YouTube provides a list of the most viewed videos, which remains the gauge upon which all clips are judged. Here, though, are the most significant YouTube videos of the year:
1. THE FACE OF YOUTUBE: The cute, bedroom confessions of Lonelygirl15 remain the site's quintessential expression. Of course, the pretty high schooler named Bree was eventually revealed to be 19-year-old actress Jessica Lee Rose, who was acting out a scripted plot with two behind-the-scenes producers. But that strange mutated duality of what's real and what's fiction, what's amateur and what's professional, remains the heart and soul of YouTube, where everybody and nobody is a star.
2. NETWORK WAKE-UP CALL: Saturday Night Live's "Lazy Sunday" mock-rap sketch was, in some ways, what started the revolution. The video was seen by more than five million viewers before NBC asked YouTube to remove it in February. Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg's rhymes boosted the hipness of "SNL," but more importantly, it was the first time networks were alerted to their new competition. NBC reacted fearfully, and later opted to built up its own Web sites with online video. The networks continue to experiment with YouTube; recently, CBS has claimed its late shows have increased in ratings after posting clips from "The Late Show with David Letterman" and "The Late Late Show" on YouTube.
3. POLITICAL FALLOUT: YouTube — like the Internet in general — has made it a specialty to reveal the gaffes and mistakes of the establishment. Of course, few would say Virginia Sen. George Allen didn't deserve his fate after a video of him calling a rival campaign staffer "macaca" drew constant clicks on YouTube. Allen went on to lose an extremely close election — a race that YouTube could well have turned. On the other end of the spectrum, Michael J. Fox's tremulous campaign ads for various Democratic candidates who support stem cell research proved powerfully effective and were seen by millions more than would have otherwise caught them on TV.
4. FLOUNDERING FOUNDERS: When Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in October, YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen posted a goofy, unrehearsed video with a glint in their eye and a smirk on their face that said unmistakably: "We just became insanely rich." It was true to YouTube style, but the site's video-posting community couldn't help thinking, "Didn't we do all the work?"
5. OK STOP: MTV turned 25 this year, but it became clear a long time ago that its programming doesn't have room for music videos anymore. YouTube's expanse is endless, of course, and the site turned a little-known power pop group into the music video sensation of the year. OK Go's video for "Here it Goes Again" was made in one long take with the amateurish creativity that YouTube specializes in. Their playfully choreographed treadmill dancing was the most absurdly graceful thing of the year: YouTube saved the video star.
6. CELEBRITY SPY: Michael "Kramer" Richards' racist rant at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood in November would have drawn headlines without YouTube, but would millions have seen it? We've all become trained at this point: if something happens — check YouTube.
7. NOT JUST TEENAGERS: Though YouTube is generally viewed as a playground for the young, many elderly people have seen its unique facility for communication. A user named Peter who goes by the name geriatric1927 has become one of the biggest and unlikeliest stars of the YouTube community. Dubbed "Virtual Granddad," the British 79-year-old is beloved for his "Telling it all" series of posts in which he warmly recalls his life stories — from his days as radar mechanic during WWII to his life as a motorcycle salesman.
8. DOCUMENT OF INJUSTICE: A number of videos led to legal action that might not have otherwise been taken. Footage of a police officer striking suspect William Cardenas in Hollywood, Calif. was viewed in court in September and a Superior Court commissioner ruled the officer's conduct was "more than reasonable." But after the video hit YouTube, it triggered an FBI investigation. The law can work both ways on YouTube, though. When two Nebraska teenagers posted a video making threats against their high school, they were soon arrested and ticketed on suspicion of disturbing the peace.
9. INTERNATIONAL COMPENDIUM: Unlike perhaps anything before, YouTube compiles videos from around the world, making for a truly borderless repository of pop culture. We've become accustomed to seeing soccer highlights among the most-watched YouTube videos, and aren't surprised to see videos in Japanese or other languages. In this environment, two art students in China — known as the "Two Chinese Boys" — became internationally known without saying a word. The basketball jersey-wearing duo (Huang Yixin and Wei Wei) captivated with their passionate lip-synching of Backstreet Boys songs.
10. STAR MAKER: One of the most viewed, most discussed videos shows a slight figure, his face obscured by a beige baseball cap, sitting in front of his bedroom computer playing electric guitar. Sounds typical right? Except he's playing a rock arrangement of Pachelbel's Canon using a difficult technique called sweep picking. The guitarist, named in the video only as "funtwo," was eventually revealed to be a 23-year-old Korean named Jeong-Hyun Lim, now known the world over. Others, like the comedy duo Barats & Bereta, parlayed their video success into deals with giant media corporations like NBC Universal. Some didn't find fame on purpose: Aleksey Vayner saw no humor in his boastful video application for an investment banking job.
By Jake Coyle