OG YouTubers Who Pioneered the Platform
Lucas Cruikshank is the creative mind behind the infamous, and one of the first true “YouTube Personalitys” ever, Fred. Fred, (full name Fred Figglehorn) is a fictional, high pitch voiced 6 year old who suffers from anger management problems, likely due to his dysfunctional family life. His mother is a recovering drug addicted prostitute and his father is a former rockstar who is currently on death row. Fred has never met his father because he left the family when his mother was pregnant with him. Despite all of this, Fred is generally a happy go lucky kid with a bit of a crazy side. In October 2006 Cruikshank came up with his Fred character on a previous channel he made with his cousins called JKL Productions. Fred became a popular character on the channel so they featured him more and more in their videos. In April 2008, they put all the Fred videos on a completely separate channel titled Fred. A year later the channel reached a million subscribers being the very first channel to do so in YouTube history. It was also the third channel to reach 2 million subscribers. Cruikshank capitalized on his character very well, signing a deal for a movie franchise with Nickelodeon in 2009. They made 3 films and a TV series. Also in 2009, Cruikshank was featured in a Hannah Montana music video as both Fred and himself. He gave out awards at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards as well as the 2010 Kid’s Choice Awards. In 2012 and 2013 he starred in the Nickelodeon show Marvin Marvin, where he plays an alien teenage boy. He now runs his own YouTube channel as himself called Lucas where he releases Vlogs and has 3 million subscribers.
Ryan Higa started the YouTube channel Nigahiga in on July 20, 2006. It started with him and his friends posting lip syncing videos before expanding out to comedy videos. Ryan is of Japanese decent and named his channel Nigahiga because “Niga” means rant in Japanese and Higa is his last name. HIs channel became very popular on the platform with his two most viewed comedy videos “How to be Gangster” and “How to be emo” going viral. The channel was once the most subscribed to channel for 12 days in 2008 and 677 consecutive days in 2009-2011. Nigahiga was the first channel to reach 3 million subscribers. In 2008 a Hollywood producer gave Ryan and his creative partner Sean an opportunity to make a feature length film. It was called Ryan and Sean’s Not So Excellent Adventure. It was about two YouTubers going to Hollywood to make a movie. In 2016, Ryan in collaboration with other YouTubers and musicians form a parody K-pop band called BgA (Boys Generally Asian). In 2017, their song “Who’s It Gonna Be” reached number 1 on the K-pop charts. Ryan still uploads to nigahiga today and has over 21 million subscribers.
Philip DeFranco registered his first YouTube channel as sXePhil where he discussed news and current pop culture. He had little money and was making videos while being a waiter and living in his car in Brooklyn. All that hard work paid off because he was one of the first YouTube creators to turn his channel into a legitimate media company. The Los Angeles Times has called him “The Walter Cronkite for the YouTube generation.” DeFranco is a true entrepreneur and has had his hand in many YouTube and internet ventures such as the Google funded news channel Sourcefed and the gaming channel Super Panic Frenzy. In his over decade long online career he has won many awards. Today DeFranco still maintains his channel and has over 6 million subscribers.
In 2008, Shane Dawson created a YouTube channel called ShaneDawsonTV where he posted comedy sketch videos. In the sketches he did celebrity impersonations, original characters and poked fun at pop culture. By 2010 his channel was a success, having over half a billion views. Forbes magazine name him their 25th most famous web celebrity. Shane then started his music career by writing and producing 6 original songs and music videos to go with them. In 2013, he launched a podcast titled Shane and Friends which had 140 episodes. He also made a movie that same year called Not Cool, a romantic comedy about high school friends reuniting over their Thanksgiving break. Shane became very popular again on YouTube by doing a video series talking about various conspiracy theories but he has also received criticism for helping spread mis-information online. Shane wrote 2 New York Times best selling books I Hate Myselfie and It Gets Worse. He then ventured into making documentaries about internet superstars such as Jake Paul and Jeffrey Star. Shane Dawson is still uploading consistently on YouTube and has over 21 million subscribers.
Smosh was created by the comedy duo Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox. In 2002, Padilla created the website smosh.com where he made his “flash animation” videos. Other creators posted their videos on the website as well. They started the Smosh YouTube channel in 2005 and soon after it became one of the leading channels on the platform with their ultra-viral video “Pokemon Theme Music Video” that reached the most views on YouTube for that time. Smosh has had three different time periods where they were the most subscribed to channel on YouTube. First being in the summer of 2006, second being in the summer of 2007 to the fall of 2008, and the third spanning three-fourths of the year in 2013. The Smosh brand became a franchise when they diversified into many different channels, web series and films. Today in 2019, the Smosh channel has over 8 billion views and over 24 million subscribers.
Felix Kjellberg’s first YouTube channel was titled Pewdie in 2006. He forgot the password to get in so he made a new one called PewDiePie in 2010. He made videos in the “let’s play” genre of the video game commentary community, that was not popular at the time. Felix dropped out of college and worked at a hotdog stand while he made his videos simply as a hobby. In December of 2011, his channel had 60,000 subscribers. In May of 2012 he had 500,000 subscribers, then few months later in July he had 1 million, then in September he had 2 million. By August 2013 he had more subscribers than the leading channel Smosh and received the world record for most people subscribed. Today he has over 94 million. In 2016, Time magazine named him as one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People.