Janet Jackson, Ronaldinho and the Birth of YouTube

Super Bowl XXXVIII provided a major assist

The last time the New England Patriots played a Super Bowl in Houston, it helped lead to the creation of YouTube.

As noted in the book An Uncommon History of Common Things, the infamous “Nipplegate” halftime show incident involving Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake was one of two major 2004 sparks for the creation the following year of YouTube. The other being the devastating tsunami in Thailand.

On Valentine’s Day 2005, Jawed Karim, one of three co-creators of YouTube, posted the site’s very first video: 19 seconds of himself at the San Diego Zoo. The site went beta-live in May and the first video to hit one million views—appropriately enough for a site inspired partly by a Super Bowl—was a Nike ad featuring soccer star Ronaldinho.

This weekend, a prescient, related question might be: “What would Lady Gaga have to do to top the Nipplegate Guinness World Record?” All these years later, according to the Guinness folks, Nipplegate still ranks as the most searched news story on the Internet.

As Houston Public Media reminds, the $550,000 fine levied against CBS by the FCC for allowing Nipplegate to slip through was nullified by the Supreme Court in 2012. For the record, the image of Jackson’ breast lasted 9/16ths of a second.