It’s hard to believe, but YouTube is nearly 20 years old. Twenty years is not a super long time in the grand scheme of humanity, but on the internet, 20 years is like a century. The landscape on YouTube has vastly changed, as proven by some of its early stars. Between 2005-2010, many massive YouTube stars are nowhere to be seen nowadays, or their presence has dramatically waned. Let’s look at some of them.
Brolsma is best known for being the “Numa Numa Guy,” and his fame predates YouTube. In 2004, he uploaded to Newgrounds a video of him lip-syncing and dancing to Dragostea Din Tei, a track from the Moldovan group O-Zone. The video became popular due to Brolsma’s animated lip-syncing and dancing to the song, which was recorded via a webcam. In a way, Brolsma was the original TikTok star.
While it went viral pre-YouTube, it became even more popular as the platform launched. Many viral videos on YouTube were repurposed from other sites at the time, gaining new popularity as the internet became more accessible. Brolsma rode on the Numa Numa fame for a while, with many parodies on the internet and pop culture, including in South Park. He also made a Numa Numa 2 with a higher production value, complete with special effects, a green screen, and skits. While Numa Numa 2 went viral as well, it did not have as much of an impact as the original, which people seemed to prefer due to its simplicity.
To this day, Brolsma still uploads on YouTube, with his channel mainly consisting of original music from him. However, his videos do not get that many views, with most getting between a few hundred and a few thousand. Despite his talents, many on YouTube saw him for only one thing. This was further proven in 2023 when he uploaded a video of him recreating the Numa Numa video, and it surpassed over 1 million views.
Fred Figglehorn was a character created by Lucas Cruikshank. He was a high-pitched 6-year-old (played by an at the time teenaged Cruikshank) with anger management and home issues. While many found the character annoying, he was an early YouTube sensation. His character paid off between 2010-2012 when he was in a trilogy of films made by Nickelodeon.
However, by then, the Fred character had worn thin, and eventually, Cruikshank sold his channel, with the new owners posting other kids’ content. However, the radically different direction was not a success, and the channel hasn’t uploaded any videos since 2015.
But this wasn’t the end of Lucas’s YouTube career. His personal channel, simply called Lucas, still uploads to this day, and he gets decent views. His story shows how rebranding can be the key to success, as a single gimmick won’t last forever.
Meanwhile, this story also shows that you cannot buy your way to success. Someone thought that by purchasing the Fred channel, their content would instantly be successful. While there are specific ways you can boost your presence, such as looking into YouTube Shorts views to buy, if the target audience doesn’t care for your content, they won’t come.
James Jackson (formerly named Gregory Daniel,) better known by his online name, Onision, rose to fame in the late 2000s, with his videos appealing to Millennials and their random sense of humor. One example is his most popular video, “I’m a Banana,” which is a music video of him dancing around in a banana suit with flashing colors and his random sense of humor.
However, nowadays, Onision’s videos get a fraction of the views they once had, and his reputation is less than stellar. Onision has been the subject of many controversies, with the most notable being allegations of child grooming. Chris Hansen, best known for his 2000s show To Catch a Predator, even investigated him. While Onision never faced legal repercussions for these allegations and his channel was never taken down, his reputation sank. Onision has recently uploaded videos trying to give his side of the story, but they have not been well-received.
Besides the controversies, another reason why Onision’s channel may have fallen is that his content did not evolve much along with his audience, with the YouTuber still trying to appeal to a shrinking demographic.
Antoine Dodson rose to fame in 2010 when he gave an interview to the local news after an alleged home invader attempted to assault his sister sexually. The interview quickly became popular due to Dodson’s delivery, which was flamboyant and contained quotable lines such as “Hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband ’cause they’re rapin’ everybody out here.”
Despite the subject matter, the interview was considered quite funny by many people, and the interview even got remixed into its own song, “Bed Intruder,” which sold quite well on iTunes. With the money, Dodson was able to move himself and his family out of the impoverished neighborhood they lived in, set up a type 1 diabetes foundation, which his mother and sister had, and was an online sensation in the early 2010s.
However, he quickly disappeared from the limelight and now uploads occasionally on YouTube, with the money and fame he gained disappearing almost as soon as it came to him. For Dodson, his YouTube venture was a quick 15 minutes of fame due to circumstance, and once the novelty of the interview went away, people did not want to stick to watching him.
These are but a sampling of the many, many YouTubers who had their day in the sun but have been forgotten about since then. If people are interested, we could make another article about the many YouTubers who have since fallen.
YouTube is a platform where celebrities have a much shorter shelf life than regular celebrities. While it is possible to stay relevant, it takes careful planning and evolving as your audience does. So, if you wish to grow on YouTube, you must keep that in mind.