It's been more than two years since a few guys in Menlo Park, Calif., launched the now famous YouTube Web site, which allows anyone with a video camera to upload clips of anything from the interesting to the inane.
Today, hundreds of millions of video clips are viewed every day on YouTube, and tens of thousands of new videos are uploaded. Favorites get passed around on e-mail lists and picked up by mainstream media.
Amid the junk and idiocy gestating on the wildly successful site are some real gems. Some are surprising, some are sweet, others are dramatic. Most are just plain fun.
YouTube itself included some of these sites in its year-end video roundup. Its formula included an evaluation of view counts, most shared, most discussed, top rated and general popularity.Here are some of our favorites:
• Fans of Michael Jackson's famous "Thriller" dance video must check out the effort by 1,500 inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines. In "Thriller (original upload)" prisoners have remade the popular 1983 video directed by John Landis.Byron Garcia, a security consultant for the Philippines government, originally uploaded the video and takes credit for starting the unique program of choreographed exercise routines for the inmates. In December 2007, Time magazine ranked the video fifth in the top 10 list of most popular viral videos. www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMnk7lh9M3o
• "Cool Wedding Dance" made national news when someone captured newlyweds in a traditional first dance interrupted by Sir Mix-A-Lot. www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImBaVm7K6Do
• Dance is big on YouTube, and an extraordinary number of people mistakenly believe their pets are good at it. However, "Snowball Our Dancing Cockatoo" is impressive and worth a look. www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7IZmRnAo6s
• The best of the dance-themed clips is "inspirational comedian" Judson Laipply's "Evolution of Dance," a six-minute romp through decades of music and movement. www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMH0bHeiRNg
• More than 24 million computer users have checked out "Battle at Kruger," a dramatic confrontation between a herd of water buffalo, a pride of lions and a couple of crocodiles at a water hole in South Africa's Kruger National Park. A family shot this video footage while on safari and provides commentary up until the surprise ending. www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU8DDYz68kM
• Don't expect action and a light show from "Charlie Bit My Finger Again," just a sweet, heartfelt, one-minute exchange between two little boys in the United Kingdom. Their mom promised them a trip to T.G.I. Friday's if they got 250,000 views of their video clip. Today there are over 2.6 million hits to the clip. www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OBlgSz8sSM. Ignore the rash of morons "remixing" this.
• Also high on the cute and sweet scale is "Otters Holding Hands," which features two seaotters at Vancouver Aquarium. www.youtube.com/watch?v=epUk3T2Kfno
• As presidential candidates discuss the state of American education, "Miss Teen USA 2007 South Carolina Answers a Question" gives us all pause. We leave the rest to viewers. www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww
• In "Paul Potts Britain's Got Talent," a surprise performance by this cell-phone salesman on the U.K.'s version of "American Idol" remains refreshing and inspiring. This 3:37-minute video spot was uploaded six months ago, shortly after the show aired. Now the 37-year-old has a sold-out tour, a fan club and new smile with straightened, whitened teeth. Potts went on to win the British show. www.youtube.com/watch?v=DelJrP3P7tA&feature=related
• The same show also delivered a YouTube favorite in the audition of 6-year-old Connie Talbot, who is missing teeth but delivers a version of a much-loved song that wows even Simon Cowell, the show's creator. www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWNoiVrJDsE
• For political enthusiasts, "Condi Rice Raps" features Condoleezza Rice defending her position, her president and her country in song and dance, all set to Fergie's "Fergalicious." www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0f2dHJ6A18