The Most Influential YouTube Videos Of All Time, Part One

Like any popular entertainment outlet, YouTube has had its own group of influential contributions that helped define it as a pillar of media. These are the videos that shaped YouTube into the modern network we now know. While not traditionally praised for their technicality, these videos set the standard for what could be done beyond posting home videos and webcam journal entries. As film students study the technically groundbreaking “Birth of a Nation,” every aspiring creator should also study these significantly less racist YouTube touchstones:

 Numa Numa

Released a little over a year after the first YouTube video was posted in 2005, “Numa Numa” introduced the world to the blossoming genre of lipdub videos. Gary Brolsma (Numa Numa guy) took the often public and self-conscious act of karaoke and turned it into an intimate and completely uninhibited performance piece. It was the most viral lipdub video of its times and soon became heavily ingrained with the viral culture of YouTube. After “Numa Numa,” the lip dub genre exploded on YouTube where it still remains relevant to this day.

My Name Is Boxxy

In 2008, Catherine Wayne (Boxxy) recorded several videos to share with the anime-themed social network and forum Gaia Online. Those same videos eventually appeared on 4chan, subsequently sparking one of the first YouTube-spawned flame wars. Wayne certainly wasn’t the first internet celebrity. However, through her manic uploads, starting with “My Name Is Boxxy,” she created one of the most polarizing characters on YouTube. The “love or hate ” YouTube celebrity has become a staple of the online video industry as audiences flock to these types of creators to either support or malign them.

 Sneezing Panda

Around the time that “Sneezing Panda” was uploaded to YouTube, the video-sharing site was leaning heavily towards becoming a primarily vlog-fueled outlet. The success of “Sneezing Panda” brought the cute animal video genre back to YouTube. While YouTube could have easily remained primarily a vlogging only destination, this viral video reintroduced YouTube to its origins, which were rooted in zoo and animal footage.

 Leave Britney Alone!

“Leave Brittney Alone!” is the quintessential parodied YouTube video. The parody genre has existed for decades on television and in music. However, not until Chris Crocker’s famous Britney Spears defense was something so heavily parodied on YouTube. “Leave Brittney Alone!” transcended traditional YouTube parodies and influenced traditional media parodies in television and movies. The incredibly viral video forced mainstream audiences to acknowledge, at the time, niche YouTube personalities.

Ok Go – ‘Here It Goes Again’

Ok Go’s “Here It Goes Again” ignited the concept of viral music videos on YouTube. While music videos were being watched millions of times in 2009, at that time YouTube was being used as more of a digital jukebox. It wasn’t until “Here It Goes Again” that people saw the value of a music video that also presented visually compelling content. Ok Go created something that existed beyond mainstream music television, and they found a home on YouTube as pioneers of indie music with a viral flare. After this, YouTube musicians saw the value in low-fi music videos that offered more than just singing into a webcam.

Next week, we’ll be examining 5 more viral videos and how they helped shape YouTube. Let us know what you think we should include in the comment below.

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