I'll spare you the blurb about YouTube being a revolution in online media, a truly democratised broadcasting platform, and the pinnacle of user-generated content. You know this, and if you didn't, 768 high-brow articles in the press have already told you so.
More importantly, it's become the prime outlet for camcorder and cameraphone users to make an arse out of themselves, and win praise/wonder/disgust (delete as appropriate) from millions of their peers.
But what are the prime ingredients for YouTube success - what separates a viral hit from a barely-noticed miss? Poking around the top rated videos provides a few answers.
YouTube has single-handedly killed off karaoke (almost) in favour of lip-synching. If you can leap around your bedroom miming along to a suitable hit, you're guaranteed a big audience. Well, you are if you do it right - the standard needs to be considerably higher even than you'd see from actual pop stars on TV. Extra points are scored for wildly unsuitable clashes (young girls doing gruffy-voiced grunge males, blokes doing Barbie Girl etc). Examples: here and here.
2. Animals do the funniest things
If it's popular on cobbled-together Saturday Night clip shows, why shouldn't it work on YouTube as well? And, thankfully, you don't have to put up with a presenter mugging between vids. Cats seem to do particularly well on YouTube for some reason (that reason being they reliably fall off things or go mad when you point a camera at them). Obviously, the most common way is to nick footage from the TV, but that's just lazy. Examples: here and here.
3. Have an original idea no-one else would bother to do
One video this week epitomises this - a girl who's taken a photo of her face once a day for THREE years, and then strung them all together into a video-montage. With music. It's actually quite spooky when you watch it, the music's a bit "serial killer". The advantage to this strategy is that if anyone wants to copy you, it'll take three years before they get their version up on YouTube.
4. Fight strangers in the street
Works best of all if you're homeless, for reasons that sociologists will be puzzling over for centuries to come. No-holds-barred fighting competitions are hugely popular on YouTube, so if you don't mind a few cuts and bruises (or shattered femurs, wrenched-off ears...), it could be the way to go. One street fighter, Kimbo Slice, has actually turned his vids into a lucrative merchandising business. Examples: here and here.
5. Get your camphone out at gigs
Seeing a good band? Don't dive into the moshpit or crowd surf from the upper balcony to the stage. Instead, stand at the back ABSOLUTELY still and record a song or two using your cameraphone. It doesn't sound much fun, but plenty of people are doing it, then sticking the results on YouTube the next day. Particularly popular when a band is playing new tunes, or haven't played live for a while. Record labels don't like it, but YouTubers most emphatically do. Examples: here and here.
6. Be bloody good at videogames
Games never did live up to their billing as the next big spectator sport, despite a slew of mooted TV shows which'd let you watch Unreal Tournament geeks going about their shooty business. Funny, that. But on YouTube, amazing (or amazingly silly) gaming feats will gain you plenty of attention, especially when they involve making Halo characters dance about to a song about cats. Obviously. Examples: here and here.
7. Corrupt innocent childrens' characters
An old favourite here, harking back to making your Sooty and Sweep puppets hurl four-letter abuse at your He-Men when you were younger. C'mon, surely that wasn't just me? Oh. Anyway, spoofs and parodies of popular kids TV shows are ever popular on YouTube, whether it's Pokemon miming to Since You've Been Gone (neat cross-pollination with category 1 there). Examples: here and here.
8. Drink. Lots.
Fratboy antics rack up views like no one's business, dude. So grab yourself a bottle of cheap beer/spirits/cleaning fluid, set your webcam going, and prepare for fame. If you can manage to be sick at the end of it, so much the better. So there's people downing pints, bottles and yards of ale, and in one memorable case, a chap playing the Jeremy Kyle Show drinking game with snakebite'n'black, and the guy learning to speak French while chugging white wine. Now that's stupid brave. Examples: here and here.
9. Rip obscure Japanese cartoons off the telly
Maybe it's because this stuff is hard to get on DVD over here, but YouTube is packed with episode-length cartoons called stuff like Great Teacher, Ayashi no Ceres and Ouran High School Host Club (I don't think that's as seedy as it sounds. At least, I hope it's not). If you've got a supply of this stuff and know your way around DVD-ripping software, you'll never be short of a few thousand viewers.
10. Make high-quality one-minute vids reviewing hot gadgets of the day
Oh, come on. You didn't think we were going to get through this post without a big fat plug for the video reviews on our sister TechReviews blog, did you? We've got no shame. ®