What is a YouTuber?

While reading a YouTube comment section recently, I happened upon a rather humorous comment claiming that “This is why Viners only act for six seconds,” referring to a prominent Vine user featured in the YouTube video. Though the comment was likely meant as a joke, a series of replies squabbled over the line between “Viners” and “YouTubers”. Some argued that since those in question started making videos on YouTube, they were obviously “YouTubers”. Others proposed that since those in question were better known for their videos on Vine, they must actually be “Viners”. The line between creators on these two website, it would appear, has become increasingly blurred.

But does such a line actually exist? Is there any noticeable or notable difference between users on one online video sharing service and other?

To answer these questions, it is important to consider what a “YouTuber” is in the first place. The term “YouTuber” is often used to label YouTube users. Sometimes the term’s use concerns any user of YouTube, including commenters. Others use the term when discussing YouTube’s regular video creators. For the purpose of clarity, I will be using the term henceforth under the latter use.

My main issue with using the term “YouTuber” is that it is often an exclusionary term. The vast majority of active YouTube users have an online presence beyond the video-based website. Most YouTube users, for example, are active on social media websites such as Twitter. For many of these users, their content on YouTube makes up a larger brand that is visible in multiple locations. The product in question (videos with ad-based revenue) are often hosted on and distributed through YouTube, but YouTube is not their exclusive point of interaction.

YouTube is only one outlet in the larger world of online video. This world has existed long before YouTube and will likely exist long after YouTube. With this in mind, calling some a “YouTuber” is a bit like calling a musician from the 1980’s a “cassetter” or an author of the 16th Century a “printing presser”. The term simply does not fit.