YouTube recently celebrated its 12th birthday, and it’s fair to say it has changed considerably since its inception. For evidence of that claim, look at the top of the video site’s leaderboard. Reddit user davidjl123 compiled a series of charts showing the most-subscribed channels on YouTube at various points between 2006 and 2017.
The charts tell the story of YouTube, starting during the days when no one had more than a few thousand subscribers and continuing on to the present. A few interesting trends stick out; chiefly, this project is a reminder that Smosh’s run has been incredible. The digital home of Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla is the only channel to continuously remain in the top ten over the past eleven years. Most of the other top creators from the early days have faded into obscurity (or, in one case, passed away), but Smosh continues to crank out new videos each week and has even expanded its operation across an entire network.
By watching the top-subscribed YouTubers change, we can also see how the site’s trends have shifted. In the early days, anyone who made a big viral video could enter the top ten, with “Evolution of Dance” performer Judson Laipply even holding the top spot for a bit. Now, the YouTube elite are not focused on scheduled content, and they’re increasingly international. The most recent chart shows creators from nations like Chile and Brazil among the top 20.
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And then, of course, there is PewDiePie. By comparing the Swedish gamer to others who have held the title of “most-subscribed YouTuber,” we can see just how impressive his run of dominance has been. Early on, the top-ten list featured multiple creators bunched together, but since 2015, PewDiePie has had tens of millions of subscribers more than anyone else. Perhaps his recent controversy will slow him down, but I wouldn’t bet on it.