Top 10 Events That Changed YouTube Forever



Top 10 Events That Changed YouTube Forever

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
These iconic YouTube moments changed the service forever. For this list, we're only looking at events that affected the platform itself; notorious, creator-driven events are a different list. Our countdown includes “Gangnam Style”, The Partner Program, Content ID, and more!

Top 10 Events That Changed YouTube Forever

Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Events That Changed YouTube Forever.

For this list, we’re only looking at events that affected the platform itself; notorious, creator-driven events are a different list.

Let us know in the comments which you think has changed the platform for better or for worse.

#10: “Gangnam Style”

After Google itself, YouTube is the second most-visited website in the entire world; in mid-2021, it’s got over 2 billion users and 5 billion videos are watched daily. But there was a time when numbers like this were completely incomprehensible, and though videos with millions of views are common now, there was one video that famously broke YouTube’s view count: “Gangnam Style.” Strictly speaking, YouTube didn’t “break”, but it did get more views than the maximum view counter at the time. When “Gangnam Style” got 2 billion views, YouTube had to raise its counter. Today, the counter is more than 9 quintillion, a nineteen-digit number. But “Gangnam Style” wasn’t the most-viewed video for long, eventually being ousted by “Despacito” in 2017.

#9: React World

Nowadays, the internet is awash with reaction and commentary videos, but once it was more of a novel format - until the FineBros came along. They’d created the popular reaction series “Elders React” and its many spin-offs, like “Kids React” and “Teens React.” In 2015, they decided they wanted to trademark the word “react” and make it so everybody creating reaction content would have to do so under their brand, giving them a cut of the ad revenue. Understandably, people weren’t happy; they wanted to trademark an entire genre of YouTube video to line their own pockets. The backlash was so immense that the trademark request was withdrawn, and the entire idea shamefully abandoned.

#8: YouTube’s Biggest Lie

In September 2019, Nerd City published another of his large exposé-style videos. He was able to prove something many smaller creators had been alleging for years: that YouTube systematically demonetizes LGBTQ+ content and often rates it as only suitable for adults, essentially shadow-banning certain videos even though they might be totally safe-for-work otherwise. YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki has continually claimed that no such discrimination exists, but the evidence is there, and in November 2019, multiple LGBTQ+ YouTubers brought a lawsuit against YouTube for censorship. It seems YouTube doesn’t want to upset certain countries with poor track records on LGBTQ+ rights, and this not-so-secret censorship is how they do that.


In 2020, sweeping changes were made on YouTube involving a bill passed by US Congress called COPPA, or the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Essentially, it means kids using the internet can’t be tracked and can’t be presented with targeted ads. This means that YouTube creators who make content aimed at children have to declare that children will watch the video. Advertising to children has been regulated for decades, but the problem with COPPA is that YouTube has pushed the enforcement of the law onto the creators themselves. This has been seen by many as YouTube completely avoiding accountability for collecting data on child users for years, making the platform’s unethical behavior the responsibility of the people the company relies on for revenue.

#6: Conservative Demonetization

Also known as the “Vox Adpocalypse”, this happened in 2019 when journalist and YouTuber Carlos Maza, who was working for Vox at the time making liberal and leftwing political content, posted a video compilation on Twitter of him being targeted by rightwing YouTuber Steven Crowder. The compilation had dozens of instances of Crowder using offensive language about Maza, who is gay, and called out YouTube for repeatedly refusing to do anything about the harassment. What followed was a mass demonetization of many conservative and right-wing YouTubers, including Crowder, but also the likes of Ben Shapiro and Dave Rubin, who felt they were being targeted by YouTube and the “liberal media.”

#5: Misinformation & Radicalization

Sticking with YouTube’s controversial record on political content, in the last decade, the platform has been blamed for the increased radicalization of young people to the far-right – as well as the distribution of misinformation. Things like vaccine skepticism and climate change denial have all found a large audience on YouTube. The so-called “alt-right pipeline,” which for many begins with center-right YouTube personalities, has even led to tragic acts of extremist violence like the horrific Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand in 2019. YouTube is full of bad-faith actors, though thankfully in 2021, it began cracking down on COVID misinformation specifically.

#4: The Partner Program

Though YouTube has made a lot of mistakes since its inception, it’s not all bad. The introduction of the Partner Program back in 2007 was a huge leap forward for the internet in general, finally giving people a way to make money from the ad revenue on their videos. This meant that being a YouTuber became an actual job, and you’ll struggle to find anyone born in the 2000s and later who didn’t once dream of making it big on YouTube – and many who still do. The program has expanded since its introduction, and now anybody with enough total watch time or subscribers is allowed to monetize videos.

#3: The Adpocalypse

The very first Adpocalypse of many happened throughout 2016 and 2017, where people outside the platform finally started to become aware that a lot of content was being monetized which advertisers didn’t like. A lot of it stemmed from one of PewDiePie’s controversies, where some of his videos were called out for being offensive. Thus began the trend of companies pulling their ads from YouTube, which has continued for years for various reasons – namely Starbucks, Walmart and Pepsi. And in 2018, there was a massive crackdown on “Tide Pod challenges,” with many videos getting removed.

#2: Content ID

False copyright strikes are the bane of every YouTuber’s life, especially for smaller channels who can’t afford to have one of their videos demonetized, even temporarily, while they fight a Content ID claim. Though we understand large distributors from traditional media don’t want movies or songs posted to YouTube in their entirety, Content ID and DMCA takedowns have almost certainly done more harm than good since their introduction in 2007 and 1998, respectively. They often target people who use copyrighted content completely legally in a fair-use video. YouTube also doesn’t seem to care about taking advantage of the Content ID system, as it featured controversial creator Enes Batur in the 2019 Rewind after he did exactly that.

#1: Monetization & Google Buyout

YouTube has been owned by Google for so long it might be hard to remember that once, it was an entirely independent venture started by a group of friends. But its independence didn’t last for too long, as it was bought by Google in 2006, only 20 months after its founding. Google enabled YouTube to monetize its videos, which made it a profitable website for them and eventually led to creators being able to make a living. But though a lot of this is good, it does mean YouTube has gotten more and more corporate; and in 2020, YouTube announced even videos not monetized by the uploader will run ads – with the uploader not seeing the money. Nice.