own as viewers shared it. 

While the original clip is now private, you can enjoy a copy of it below. 

And unlike many YouTube success stories, this one has a happy ending. After their video went viral the duo became minor celebrities, leading to paid ads with Pepsi and Motorola and an original comedy film. 

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