I Was the First “YouTube”

Back in the early 2000’s, I was getting pretty deep into Linux. I also had a job which allowed me to have the castoff computers no one needed any more, after upgrades. Linux has always run just fine on older hardware, so I wound up with, at one point, 9 servers in my house, doing all sorts of things, in addition to my hand-built personal computers.

At the time, I had been running a dual phone line connection back to my computer at work, and using their T1 line for internet access. I had cleared this with the person in charge of the network. He was satisfied that I wouldn’t be using it except out of business hours, by definition.

While I knew it at the time, it’s become even more clear in retrospect: Arvin was a pretty great place to work. And Meritor ruined it. But I digress.

I found out that DSL was available at my house, so I got a 512Kb symmetric connection, which was rare. At the time, the phenomenon of the “Super Bowl commercial” was getting into full swing, and I had started collecting them. I was storing them on my “big” server, which had 6 SCSI drives in a hardware-based RAID array, for a whopping 100 GB of space. My collection included things like the old Budweiser “wassup” adverts, and that sort of thing.

Since I had a broadband connection, I started running my own web and email servers, out of my house. On my web server, I hosted an FTP service for all of these videos. You could click on them and play them, but I left it easy to just grab them all, if you knew how. I watched the logs, and saw that many people did. As thanks, a couple of people sent me their collections on CD’s through the mail. It was going well. To me, this is what the internet was all about.

Then along came “farting preacher.” It was an instant classic of the time, and I immediately added it to my collection. In a couple of months, if you searched on that phrase, my web site, running out of my house, was the #1 hit for it. That month, I did 8 GIGABYTES of uploads over my 512Kb connection. And, remember, these were tiny, little, lo-fi vid caps of the time. Most were just a couple megs. I thought about running banner ads on my site, to try to “monetize” the traffic, and then immediately rejected that idea as crass. It’s not that I didn’t think I couldn’t make any money; it’s that I thought the amount of money I would make wouldn’t be worth the hassle.

The very next month, someone created farting preacher .com, and loaded it up with ads. I have to admit that I felt a little whinge of missing the boat, for a moment.

The, the next month after that, YouTube was launched, and it put all of those spammy, one-off video sites out of existence, in favor of a new, spammy video site, where you can randomly get banned or de-monetized, or have your videos removed because of bogus copyright claims.

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