Review: ‘Like, Comment, Subscribe’ looks at YouTube’s rise

September 6, 2022 GMT
This image released by Viking shows "Like, Comment, Subscribe: Inside YouTube's Chaotic Rise to World Domination" by Mark Bergen. (Viking via AP)
This image released by Viking shows "Like, Comment, Subscribe: Inside YouTube's Chaotic Rise to World Domination" by Mark Bergen. (Viking via AP)
This image released by Viking shows "Like, Comment, Subscribe: Inside YouTube's Chaotic Rise to World Domination" by Mark Bergen. (Viking via AP)
This image released by Viking shows "Like, Comment, Subscribe: Inside YouTube's Chaotic Rise to World Domination" by Mark Bergen. (Viking via AP)
This image released by Viking shows "Like, Comment, Subscribe: Inside YouTube's Chaotic Rise to World Domination" by Mark Bergen. (Viking via AP)

“Like, Comment, Subscribe,” Mark Bergen (Viking)

YouTube has become such a part of daily life and popular culture in its 17-year history that it’s easy to forget how simple of a concept the site began with.

In “Like, Comment, Subscribe,” Mark Bergen chronicles YouTube’s rocky history beginning in 2005 when it was envisioned as a simple video-sharing service. He even notes how its creators originally considered the idea of a video site focused on dating, a concept that seems perplexing today when looking at YouTube’s scope.

But one concept that remained was its ease of use — a site that their moms should be able to use easily, as one of its founders said in an early email.

Anyone with an Internet connection knows just how much of a technological and cultural behemoth the site has become since then, and Bergen offers a revealing look at how YouTube has struggled with that growth.

Bergen, a writer for Bloomberg and Bloomberg Businessweek, begins the book with a quote from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and it’s easy to see why. From outsized YouTube personalities to misinformation campaigns, YouTube oftentimes comes across as the creature whose makers have lost control.

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The fast-paced story explores YouTube’s challenges, including its handling of misinformation about the 2020 election and the coronavirus pandemic. It sharply explains how YouTube’s economy has changed over time, and the backlash it’s faced from creators and users over those changes.

Bergen, who has covered Google for several years, deftly covers YouTube’s rise. The cast of characters include YouTube creators who may seem like ancient history (remember lonelygirl15?) to many users now.

Bergen’s book underscores, though, how much of YouTube’s history has been driven by the millions of people who watch its videos or post on it each day.