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At Youtube, Adolescence Begins at 5

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Chad Hurley, YouTube co-founder and chief executive

Armando Arorizo / Bloomberg News

Early this year, the most popular YouTube video of all time--a 2007 clip of a British toddler gleefully biting the finger of his older brother--was supplanted by a brash newcomer.

The upstart was Lady Gaga’s slithering, sci-fi-themed music video for her hit single “Bad Romance.”

The shift was symbolic: YouTube, a subsidiary of the search giant Google, is growing up. Once known primarily for skateboard-riding cats, dancing geeks and a variety of cute-baby high jinks, YouTube now features a smorgasbord of more professional video that is drawing ever larger and more engaged audiences.

“Our biggest challenge is making sure we don’t taste too many things,” Chad Hurley, YouTube’s low-profile and low-key co-founder and chief executive, said in a wide-ranging interview last week.

That cornucopia of content appears to be turning YouTube--considered by many to be a risky investment when it was bought for $1.65 billion at the end of 2006--into one of Google’s smartest acquisitions. On Monday, YouTube will celebrate its fifth birthday by announcing it has passed two billion video views a day; YouTube said it reached the one billion mark in October.

From The New York Times
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