After following a few Vloggers for over a year I started to wonder how long vlogging had even been a thing. To me, it seemed like vlogging had just exploded within the last five years or so, but I was curious so I did some digging into the history of the vlog and how the whole thing got started. After a little research, this is what I found.
How long has vlogging been around? Vlogs have existed since January 2nd, 2000 when Adam Kontras posted his first video of his journey to Los Angeles to his personal blog for friends and family to follow along in his journey.
Vlogging has come a long way since Kontras’ first 15-second video and has had some major phases of growth with new technology. Below are the major milestones in this history of the vlog.
The Precursors to Vlogs (1980-1999)
The word vlog is short for “video log” or “video blogging” which gives a hint as to what came before the vlog: blogging. The blog (or weblog) had come six years before the first vlog in 1994 as individuals began to use the internet to chronical their lives, learnings, and findings of the interesting things they found online. In the beginning, blogs were limited to those who knew how to build and modify static HTML websites slowing the number of blogs produced. It wasn’t until 1999 that easy HTML text editors (notably Open Diary, Live Journal, and Blogger) were launched that blogs proliferated.
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Another part of what makes vlogs unique is the first person storytelling style that comes from the narrator also being the main camera operator. Before the internet was publically available to upload videos, there were individuals shooting in this hand-held, first-person shooting that in the early 1980s. For example, Nelson Sullivan recorded videos around his home in New York City and aimed to turn that footage into his own television show before he died in 1989.
- Nelson Sullivan: One of the first to use a vlog-like video shooting style in the 1980’s.
- Justin Hall: Widely regarded as the first blogger in 1994 as he published to links.net with new information he found around the early internet.
- Jorn Barger: Attributed with coining the phrase “weblog” or “blog” as shorthand for “logging the web”.
The First Vlog & Early Vlogging (2000-2004)
With the rapid growth of blogging in 1999, it wasn’t long before the first video was uploaded and added to a blog post to form the first vlog. Adam Kontras was the first to accomplish this on January 2nd, 2000 when he posted a 15-second video of himself sneaking a cat into his apartment building. He had been documenting his personal journey for friends and family to Los Angeles to make it in show business. Since then, Kontras has continued vlogging making him the longest active vlogger on the internet.
The term “vlog”, however, came a few years after the first video was posted. In the same year, Adrian Miles posted a video to his blog and dubbed it a vog, but it wasn’t until 2002 when filmmaker and musician, Luuk Bouwman started uploading a video diary of his post-college travels that the term “vlog” was used. In 2004, filmmaker Steve Garfiled also started a vlog and dubbed 2004 as the “year of the vlog”. Little did he know how big vlogging would become in just a few short years.
Notable Early Vloggers:
- Adam Kontras: The first vlogger and the longest active vlogger (as of this writing in 2019)
- Luuk Bouwman: Vlogger who coined the term “vlog”.
YouTube and the Democratization of Video Publishing (2005-2010)
As with the slow growth of early blogging, vlogging was hindered by the technical difficulty of uploading, storing, and publishing online videos. Vlogging grew slowly since the first vlog was published and 2004 had even been dubbed the “year of the vlog” but vlogging was still not well known. This was changed, however, with the Launch of YouTube in December of 2005. YouTube made it possible for vlogging to grow beyond the more technically gifted vloggers.
Within six months YouTube grew rapidly to the point where it was receiving 100 million views and 65 thousand uploads of videos a day. Many of today’s popular vloggers like iJustine, Philip DeFranco, and Grace Helbig first started their channels in this year (2006).
Notable Early Vloggers on YouTube:
- Justine Ezarik: Famous early vlogger who recently published a book (I, Justine) reflecting on what it was like documenting her life on YouTube for the world to see.
- Grace Helbig: After the success of her first YouTube channel, Grace went on to multiple successful ventures in online video, television, and film projects.
- John & Hank Green: Known for their YouTube channel the Vlog Brothers.
- Jessica Rose: A 19-year-old actress uploading intimate journal entries as a teenager “Bree”. The videos seemed authentic and gained publicity before Jessica revealed that they were fictional.
Smart Phones Open the Door For Everybody to Vlog (2010-2015)
In the early days of YouTube point-and-shoot cameras were common items in a household and made it easy for anybody who had a desire to make videos to get started, but it wasn’t until the smartphone became mainstream and put a camera within reach of most people 24 hours a day that vlogging became truly accessible to all. While the iPhone was introduced in 2007, it wasn’t until 2010 that the smartphone became a mainstream device. The cultural phenomenon made it simple for anybody to record a video and upload that video directly to youtube in less than a minute.
At the same time, the rapid growth of smartphone also increased the viewership of YouTube videos. Through the 2010’s YouTubes views would grow along with the amount of time people spent consuming content on their phones. One device fueled the rapid growth of the creation and consumption of online video.
Notable Vlogger From this Time:
- Shay Carl: Shay produced a popular vlog around the daily life of his family. He was the featured vlogger of the YouTube sponsored documentary Vlogumentary.
Casey Neistat’s Effect on the World of Vlogging (2015-Current)
By 2015, there were thousands of vloggers uploading videos, but one independent filmmaker would start their vlog in the same year that would elevate the whole category. Casey Neistat had seen success in the mainstream media with his HBO show, the Neistat Brothers, and had won multiple awards as a filmmaker, but it wasn’t until he began vlogging that the world took note of Casey. He brought a new level of excellence to the discipline of vlogging that no one had quite yet accomplished on a daily basis. For 534 days in a row, he uploaded a vlog at a higher level of excellence that had a profound influence on the vlogging community. To the point that “copying Casey” became the norm for vlogging.
Before 2015, most vlogs were shot on point-and-shoot cameras or smartphones, vloggers consistently used a point-of-view angle, and vlogs received minimal editing. Casey brought with him a new level of storytelling, camera angles, and advance video cuts that elevated the entertainment value of a single vlog. Today, most vloggers use a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a shotgun microphone, have a multitude of camera angles that enhance the story, and often spend hours editing a single vlog upload. Casey Neistat set a higher bar for the vlogging community which gained it more viewership and influenced more vloggers to follow suite.
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The Future of Vlogging
Today, vlogging is at a high as a trend, yet still isn’t mainstream enough for my computers autocorrect to not recognize the words vlog, vlogging, or vlogger as blog, blogging, or blogger. Time will tell if it continues to grow, fade away, or evolve into something else, but as a college staff member, I still hear more and more often “YouTuber” as a career aspiration.
I firmly believe that the vlog has a solid future ahead and is still in its early years for three reasons:
- Technology is still improving rapidly, making it easier every year to make and distribute better videos.
- People love to follow other people. In my work as a professional marketer, I’ve noticed repeatedly that people love the story of an individual. They might like their favorite brands, companies, and causes, but we all have a tendency to trust and cling more to the stories of individual people.
- Live video has its place, but it can’t replace the work of video editing. It’s one of the reasons Neistats app, Beme (an app for sharing raw unedited video), failed while his highly edited vlog did.
What is vlogging? Vlogging is an online “video log” that is like a blog or online video journal where individuals record, edit, and upload a video about their lives.
What types of vlogs are there? Vlogs are as unique as the creators who make them. Still, there are a few categories many vlogs fall into. First are the update videos where vloggers share what happened that day, week, or another period of time. Another popular format is a vlog with a distinct niche focus of the individual. They might focus on fashion, skateboarding, or makeup and vlog about that one topic in their life as a primary focus. Another major focus is a vlog dedicated to a journey where a vlogger is bringing along the audience to discover something or overcome a challenge in their life.