The Fourth YouTuber

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Most venture capitalists will tell you that a good idea isn’t worth much – the value is in execution, which is very hard. But that doesn’t stop people from coming forward to take credit when someone hits a home run. We saw it with Google and countless others. Someone gets rich, and someone else says they stole the idea.

This time it’s YouTube. Herbert Elwood Gilliland III emails us to say that YouTube’s name and idea were his, and that he told Chad Hurley about it years ago. After a different conversation he says he had with Sergey Brin in 2007, more of his ideas appeared in YouTube:

I’m writing you because I am looking for some media outlet to cover my situation. I invented the YouTube brand and worked at a company where I was developing a similar product in 1998. I inverted several key elements of the product “Synthetic Interview” to create YouTube, and shared this idea with my friends. I also tried to create a company called YouTube several times between 1998-2004, when in November, I talked to Chad Hurley on the phone when he was still working at PayPal. I explained the idea behind YouTube, the brand name, and challenged him to start the company since he had close ties to Peter Theil, a well known billionaire venture capitalist. I asked for 1% of the proceeds of the sale of the company in exchange for this great idea. Years later, I am still trying to get Chad to recognize me with fiscal compensation and/or credit for creating the brand, basic concepts (video uploading, video commenting, agnostic video format, layout of the main video screen, awards and top listings “most watched”, star ratings, viewers, DMCA automation, video and audio fingerprinting).

After a phone call with Sergey Brin in August of 2007, several other of my ideas became a part of YouTube (thumbs-up and thumbs-down, video annotation). Since they seem to depend so much on my ideas to make their billions, why can’t then see the benefit in enabling me to start my own firm? Why do these “altruistic” billionaires not see the benefit in sharing some of their wealth?


H. E. Gilliland III

“Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.”
— Plato

I haven’t emailed YouTube founders Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim to get their side of the story, but I’m guessing they aren’t going to credit Gilliland with as much as a comment on this, let alone sending him a check.

Gilliland has says his specialties are “Security, networking, interface, process consulting, medical devices (and requirements), graphic design, advertising, web design, product development” on his LinkedIn profile. More information about him is available on his web site.

Back in 2002 he was looking for funding for a life perpetuating device“Please help me save this information by designing and marketing brain perpetuation devices for post-mordem cultivation of valuable neurologically stored information.”

What does he want exactly? $1 million dollars. To become a doctor.

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