Andy Warhol would have loved Zero Views, an addictively brilliant new app for iOS that feels like a found-art exhibition on your phone. Built by 26-year-old Daniel Storm, Zero Views scours YouTube for video clips with — you guessed it — zero views, and serves them up in all of their fascinating randomness.
What is she doing? Why is she here? Too late, it's on to the next video. Kids competing in a serious pingpong tournament in Portugal— of course!
Reached by phone from his home in Lake Worth, Florida, creator Daniel Storm explains the origins of the app. Back in May, he was tipped off to a website called Petit Tube featured on the popular YouTube channel Vsauce. Petit Tube also randomly surfaces YouTube videos with no views, but the functionality is clunky, and it's plagued with tons of boring ads for cars and real estate.
A similar website called Underviewed grabs videos with low view counts that the site's algorithms predict may be on the cusp of going viral.
But Storm knew he make do something better.
Storm is entirely self-taught. A full-time bartender, he tinkers away on iOS apps in his off hours. He learned most of what he knows hanging out on Web forums and watching YouTube videos. To make Zero Views, he had to dive into the YouTube API for the first time, buy his own Web server and hack away at the code line by line. The whole thing took him two weeks from start to finish.
So where do these videos come from, exactly, and why do they have absolutely no views? Part of it can be blamed on file names, Storm says. Most of the videos scooped up by Zero Views are tagged with generic file names like “MVI 4370” or “IMG 5624,” which makes them all but impossible for YouTube's search algorithms to categorize and surface.
If the dregs of YouTube can be seen as reflective of our collective interests and obsessions, then humans are really into their children's sports school concerts, off-road vehicles attempting to drive through snow/mud/water, small children doing funny/boring things, and of course, cats.
Could the next viral hit be buried in the unwatched corners of YouTube?
“Maybe,” Storm says. “Sometimes going viral is less about the content, and more about the exposure.”
Asked about the “found art” feel of the Zero Views experience, Storm is flattered.
“I have a taste for contemporary art, but it wasn't my initial thought when I developed the app,” says Storm. “But that someone out there would think of it as art is pretty cool.”
Download the free Zero Views app for your iPhone or iPad from the App Store. And don't worry, even if the app goes viral, there's little chance of running out of zero-view clips on YouTube. Storm's server is packed with more than 600,000, and he downloads fresh batches every day.