On an otherwise regular Monday in February 2005, video file sharing website YouTube was launched. At the time, founders Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim just wanted to find an easier way to share videos between them and their friends, but YouTube has turned into arguably the most popular video sharing site on the Internet. In honor of its 10th birthday (yes, YouTube was launched on Valentine’s Day!), here are the most popular YouTube videos released each year since.
1. “Touch of Gold” by Nike // 2005
Some of YouTube’s original hits have been taken down and re-uploaded over time, making it hard to exactly figure which ones from which year are the most popular. But this video—originally uploaded in 2005—is a good bet: The Nike commercial, centered on popular soccer star Ronaldinho, was the very first YouTube video to pass one million views.
2. “Evolution of Dance” by Judson Laipply // 2006
A perennial favorite on the viral video circuit, stand up comedian Judson Laipply’s “Evolution of Dance” first hit the video sharing site in 2006, where it quickly became the site’s most popular video. Racking up over 70 million views in just eight months, it was a long-time contender for top dog, and even though it no longer appears on even the top thirty list, it’s a long-time favorite. Laipply released a follow-up in 2009, and he promises a third video is still in the making.
3. “Charlie bit my finger—again!” by Harry and Charlie Davies-Carr // 2007
The only non-music video to break the all-time top ten, the 56-second long video about inter-sibling finger-biting was, at one time, the number one video on the site. Originally posted on May 22, 2007, the video didn’t take the top spot until over two years later, when it pushed “Evolution of Dance” out of the way (perhaps with great grace and style?) in October of 2009. The video is—somehow—still the number five video on the site, and the channel that hosts it has nearly 300,000 subscribers.
4. “An Experiment” // 2008
If aliens came to Earth and wanted to understand viral videos, this is the clip to show them. A 24 second video of what appears to be the Coke and Mentos experiment got over 274 million views and is in the top 150 videos of all time. For comparison, Katy Perry (who we'll be seeing a lot more of in a bit) released "Hot and Cold" in 2008, which has managed a feeble 222 million views.
5. “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga // 2009
This video—Gaga’s highest entry into the annals of YouTube popularity—was uploaded in November 2009, eventually pulling in over 614 million viewers (it’s currently seventeenth overall). It is also the only video on the site’s 30 most popular videos that is set at a Russian bathhouse and involves its protagonist killing someone, so points to Gaga for always going her own way.
6. “Baby” by Justin Bieber // 2010
Canadian pop sensation Justin Bieber was already well on his way to meteoric superstardom by the time the music video for “Baby” hit the Internet on February 19, 2010. With his debut album “My World 2.0” just a month away from release, the so-called “Beliebers” were already starting to assemble—they just needed something to really get behind. They found it in the bowling alley-set music video, a sweet ode to young teen love, with extra hair-tossing to spare. The video stayed number one on the site for over two years, until yet another pop video—“Gangnam Style”—usurped it, eventually earning nearly double its views.
7. “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO // 2011
The club banger earworm of the decade, trussed up with a surprisingly inventive music video. “Party Rock Anthem” the song may be about the good times, but “Party Rock Anthem” the music video somewhat oddly pulls from the horror film 28 Days Later for its inspiration. Party until you … die? Then keep partying? That’s actually the thrust of the entire video, as LMFAO members Redfoo and Sky Blu party so hard that they actually fall into a coma, only to wake up to a world that can only “shuffle” to their own hit single all day, every day. The video was released on March 8, 2011, and though it has yet to break a billion views (it hovers just under the 819 million mark), it’s still the number four most-viewed video on the site.
8. “Gangnam Style” by Psy // 2012
Uploaded in the middle of an otherwise ordinary summer, South Korean pop star Psy’s 2012 music video for his smash hit “Gangnam Style” didn’t set out to change the YouTube landscape, but that’s exactly what the dance-heavy video ended up doing. Not only did “Gangnam Style” become the most popular YouTube video of 2012, it became the most popular YouTube video of all-time. By November 2012, “Gangnam Style” secured the top spot by ousting the previous number one video (Justin Bieber’s “Baby”). By December, it became the first YouTube video to cross the billion-view mark. Two years later, in December of 2014, the video “broke” YouTube’s view counter, which had previously used a 32-bit integer to measure video views. Once “Gangnam Style” crossed 2,147,483,647 views, YouTube was forced to change their view counter to use a 64-bit integer to keep track of its video views.
9. “Roar” by Katy Perry // 2013
YouTube may not be a video-sharing site that exists solely to provide the masses with hot, fresh music videos, but it might as well be. After all, nine of the top ten viewed videos of all time are music vids for various pop songs (with Perry and Psy leading the pack with two each). The most-viewed video of 2013, Perry’s “Roar” is hovering around the 800 million view mark. The video’s popularity was aided by all sorts of teases before it even appeared on the site in September of 2013. Two weeks before release, a 21-second teaser was available online. The day before, Nokia pushed out a two-minute “behind the scenes” look at the jungle-themed video. Sound like a lot of work? Well, it panned out—“Roar” is now the biggest video to come out of 2013 and is just ahead of Psy’s "Gentleman."
10. “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry, featuring Juicy J // 2014
It’s a two-fer for Perry, who not only has the most popular YouTube video from 2013, but also the most popular YouTube video of 2014. First uploaded in February of 2014, the “Dark Horse” video is also third most popular video overall, passing “Party Rock Anthem” yesterday, and trailing “Baby” by 300 million.