10 Landmark Moments in YouTube History

I've really been getting into my Instagram app these days, exploring ways to manipulate it beyond the standard filters that come with it. My most recent experiment is taking pictures of things on my computer screen; the glossy reflection, depending on sunlight and room conditions make for some pretty beautiful patterns and effects. Below you'll find some shots I recently took off YouTube—a pictorial history of sorts.

1. Charlie Bit My Finger

Still my favorite online video of all time, and, judging by the number of views (it's now up to 366,792,355 as of this writing), many others' favorite, as well, "Charlie Bit My Finger" has everything a good homemade video should have: endearing subjects, little-to-no interference from the video's "director" and a heavily anticipated moment of action, in this case, the innocent chomping of a finger.

(YouTube channel page)

By the way, if you're wondering whether or not there's any money in posting YouTube videos, by my crude calculations, this little video has made about $734,000 for the family that uploaded it (based on a blended, average $2/CPM, which is fairly standard for YouTube partner channels). And that's just the one video! The channel has many, popular videos on it.

2. David After Dentist

As of this writing, more than 98 million people have viewed little David struggling to make sense of the world after his trip to the dentist’s office where he had oral surgery, preceded by a healthy dose of some wild anesthetic. Whether the video is exploitative and takes advantage of David for laughs is up to each viewer. But what’s indisputable is the fact that the video has earned its rightful place in the YouTube Hall of Fame.

(YouTube channel page)

3. Diet Coke + Mentos

If you haven't seen the crazy duo behind this experiment on Letterman or Ellen, you're missing part of the fun. Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz spent six months developing different Coke & Mentos geyser effects before they were ready to start shooting videos. The big video on YouTube employed more than 100 two-liter bottles of Diet Coke, more than 500 Mentos and was astonishingly shot in one take! To date, the vid has more than 14 million views.

(YouTube video link)

4. Dorkiness Prevails

I remember this video broke on the scene shortly after the mentalfloss blog launched and some of us were wondering if it was worth covering. Then Randy wrote about it a few months later, and, well, it might be the first time we ever wrote about something YouTubesque. Granted, there was a story here, right? This was the video that duped us all into thinking there really was a dorky hot chick, lonely, as her handle announced, vlogging daily from her little apartment. Soon though, we found out it was all concocted by some pretty smart Hollywood-types who had pulled the wool over our eyes and earned their spot in YouTube history.

5. Evolution of Dance

Comedian Judson Laipply made history when he uploaded his version of the 6-minute history of dance, moving seamlessly between eras, styles, fashions and moves. For a long time, this video held the most-viewed spot before Charlie came along. Still, to date it has more than 178 million views.

(YouTube channel page)

6. Yes We Can

This classic, uploaded in 2008, was assembled by and features John Legend, Common and Scarlett Johansson. Together, they made a music video from one of Barack Obama's stump speeches during the 2006 primary campaign, highlighting his now famous slogan "Yes We Can." The timing of the release of the video helped to push support toward Obama at the right time in the 2008 election.

(YouTube video link)

7. Me at the Zoo

“Me at the zoo” was shot by Yakov Lapitsky. It's only 19 seconds long and only shows us Jawed Karim (one of the three founders of the Web site) at the San Diego Zoo. Still, it does hold the distinction of being the very first video uploaded to the site, so its place in history is secured for sure. Today, more than 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

(YouTube channel page)

8. Kittens Inspired by Kittens

What pictorial history of YouTube would be complete without a cat video, eh? "Kittens Inspired by Kittens" features an adorable 6-year-old inserting her own literal narrative to the photos in a children's book titled Kittens. It's been seen more than 13 million times as of today.

(YouTube video link)

9. JK Wedding Entrance Dance

More than 68 million views later, Kevin and Jill's wedding ceremony is still going strong. The choreographed processional to Chris Brown's "Forever" has allowed them to raise more than $26,000 for the Sheila Wellstone Institute. Yep, they're putting most of the income to charity—something few of us would do. Well, then again, how many of us would create a dance like that in the first place?!

(YouTube video link)

10. RickRoll'D

Rick Astley's 1987 video "Never Gonna Give You Up" got new life in 2008 when a 4Chan user promised a video-game trailer and instead linked readers to Astley's video. The trick, dubbed Rickrolling, has become an April Fools staple, racking up more than 51 million views to date.

(Don't do it!)

5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.


Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.


Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.


If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.


While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.


Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

Dan Bell
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.


All images by Dan Bell


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