If you missed it, YouTube did their annual rewind this year. It has, at this moment, 2.4 million likes, and 14 million dislikes. 14 million! More than any other video out there.
There have been a few people trying to explain why the video is so universally hated, and they make some good points. Marques Brownlee, who is in the rewind, mentions the ever expanding push for YouTube to be brand friendly. Evan Edinger explored why past rewinds were awesome (celebrating amazing music from the year, and community accomplishments) and the break that happens in 2016 where more main stream media starts infiltrating it. Many of the comments ask where Pewdiepie is, the most subscribed youtuber since 2013. Paul brothers, also controversial, okay, but no Pewdiepie. Many people say they didn’t recognize most of the people in it. Many sight the fact that celebrities who have nothing to do with YouTube were included, and the increasing push for diversity and social justice that is starting to feel more like preaching. Mainly the problem was “this isn’t authentic YouTube”.
Other Youtubers responded by making their own rewinds, or year in reviews. Some were remixes of the original, some made fun of it, some cut together their own interpretation entirely.
And then Pewdiepie dropped his own Youtube Rewind (but actually good.) At the moment it has 4.6 million thumbs up, and only 29k thumbs down. A huge improvement over the original. Many of those reviewing it nod along to the music, comment on all the memes they know and love, and even get a sad smile when showing remembrances of some of those who passed on this year, like Stan Lee and Stephan Karl Stefansson.
I find it interesting that some people commented on the Youtube official rewind cramming in too much stuff, and that is why it wasn’t as successful, and yet the Pewdiepie video goes through so many memes and people that I lost count. But I knew them. I knew the content, the people mentioned, the memes, and I could remember at least 80% of them from past videos. And they worked well with the music, flowing together, and becoming part of it in most of the video. A few places seemed a bit forced, but because I had already invested so much into it I already loved it, and those few places didn’t matter.
I have to admit I haven’t always been a Pewdiepie fan. I thought his humor was kind of crass, and he made his mark by being loud and obnoxious. My daughter (a teen) loved his let’s plays, but even then I would watch some of them with her and enjoy it. Now that he is focusing more on what makes him happy, like memes, reddit, and just watching funny vidios, I enjoy his content even more. Plus the inclusion of Pew News, and even the book club, make me feel like Pewdiepie, or rather Felix, has grown up.
But now I feel that Pewdiepie’s rewind, and the whole T-seires war in general, is about far more than a few memes, or even liking one specific youtuber. This is about community. About being part of something bigger. And I think the end of the video exemplifies that the most.
This isn’t just about YouTube appealing to advertisers, or clearing out the less desirable. This is about corporations using their influence to take over what we built. Because we built Youtube. We made the videos, learned to edit, made music, animated, and joined in on conversations around the world. We made it what it is today….and corporations are trying to take it. They tried by suing early YouTube, to make it take responsibility for those uploading movies in order to shut it down. They tried to influence law makers to make SOPA and PIPA. They tried to using advertisers and controversies to shut things down. And for the longest time they have been going after the biggest channel on YouTube to use him for clicks and try to cut him down at the same time.
We know the day is coming when music and media companies have the most viewers on YouTube. This isn’t the first industry to see these changes, and it won’t be the last. But this fight with T-seiries is our way of saying we aren’t going to give up quite that easily.
I hope someday there is competition with PayPal, Patreon, and Youtube. I hope someday freedom to speak isn’t just a catch phrase, it’s a reality because no one has the power to shut us down just because they don’t like what we’re saying. I hope some day we really, truly, own the work we do. Right now that isn’t very possible because we distribute the work we create on someone else’s network, be it music, books, or videos. We don’t have a way of getting that information to other people because someone else owns all the servers and the connection points, and someone else can threaten to shut off the access either by cutting off the people buying the product (or taking away the products after they sold it to you), or by cutting off income to the creator.
Until then we’ll keep fighting the good fight, trying to keep the power in the hands of the people, and trying to keep our community strong and vibrant. Keep it growing. Because we never know what tomorrow will hold.