YouTube has exploded since it first launched in 2005, becoming the de-facto launchpad for the next generation of celebrities.
We did the math and found YouTube's 20 biggest independent stars based on how many subscribers each has. We only focused on independent YouTube stars, disregarding YouTube channels like mainstream music artists' VEVO accounts.
While some of the names may be obvious to YouTube aficionados (big comedy stars like Jenna Marbles and Ray William Johnson come to mind), there were just as many relative unknowns, who are building absolutely huge fan bases around niche formats like video game commentating and unwrapping toys.
There's no doubt that among teens and tweens, these are the new celebrities.
1.9 billion total views
10.5 million total subscribers
As a teenager, Olajide "KSI" Olatunji played EA Sports' line of FIFA video games for hours on end in his parents' home. In 2009, he began uploading footage of himself playing and commentating to YouTube, under the username KSIOlajidebt: a combination of a Halo franchise clan, his first name, and "British Telecom."
After a year, "KSI" — as he became known — garnered 7,000 subscribers. Another year later, that number tripled. His boisterous, goofy nature captured fans around the world.
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/trTBrZlOrdw
14. Porta dos Fundos
1.9 billion total views
10.5 million total subscribers
Porta dos Fundos — which translates, literally, to "back door" — may not be well-known to US audiences, but they're a famous Brazilian comedy group that got their start on YouTube. The five-piece group has made a name for itself on YouTube, and has even landed a TV series deal as well as a movie deal.
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/LLhHD6alz7E
3 billion total views
10.7 million total subscribers
Ray William Johnson is a 33-year-old YouTuber best known for his show "Equals Three," during which he provides comedic commentary for viral videos. He has long been one of the most popular YouTubers thanks to the show, which has featured huge celebrity guests like Robin Williams and Sarah Silverman. He recently stepped away from "Equals Three" to focus on new projects in TV and live shows. "Equals Three" will live on with a new host, and Johnson has also continued to post life blogs from the channel.
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/EQFCT8YaYcE
3.4 billion total views
11 million total subscribers
Samuel de Luque is a wildly popular Spanish YouTuber who has become known for his voiceovers of gameplay videos for "Minecraft," "Saint's Row," and "Battlefield."
His signature style is to create elaborate narratives and histories for the characters in his video game videos to make them "like a movie." His fanbase is primarily based in Spain and Latin America. He often collaborates with TheWillyRex and other popular Spanish-language YouTubers.
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/9ocAWu_yNb4
2.8 billion total views
11.3 million total subscribers
Adam Dahlberg is a massively popular "Minecraft" YouTuber who originally got popular as part of a "Minecraft" team called Team Crafted. As with many "Minecraft" YouTubers, Dahlberg frequently posts gameplay videos and commentary.
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/3V7wWemZ_cs
1.1 billion total views
11.5 million total subscribers
Yuya is a 22-year-old Mexican beauty vlogger. She posts makeup, hair, and other beauty tutorials, and even has a secondary channel where she talks about her day-to-day life outside of her tutorials. Many of the videos on her secondary channel star her brother Sergio. Yuya's beauty tutorial channel has brought her so much fame that she's been featured in Vogue and on Mexican television.
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/5vXSJCGL8NM
9. Epic Rap Battles (ERB)
1.9 billion total views
12.6 million total subscribers
Epic Rap Battles of History is one of the most successful YouTube series of all time. What started as a live improv skit by two friends has become an online sensation, with more than 12 million subscribers and 1.9 billion views under the Maker Studios network.
The premise is simple: founders Peter Shukoff (NicePeter) and Lloyd Ahlquist (EpicLloyd) pick two figures from history or pop culture and imagine what it would be like if they faced off in a battle in rap form. The videos are highly entertaining, with characters as varied as Darth Vader, Adolf Hitler,Abraham Lincoln, and Chuck Norris battling one another in full costume.
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/ll0v-CNCUwE
8. Fine Brothers Entertainment
3.3 billion total views
13.1 million total subscribers
Brooklyn natives Benny and Rafi Fine are two online producer/writer/directors who created the extremely successful React video series. In React's various iterations (Kids React, Teens React, Elders React, and YouTubers React), TheFineBros show viral videos to subjects and film their reactions. The duo has been sponsored by both Ford and Comedy Central. Many consider TheFineBros to be two of the first YouTube stars.
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/WgII2gDY-Rw
2.5 billion total views
13.6 million total subscribers
Ruben Doblas Gundersen, better known on YouTube as "elrubiusOMG," is a 25-year-old Spanish YouTuber. He's the most followed Spanish YouTube star. Like other popular YouTubers, elrubius is a gamer who does walkthroughs, reviews, and more, peppered with funny commentary. He published a book called Troll last year, which was a bestseller at the Madrid Book Fair.
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/EyoEWUFOWpY
2.9 billion total views
14 million total subscribers
VanossGaming is one of the fastest-growing YouTube channels around these days. While not much is known about Vanoss, he posts comedy videos that show him playing various video games. What sets his videos apart is the quality of his editing. He frequently posts montages like this one that compress his hours of gaming into one compact video of funny moments.
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/8v1TECc0HiI
2.3 billion total views
15.2 million total subscribers
Ryan Higa, who goes by the username NigaHiga, was one of the first major YouTube stars. Higa produces a variety of comedy videos, including sketches, music videos, and short commentaries on pop culture. His current videos have high production values and a professional touch, but he remains as quick, funny, and incisive as ever.
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/aB0uYgPkWrc
1.8 billion total views
15.5 million total subscribers
Jenna Marbles (real name: Mourey) has long been one of the most recognizable stars on YouTube. Though she initially started her career with BarStool Sports, Mourey quickly moved into video after posting "How To Trick People Into Thinking You're Good Looking," which quickly blew up.
She has been pegged as the model YouTube star, reportedly making as much or more than $350,000 a year off her channel, which features comedic videos about being a young Millennial woman (some examples: "Things Girls Lie About," "How To Avoid Talking To People You Don't Want To Talk To").
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/OYpwAtnywTk
4.7 billion total views
21.1 million total subscribers
Smosh is a comedy duo consisting of YouTube veterans Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla. Smosh was one of the first YouTube sensations, becoming well-known for the duo's slapstick comedy videos that parody video games and pop culture. The duo has shown no signs of slowing down, opening up multiple channels and an app for their content. They now have more than half a dozen YouTube channels producing content, all with significant views and subscribers, including Smosh, IanH, WatchUsLiveAndStuff, ElSmosh, SmoshGames, and Anthony Padilla. They have also been in talks to begin airing their comedy content on television.
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/MS_NKaKnYn
2.1 billion total views
24 million total subscribers
German Garmendia is a Chilean YouTuber who makes comedy videos aimed at a Spanish-speaking audience. He became famous with "Las Cosas Obvias De La Vida" ("The Obvious Things of Life"). He was second only to top YouTuber PewDiePie in adding subscribers in 2013.
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/UaMBtjxvuMA
10.1 billion total views
39.3 million total subscribers
Felix Arvid Ulf Kjelberg is a foul-mouthed Swedish video game commentator who has absolutely dominated YouTube over the past year. Kjelberg's videos show him playing various video games while a box in the top corner of the screen shows his reactions to what is happening. Kjelberg has broken numerous YouTube growth records, jumping from 12 million subscribers in August 2013 to more than 20 million in January. Many attribute his success to the attention he pays to his fans. Kjelberg spends lots of time talking about his fans, answering their questions in the YouTube comments section, and forming a community of "bros."
Youtube Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/gRyPjRrjS34
[By Harrison Jacobs] [Read More] [Images from YouTube]