On 5 April 2020, MadV‘s long-dormant YouTube channel had its first upload in almost a decade. A year later, that video sits at under 4000 views. It might be hard to believe it, but that channel was once among the top 100 most subscribed on all of YouTube!
The name MadV might not be all that familiar to you, unless you were active on YouTube in 2006. MadV was an early YouTuber whose videos included music, illusions and collaboration videos.
Have you ever randomly gotten a video titled Re: One World to appear in your search results? How about several? These are an artifact of YouTube’s old video responses feature which allowed users to respond to videos with videos instead of plaintext comments.
These videos were all responses to MadV’s One World collab invitation. In this Collab, YouTubers, not in the sense of channels but YouTube folks like you and me, were invited to scribble a message, any message they wanted to share with the world, on their hand and respond to the video.
It might not seem like much today, but in its time One World went viral, drawing in thousands of responses from all around the world. In fact, for a time it held the honor of being the most responded video of all time.
Different from the collaborations of today, participation wasn’t synchronous or live, nor was it merely a series of clips edited over a cutting room floor. One World was almost like a small website or community of its own, where people could also respond to responses forming new video chains.
A few weeks afterwards, MadV compiled his own picks into a video titled The Message. Following a nomination for the most creative YouTube video of the year, and some minor press attention, MadV would continue to organize similar collaboration videos in the months to come.
So what happened that we don’t hear much about MadV anymore? Two things actually.
- If you were to actually look at the view counts on his channel you will notice that they are not all that high. You might also notice that The Message is still there but the original One World is missing. As it turns out, not everyone seems to have been happy with all the attention MadV was receiving. MadV had the misfortune of getting is account hacked twice, which de-linked a lot of responses and hurt the view count of the video. In a way, his account was severed off from YouTube’s collective unconscious.
- Response Videos did not last long on YouTube. Spam and the infamous reply girl phenomenon are often cited as reasons YouTube dropped response videos. Thereafter, any surviving response videos were de-linked and new video responses could no longer be submitted. If a response video was using the default “Re:Original Video” you might still find it lying around. While MadV also did other videos, this signaled the abolition of his niche, seemingly alienating him from the platform.
MadV and his channel represent a different era of the web. Whether it was a better or worse era, it was a time before the commodification of responses: Before checkmark verifications, before reply videos were replaced with celebrity call-out videos, before any notion of a Cringe or Cancel Culture… Being able to speak one’s mind before the crowd, had not yet become a luxury.
MadV’s legacy could have been a card trick with 3 million views, it could have been getting the YouTube staff to do a face-reveal and it could have been One World’s status as the most responded YouTube video of all time. Yet what has endured more than any of these achievements, is the memory of MadV’s projects. A generation of internet folk grew up inspired by MadV to make interesting collaborations and projects of their own. Almost like the plot to a time travel story, MadV saved the world even if it meant that he himself would be forgotten.
Hope is not yet lost. People have found new ways to respond to one another. Or just consider the plethora of Iceberg videos lately, trends might not be able to spread directly from video to video but they continue to do so from viewer to viewer. Or what about TikTok duets?
Chin up, we are all in this together after-all!