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Looking Back at YouTube Live [2008]

According to fans, this was a live event Google wishes we'd forget.

Besides Google purchasing YouTube, where were you and what plans did you fulfill back in 2008? For myself, besides getting through college, having friendship issues and owning both my very first Macbook Pro and my own video camera, the Panasonic AG-DVX100A, it was an okay year for me. The 2008 year as also the time I was already a huge fan of YouTube, after discovering it since 2006, enjoying its slow but growing number of creators who took advantage of the platform; The same platform whom the former owner of Viacom, Sumner Redstone, criticized its users for uploading copyrighted content and slammed their creators using the platform to earn a living. In other words, no one knew why YouTube was on the rise and what would become of it.

However, despite all that went on in 2008's almanac, an event broadcasted live on YouTube's website itself was YouTube Live 2008. Fourteen years later, this event seemed to be heavily buried by YouTube themselves, and many of the somewhat growing and new YouTubers who've jumped ship have either disappeared, quit YouTube, and/or deleted such videos all together. What seemed like the craze that took place before video game live streams, higher quality vlogging, make-up tutorials after Michelle Phan and "BubzBeauty", YouTube was, as some described it, the "wild west" that became a haven for comedy, original skits, simple vlogging and tech reviews for many who had limited budget—in other words, it was most kinds of internet videos in one place (I say "most," not all, given that the platform disallowed 'extreme' content for good reason). Thanks to its rapid growth of users and viewership, along with spreading word about earning income via YouTube's advertising partnership program, along with musicians who banked in on the platform like Soulja Boi, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, the website became more mainstream igniting corporate interests in making the platform a viable place for business and social media (granted, a video-sharing website is, by definition, social media despite some not seeing it as such). Then later, YouTube's shift toward providing content for children started coming in, catering to that "family friendly" product for all audiences.

Okay, so what about YouTube Live? Featuring guest Katy Perry, she opens the live show saying this:

"Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to turn off your televisions and turn your computers on."

We're not saying that this quote holds some kind of weight, given that majority of the world seems to be stuck on their smart devices but, my, how times have changed...

After Perry's live performace, Michael Buckley, host of his celebrity gossip show What The Buck?!, opens up the live show introducing the cast and the lineup. Buckley is joined by William Sledd, Lisa Nova, "Katers17", and Tay Zonday. Taking place in San Francisco, the show takes off in neat fashion launching the website's very own live show!

(For those who remember long enough, these were the days of Mystery Guitar Man, Phillip "sXePhil" DeFranco, "ShayTards", Fred, NigaHiga, iJustine, Cinemassacre, KevJumba, HotForWords, Freddie Wong, Eclectic Asylum Art, Chris "Leave Britney Alone" Crocker, The Amazing Atheist, 5 Second Films, Soldier Knows Best, Rocketboom, Obama Girl, Venetian Princess, Baby Porridge, Anything Sarcastic, Lukian Wang, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Olga Kay, Maddox, "Mememolly", Judson Laipply, Ray William Johnson, Brookers, HowCast, Mythbusters, Ok Go, The Wine Kone, SMPFilms (Corey "Mr. Safety" Williams), Will It Blend?, HappySlip, Natalie Tran (communitychannel) and so much more. Some of whom I mentioned are still active after all these years while some have moved on to other projects/careers/life choices.)

Juan Mann made an appearance on this live show. Who's he? The man who started the "FREE HUGS" campaign which took the world by storm. I wish I remembered how news media tried reporting this because it's too positive and good to talk about, as the news' perogative is to provide negativity and fear.

Former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom

Tay Zonday introduced the now-former mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, who's current governor of California. That's right, folks: The same Newsom who wants to ban gas-powered vehicles getting the state to go electric, then ordered everyone to stop charging their cars due to electrical grid's overload causing brief blackouts to certain cities. That was wonderful to see.

Katy Perry and Bo Burnham

Bo Burnham also performed his song "Welcome to YouTube," opened by Katy Perry herself. You could say this was the website's theme song reflecting on all the goings-on back then, along with those who had the spotlight. I would've much rather see Burnham rise to worldwide fame than Justin Bieber, in terms of YouTube discovery. Why is that? Not only is Burnham talented, but he has a great sense of humor—something the world could use today. I mean, go outside and look for yourself. Anyway, Burnham talked about his performance and the event itself on this video at VidCon 2018.

From left to right: Ian Hecox, Anthony Padilla, Tony Nguyen 'The Wine Kone' and Lisa Nova

The one that stood out to me was the social awkwardness Smosh showed when interviewed by Lisa Nova, though that eased off with a quick hello from Tony Nguyen also known as The Wine Kone. The live show ends with a performance by Akon.

The show saw itself as "YouTube" in person with an active audience, along with some live musical performances by various artists. In addition, the show included some spiel, comedy schticks and some social and political activism. It wasn't great nor memorable, but it wasn't terrible.

This article is more of a look-back talk and not a review but given that this was YouTube's very first live show, I can see why they wanted to bury this in their archives. I say so because there's a lot to be had in terms of improvement, and it's hard to say which of these YouTube hosts had hosting experience in front a live audience and camera. Granted, some YouTubers that were mentioned above never showed up, or were never invited, making the live show a little disappointing for fans and viewers of those very creators. Still, YouTube did all they could in making this happen. If anything, this should be a classic lookback as a means to improve on future events, but because this stream is so hard to find in higher quality, YouTube doesn't seem too keen on talking about this.

For those who took a dive into YouTube from 2009 to the present: You're looking at the days when its creators had fun making videos. It didn't matter if it was shot on a prosumer—semi professional—video camera or a Flip Camera [HD], which was a hot product back then, we all sat and watched everyone's videos out of respect. Any vlogs posted, we watched and listened to the whole yapping; Any skits, good or cheesy, we saw them. Because YouTube wasn't too strict on negative comments and excessive trolling done on these early videos and channels, creators weren't so butt-hurt about it and kept producing stuff as normal (however, some were, and produced an entire video calling out the "haters"). There wasn't any obsession with increasing viewer duration, video views, clicking on video ads or affiliate links on the description section for fear of not earning enough revenue on particular videos posted; There wasn't an episodic "routine" users would partake in to manintain their audience's attention throughout the year. YouTubers in the early days posted and enjoyed producing videos for the fun of it; Some were lucky to earn a small income but it was all about the fun of producing something. Nowadays, therapy has been on the rise for modern-day, online creators who fret over numbers and viewerships (pre-pandemic). This includes those who get whiny over constructive criticism when posting on a website that's on the top most-visited websites in the world (bubble bursted: criticism is something you have to deal and live with when entertaining, as you will never ever impress everyone).

As you know, YouTube is over-saturated with channels and videos both from regular citizens and from corporate entities wanting to bank in on their social media reach and extra revenue. It's very much the place to be, and depending on the content you watch and enjoy, there isn't much a need for cable TV anymore. YouTube has been incredibly strict on copywritten content, "hateful" comments, censorship and embracing the corporate status quo when regulating content they find "inappropriate," despite letting some explicit videos remain on the website for many years. As streaming services began to pick up, YouTube introduced their own that's filled with exclusive content and cable TV-like features available at the comfort of your own smart device. Now, if YouTube can cater to the hot trend of going backwards—that is, watching videos via antenna on a CRT television, releasing new content via VHS, DVD, Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray rentals and so forth, that would be a real treat.

This is one of those YouTube videos that should be preserved. Those golden days of YouTube will never be re-lived nor gotten back again given how corporate the website has become. Due to huge revenue cuts among creators and controversial content not getting the benefit of the doubt, let alone the massive dislikes on the website's annual YouTube Rewind, many known YouTubers are leaving YouTube for other de-centralized platforms to speak their minds, express themselves in ways early YouTubers were able to express, cursing and swearing, exposing the beligerent lies as a means of saving our individual freedoms and sanity, earning a more favorable income...basically wanting to be themselves without frequent warnings of being censored or termination of account. Heck, even just a simple live stream of someone playing video games and swearing doesn't sit well with YouTube's standards nowadays (YouTube has now allowed it again but still gets a little dice-y). Like that one comment on a video speaking out against the censorship from YouTube, "The most popular videos that will grace the website are academic lectures." In that case, the website should change its name to LectureTube—a perfect place for all educational and lecture needs. What do you think about that idea, YouTube, even though I know you'll decline to comment?

I just feel this is a disappointment made from YouTube wanting to sweep this event under the rug. It wouldn't surprise me if the executives from their media and public relations department are reading this article wondering why we're even talking about this event and why we brought it up. We found no official press release over the public response to this event back in 2008, so I'd like to ask why. Here's the official Wikipedia article talking about it, but there wasn't much say besides fans who watched and chimed in with their reactions and comments. Alright, YouTube, if there's ever a say about this event, which is permissible to publish under this very article, we'd like to hear from you and why we think an event like this is a great mainstay to learn and bounce back from in the case you ever hold such live show again.

Certainly, the live show wasn't perfect but it deserves to be a mark that sought YouTube's continuous growth. Why do you think directors' and producers' first movies were terrible, yet went on to create top hits? It's part of a business' rise to success.

Oh, and if you don't mind us saying so: I've held the personal belief that it was early YouTubers who made Apple® products popular, given that a majority of them owned and edited videos on Mac computers (many of them were never shy of showing them off). That's right, so if you've ever wondering why Apple® is now a trillion-dollar company, you can blame the original creators on YouTube for glamorizing them (I don't think iJustine wasn't the only one responsible).

Anyway, mark this event as a portal to the past when YouTube didn't come off as that strict principal at school scolding everyone's uniforms, hair styles, not being attentive in class, and monitoring everyone's behaviors outside the campus day in and day out. I think creators ought to have a chance to be themselves, and while bad behavior will never be awarded, just because someone has a sour or aggressive personality doesn't always make them a bad person. People have different ways of coping, and the only way to know is to accept and understand their social mechanism. Then again, I just write and publish on this website, and I don't work for YouTube nor am I the one who makes the rules for their website.

Not sure where YouTube will go leading up to 2030, but if this trend of going backwards technologically continues, then there may be a demand in getting this live event on DVD/Blu-ray available for purchase. Oh, there's an idea: Why doesn't YouTube open up their own video store? (Hey YouTube, if you're going to contact us about this article, how about opening up a video store giving content creators a chance to bank in more sales and revenue through physical media? Due to your corporate structure, you can partner with the MPAA to screen content prior to appropriate release. Many memorable, or informative, videos deserve to be preserved. You're welcome to take that idea without crediting us—something we're used to when publishing on this website of ours.)

Did you watch YouTube Live 2008 when it aired? Were you one of the OGs that produced on YouTube back then that attended this event? What did or didn't like about this event? Would you buy tickets if YouTube hosted this event again? Let's talk about it in the comments below!

(EDITS: [August 24, 2023] Fixed one misspelled word.)


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