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Steve Chen: YouTube Was Conceived As A Video Dating Site

March 16, 2016 - Written By Mihai Matei

YouTube is undoubtedly one of the largest and most popular websites in the world, and ever since its creation in 2005 the platform has gone through numerous changes as well as a major change in ownership. It was founded by former PayPal employees Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim, and in 2006 YouTube was acquired by Google for $1.65 billion, becoming one of the search engine giant’s main subsidiaries. Although YouTube is now known as a video sharing website hosting pretty much any type of video you can think of, initially the platform’s founders had a different plan for YouTube, specifically to create a video dating website.

The idea of searching for a partner using video dating services is not new, and in fact, this phenomenon existed even in the 1980s when VHS tapes were a hot commodity. Interestingly enough, in its early days YouTube was apparently designed as a video dating website, effectively aiming to bring a service similar to VHS dating into the online world. These concepts have been revealed during a conference at South by Southwest (SXSW) by YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, who added that “we always thought there was something with video there” but wondered what “the actual practical application” might be. The co-founders then turned their attention towards online dating and concluded that “dating would be the obvious choice” for the platform. However, the original idea didn’t take flight and the company was “desperate for some actual dating videos, whatever that even means”. They turned their attention to Craigslist and even offered to pay women $20 to upload videos of themselves in order to try and bring the online dating platform under the spotlight.

Needless to say, the concept didn’t pay off and the three co-founders were forced to think of another use for the video sharing website. They scrapped the idea of limiting the website to online video dating, and opened up the platform to any video, effectively laying down the foundations of what YouTube is today. Online video dating websites still haven’t caught on, with popular dating applications such as Tinder relying on photos instead. Meanwhile, YouTube became the fastest growing video sharing website in the world, and the second largest search engine with 1 Billion unique visitors each month.