YouTube in 2006 was a radically different place than the site we know today, which aggressively serves up videos based on a recommendation algorithm that knows every inch of our viewing habits. Default Filename TV, created by artist Everest Pipkin, aims to get us closer to the early days of YouTube by “serving up videos that have been uploaded from the camera without edits to the filename.”
With titles like “DSC 1197” and “IMG 3356,” the videos are pure, authentic glimpses of life beyond our own bubbles and even our own continents. Most of the videos I watched were filled with voices speaking foreign languages, in places I couldn’t remotely begin to pinpoint. They’re videos people have uploaded to YouTube likely for their own purposes, not explicitly shared with an audience in mind.
“I started building this search functionality as a tool for myself — to find the kind of videos I like — because it no longer happens in the browser,” Pipkin says. “I found myself pretty regularly delighted by the videos it served and thought I should simply tidy it up and let others use it in the same way.“ They launched the site yesterday.
(this project's second purpose is to absolutely wreck youtube's impression of your viewing habits, go wild and be free)— everest (@everestpipkin) March 27, 2019
An alternate purpose of the project is to completely destroy YouTube’s idea of what you, the viewer, are interested in. “I was also hoping that by letting this run while logged in, and radically skewing my view history into noise, that I might be able to change the type of videos that reach my recommendations while ambiently browsing,” Pipkin says. If you actually enjoy the videos YouTube recommends, though, you might want to watch Default Filename while logged out or in an incognito browser, just in case.
Default Filename TV “has a very unique and somewhat threatening, but also calming, energy,” one viewer wrote on Twitter, which nails my experience on the site. Most of the videos have been perfectly pleasant (waves crashing on a shore for five seconds) and pleasingly perplexing (a woman being pulled on a carriage by five dogs, below), but a couple of viewers have reported running into softcore foot fetish videos. Pipkin says Strict SafeSearch is turned on, but some videos can still slip through, as they tend to do on YouTube.
The videos aren’t limited by length, but most of the clips I’ve seen have been under one minute, and the longest one I’ve been served has been five minutes. So far, I haven’t run into a single ad, most likely because the video uploaders haven’t turned on monetization. After all, if the uploaders hadn’t bothered to change the filename, they’ve most likely uploaded a video just for themselves, ad revenue be damned.
Similar projects like youhole.tv (which has no safety filter and can potentially serve up NSFW videos) and Randomly Inspired (which serves up videos with zero views) exist, but each aggregator has its own vibe, and it never hurts to have more avenues to appreciate these quieter corners of the internet. Before clickbait thumbnails and the concept of vloggers, YouTube was little more than a website to watch videos uploaded from a point-and-shoot camera. Default Filename brings us back there.