By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN
The New York Times
May 27, 2007
WHAT do you think of the latest video on YouTube? Wait. Don't answer
that, or at least don't answer with words. Because almost the instant
you start to talk about one of the beautiful, puzzling videos that
pervade the site that Google acquired last fall for $1.65 billion, you
reveal that you're missing the point. Really the only authentic
response to a YouTube video is another YouTube video -- the so-called
YouTube appeared in February 2005, when it was modestly billed as a
site on which people could swap personal videos. Since then, however,
its video-response feature, which essentially allows users to converse
through video, has managed to convene partisans of almost every field
of human endeavor, creating video clusters that begin with an opening
video, and snowball as fans and detractors are moved to respond with
videos of their own. In answer to a lousy, stammering video, say, a
real YouTuber doesn't just comment, "You idiot -- I could do that
blindfolded!" He blindfolds himself, gets out his video-capable Canon
PowerShot and uploads the results.
There are music-making videos about music, dance videos about dance,
and architecture videos about architecture. Music people respond to
musical performances by filming a musical performance of their own.
The same principle holds for dancers, athletes, pundits, pedants,
comedians, film editors, poets, stunt people, propagandists and
showoffs of every stripe.
What's more, YouTube's interface allows users to track the history of
anything they watch, as well as to pursue video responses to it. As a
further inducement to stay on the site, YouTube proposes a half-dozen
works that might interest you whenever you're streaming a video.
When you enter the site, then, be warned: before you know it, you've
entered one of YouTube's great unmarked communities -- the shred
guitarists, the torch singers, the Christopher Walken impersonators.
Each community is filled with so many small obsessive pursuits
colliding and colluding with one another that it's awfully tempting
to skip your lunch break -- or take the day off -- and watch them all.
What follows, then, is not a list of the top videos on YouTube. That
would be too simple, too old-Web. Instead, here are five of the most
fascinating worlds to get lost in on YouTube. Every single one of them
is worth a detour.