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Just Imagine…Enabling Everyone to Be a Star

Composite image of Chad Hurley, Steven Chen, and Jawed Karim, by Ianmacm, CC BY-SA 3.0

Steven Chen was born in Taiwan in 1978 and immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1985. He studied Computer Science at the University of Illinois. He worked for PayPal after graduation, where he met Jawed Karim and Chad Hurley.

Jawed Karim was born in 1979 in what was then East Germany. His father was from Bangladesh, while his mother was East German. Experiencing racial discrimination in East and West Germany, Jawed and his family immigrated to America in 1992. He studied at the University of Illinois while working at PayPal. He also obtained a Master’s at Stanford.

Chad Hurley grew up in Pennsylvania and studied design at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He too went on to work at PayPal.

Steven, Jawed, and Chad decided to form a video-sharing website called YouTube. It launched in 2005. Jawed posted the first video. They started with the phrase “Broadcast Yourself.”

Within twelve years, 400 hours of new content were being added to YouTube every minute and one billion hours of content were being watched each day. Shortly after its founding, YouTube was named Time magazine’s 2006 Person of the Year.

Chad and Steven took an active role in YouTube early on while Jawed decided to go to graduate school. The three co-founders sold YouTube to Google for $1.65 billion one year after its launch.

Since their successful launch of YouTube, the three founders have gone on to work with other start-ups. Steven has returned to Taiwan.

Just imagine the impact that the three founders of YouTube have had on society both in the U.S. and worldwide. The site has been positively enabling for millions, helping people to share and crowdsource valuable information and ideas, and helping people explore and develop their own creativity. It has also exacerbated some of society’s evils, like helping the spread of misinformation and steering users to videos embracing right-wing extremist ideologies. Like many technologies, the potential for good or evil seems ever present.

What is indisputable is that the creation of three young men, two of whom were immigrants to the U.S., has had an immense impact on our world. Just imagine how we might gain from the yet-to-be discovered innovations that may come from new immigrants to the U.S. And just imagine what innovations we might be losing through restrictive immigration policies.

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“We’re starting to see that anyone with an internet connection, a digital camera, and computer can become a star overnight.”  – Steven Chen

This is part of our “Just Imagine” series of occasional posts, inviting you to join us in imagining positive possibilities for a citizen-centered democracy.

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