Pewdiepie currently has 48 million subscribers, HolaSoyGerman the Spanish language comedy vlogger, is far behind with 29 million. This wasn’t always the case.
With the help of the wayback machine and vidstatsx we can see who was on top in the past and whether the gap at the top was always that wide.
The earliest I could get was February 23, 2010
The list is a blast of the internet when the 2000’s died and internet humor was young and naive with fails and high pitched randomness as opposed to the sophisticated introspective dankness we now enjoy.
Fred was the first channel to have over 1 million subscribers, but has since been surpassed by NigaHiga. Smosh in third place was also once the most subscribed, but unlike Fred they will eventually regain the position.
RayWilliamJohnson is in eighth, but he is rapidly rising.
The difference between first and second is 300 thousand and this is about 1/6 of the top channel’s total. First and Third is about 600 thousand which is about 1/3.
Something to take note is that I only see 2 music channels in the top, Universal Music Group, and the Jonas Brothers, and gaming is represented only by Machinima.
The next list comes from November 30, 2010
The annoying orange is now a thing.
In less than a year NigaHiga climbed 1 million, and RayWilliamJohnson climbed 1.5 million. Youtube as a whole is growing rapidly.
First and Second has a 600 thousand subs gap, or about 1/5, and First and Third is 800 thousand, or about 2/7.
Though music actually seems to be getting less important with universal music group actually losing 3 thousand subscribers, and Jonas Brothers falling off the top 20 entirely, though that might just be because they were just becoming less popular as there was an even better teen singer to hate brewing…
Justin Bieber’s Baby was the most viewed video on youtube from July 16, 2010 to November 24, 2012, and before that it was Bad Romance by Lady Gaga which reigned from April 14, 2010 — July 16, 2010. Before that it was Charlie Bit My Finger and Evolution of Dance.
By only looking at subscribers we are missing much of the full picture, music is very much a big deal.
June 27, 2011
This was taken when RayWilliamJohnson was in the process of overtaking nigahiga.
The difference between the top two and third place is 1.2 million which is about 1/3.
January 2, 2012
The 24-hour sub gain can be misleading if someone had released a big video recently, but Smosh is growing rapidly and will soon reclaim its throne.
July 1, 2012
The top spots are a tight race, with only 500 thousand difference between First and third, about 1/11, and 800 thousand between first and fourth, or 1/7. Fifth place is farther back with a 1.1 million, but even that is only 1/5.
Minecraft is starting to become very important to Youtube with Bluexephos, otherwise known as the Yogscast, making an appearance on the list.
January 15, 2013
Smosh regains its throne, but it won’t be for long because a new challenger appears in the form of Pewdiepie with almost 4 million subscribers in early 2013.
Something to take note of is that the gaming channels, Machinima, BlueXephos, Pewdiepie, and RoosterTooth as have over 1000 videos.
This also shows the first appearance of Spanish Channels in the form of sketch channel werevertumorro and given a bit of time HolaSoyGerman would be in the top 20.
June 3, 2013
Sometime in May 2013, Smosh crossed the 10 million subscriber mark.
Pewdiepie is closing the gap, now only about 2 million away from smosh, or about 1/5 of smosh’s total.
Youtube has started letting people subscribe to topics like movies, which makes the boards messy, so I will include more channels to come to a total of 20 real channels.
August 14, 2013
The day before PewDiePie surpassed smosh they both almost had 12 million subs and 5 channels had surpassed 10 million. A lot changed in 2 months.
What is important to note is that almost all the tops channels are gaining more than 10 thousand new subs per day. Pewdiepie’s rise coincided with a time of rapid growth for everybody.
December 2, 2013
From November to December YouTube and PewDiePie passed first place back and forth, with YouTube being first from November 2 to December 8, followed by 4 days of PewDiePie, then YouTube again from December 12–22.
After that Pewdiepie would remain uncontested for over 1000 days and counting.
February 8, 2014
… unless you count the topic channels like Music, but they don’t even have videos.
Given that people are unsubscribing from the topics en mass I think Youtube was signing people up for them automatically, and I do recall some controversy surrounding that.
Pewdiepie already had an impressive lead of about 6 million over third place smosh, which is almost 1/3, but his nearest competition was growing at a rate which was at least comparable.
This list also has the first appearance of a Portuguese channel, Porto dos Fundos a sketch channel.
June 15, 2014
PewDiePie had developed an almost 10 million subs lead on his nearest Not-Youtube competition, but what is more important to note is that across the board all the channels are gaining subscribers slower. The levels are far closer to what they are now then what they were during the high of 2013, but all the absolute numbers are far higher, so proportionally the channels are growing even slower.
This shows there is some validity to the idea that everyone’s channels are dying or at least that YouTube has gotten ‘harder’ in recent years, at least for the big players.
Pewdiepie’s growth slowed somewhat, but not as much as everyone else so this helped the gap widen as much as it did. Since the gap is so large, proportionally you would expect pewdiepie to grow faster than everyone else, which helped the gap be maintained when pewdiepie’s growth slowed even more.
RayWilliamJohnson is losing subscribers here because he stopped hosting his Equals Three series and stopped uploading to the channel. The series would later be picked up by a new host, but at that time he had told people he was stopping and someone else taking over a youtube channel was a pretty unheard of concept.
December 17, 2014
PewDiePie now has a 10 million sub gap with even YouTube spotlight, which is about 1/3 of his total.
HolaSoyGerman is closing the gap for second place. After smosh there exists a 4 million subscriber gap with some vevo channels, and if we don’t include those, the gap is 5 million. Either way this is about 1/4 of smosh’s subscribers.
The increasingly wide gaps coupled with poor growth rates overall means that even if they could exceed the top channel’s growth rates, it would take a long time to even catch up.
VanossGaming also makes an appearance. Surprisingly for how important gaming was for youtube, prior to this only 3 gaming related channels were in the top 20, Pewdiepie, Machinima, and SkyDoesMinecraft.
#21 is ElrubiusOMG the spanish gamer, and #26 is Yuya the Spanish beauty vlogger, who is even at this point the the most subscribe beauty vlogger on youtube.
June 29, 2015
Pewdiepie can be slowed, but never stopped. HolaSoyGerman gets closed to beaing Youtube at its own game. I mean are you even trying youtube?
ElrubiusOMG comes on to the board as another gaming channel, but in spanish this time.
#22 is Yuya, and #24 is Spanish Minecraft gamer VEGETTA777.
January 24, 2016
HolaSoyGerman get second place, but also becomes the first person to get 2 diamond play buttons on two different channels. His gaming channel JuegaGerman has about 11 million subs and is #29. #55 is Fernanfloo another spanish gamer.
All of the vevo channels are in a neat line, but Justin Bieber is quickly rising, faster than pewdiepie even. An old enemy seeks to reclaim his throne. Never mind that his throne was views not subscribers, the biebs demands the top.
February 2, 2016
The react world controversy proved that changing subscriber counts was easier than thought.
The React World Scandal was the single biggest drop in subscribers on an active channel. Unless you include that time pewdiepie lost 700 thousands subscribers in a day, but that was youtube’s fault… I don’t think they ever explained what happened. I think the react world scandal even helped to kickstart the drama phase youtube has been going through recently.
Before youtube channels making videos about a youtube controversy was mostly just a public good, getting people aware of it and to complain about it enough to maybe reverse it. But with the fine bros react world, the controversy storm became entertainment, there were even live streams of the sub count going down.
This may have been true before react world, but the sheer magnitude of the controversy brought these types channels into light. In the rest of 2016 a bunch of channels which can be summarised as commentating on other content rose up or at least became more popular. It was the biggest trend of the year… and none of it showed up in the top 20 list, instead there was just the silent rise of spanish speaking youtubers.
In remains to be seen if drama channels will crack into the top list for 2017, but looking at the numbers it seems unlikely.
The fine bros lost 500 thousand subscribers in a month, and they didn’t even lose a position on the chart until after they started growing again.
June 26, 2016
Justin Bieber surpasses smosh for #4 but his growth rate slows to below that of Pewdiepie.
ElrubiusOMG Rises above Katy Perry and separates her from the Bad Blood with Taylor Swift.
Fernanfloo is #24
October 21, 2016
Fernanfloo bursts on to the list, and if anyone is capable of beating pewdiepie it is him.
Currently he has the only growth rate that comes close to pewdiepie, and unlike Justin Bieber his growth does not come in spurts that coincide with album releases.
However matching Pewdiepie’s growth rate is not enough, in order to catch up one would need to exceed it for years.
However more likely is that the new spanish cohort will rise through the ranks and slowly displace the English speaking fixtures such as nigahiga and smosh.
But the long term demographic factors in Spanish speaking countries may make it possible for one of them to surpass Pewdiepie.
In the mean time here is the up and coming list, which shows who might make the top 20 soon.
Markiplier is likely to join eventually. Dude Perfect and Jacksepticeye are worth watching their sub count.
Whinerssonnunes is growing really fast and has done so for some time now. Brazil has many of the same demographic factors working for it as the rest of latin america so in the long term he likely to stay in the top.
The most likely future of the list of top youtubers is one in which there is a diverse selection of languages, which contrasts the english dominance of youtube since its inception.