YouTube is a video-sharing website headquartered in San Bruno, California. The service was created by three former PayPal employees in February 2005. In November 2006, it was bought by Google for US$1.65 billion. YouTube now operates as a Google subsidiary. The site allows users to upload, view, and share videos, and it makes use of Adobe Flash Video and HTML5 technology to display a wide variety of user-generated and corporate media video. Available content includes video clips, TV clips, music videos, and other content such as video blogging, short original videos, and educational videos.
Most of the content on YouTube has been uploaded by individuals, but media corporations including CBS, the BBC, Vevo, Hulu, and other organizations offer some of their material via YouTube, as part of the YouTube partnership program. Unregistered users can watch videos, and registered users can upload videos to their channels. Videos considered to contain potentially offensive content are available only to registered users affirming themselves to be at least 18 years old.
Both private individuals and large production companies have used YouTube to grow audiences. Independent content creators have built grassroots followings numbering in the thousands at very little cost or effort, while mass retail and radio promotion proved problematic. Concurrently, old media celebrities moved into the website at the invitation of a YouTube management that witnessed early content creators accruing substantial followings, and perceived audience sizes potentially larger than that attainable by television. While YouTube's revenue-sharing "Partner Program" made it possible to earn a substantial living as a video producer—its top five hundred partners each earning more than $100,000 annually — in 2012 CMU business editor characterized YouTube as "a free-to-use... promotional platform for the music labels". In 2013 Forbes' Katheryn Thayer asserted that digital-era artists' work must not only be of high quality, but must elicit reactions on the YouTube platform and social media. In 2013, videos of the 2.5% of artists categorized as "mega", "mainstream" and "mid-sized" received 90.3% of the relevant views on YouTube and Vevo. By early 2013 Billboard had announced that it was factoring YouTube streaming data into calculation of the Billboard Hot 100 and related genre charts.
In May 2014, prior to the launch of YouTube's subscription-based Music Key service, the independent music trade organization Worldwide Independent Network alleged that YouTube was using non-negotiable contracts with independent labels that were "undervalued" in comparison to other streaming services, and that YouTube would block all music content from labels who do not reach a deal to be included on the paid service. In a statement to the Financial Times in June 2014, Robert Kyncl confirmed that YouTube would block the content of labels who do not negotiate deals to be included in the paid service "to ensure that all content on the platform is governed by its new contractual terms." Stating that 90% of labels had reached deals, he went on to say that "while we wish that we had a 100% success rate, we understand that is not likely an achievable goal and therefore it is our responsibility to our users and the industry to launch the enhanced music experience." The Financial Times later reported that YouTube had reached an aggregate deal with Merlin Network—a trade group representing over 20,000 independent labels, for their inclusion in the service. However, YouTube itself has not confirmed the deal.