There is a whole lot of internet out there that you'll never get the chance to see. Of course there's the deep web, dark web, deep dark web, and a host of other unsearchable depths that I barely understand, but there's also millions of pages that you could encounter in a Google or YouTube search, but never will.
If this bothers you like it bothers me, then it's time to take a deep dive with YouHole.tv--- a "deep web YouTube aggregator" created by developers Alec Arme and Toby Alden.
The site, at its most basic level, is a player for YouTube videos with fewer than 500 views. "I'd had the idea floating around in the back of my mind for a while," Toby Alden wrotevia email. "I'd discovered a few years back that you'd find some really weird stuff on YouTube if you sorted your search results by date uploaded, so once I got into web development it made sense to try and automate that process."
But YouHole is more than a random video aggregator. When designing the site, Alec and Toby realized that they had to fight against YouTube's basic mechanics, which try to feed you a stream of high view-count, high traffic videos in order to maximize ad revenue. They created their own set of algorithms to combat this: by generating random (often nonsensical) search terms, removing videos with high view counts, and filtering out a large amount of robot-generated spam, they were able to carve out a slice of the internet that few of us would encounter otherwise.
"We deliberately left the boring stuff in," Toby said. "One of the core ideas behind YouHole was the belief that curated content ---i.e., the front page of YouTube ---is usually pretty insipid."
Nevertheless, boring content is boring content, and YouHole wouldn't have worked if it weren't for Alec and Toby's bold design choices.
"The UI [user interface] is designed to be as minimalist as possible," Alec told me. "When faced with a video you have two choices:keep watching, or click to skip it and move on. Because the user doesn't know the name of the video, how long it is, or if anything interesting is actually going to happen, they're forced to make an agonizing choice."
It's a striking ---even unnerving ---experience for someone accustomed to the social media circus. Every time I came across an amazing video, I felt myself reaching for the "SHARE" button, but there isn't one to be found.
"Our goal was to create an experience that encourages actual human communication," Alec explained. "If you see something interesting on YouHole, you have to have a real conversation about it ---how it made you feel, and what made the experience special. I can't count the number of times I've been sent a genuinely funny or interesting video and replied with nothing but a 'thumbs up,' if at all."
"I'm really into the idea of digital ephemerality," Toby added. "I think one of the problems with a lot of websites these days is they're trying to sell you on the idea that this stuff will be around forever (which isn't true). But I also think that if you know you can go back and look at something later, it devalues your experience with it."
YouHole.tv is an intimate, ephemeral, and kind of freaky experience that you need to try for yourself.
If you don't believe me, here are GIFs of just a few wonderful things I encountered in a 10 minute session (my apologies to digital ephemerality).
Sandwich-hand Obama, just hanging out.
Average Lumineers cover, above average beer staffs.
The saga of "Sarah Cat."
A highly disciplined children's choir.
A cat prison break.
Find something amazing on YouHole? Tell us about it in the comments.
Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.