YouTube has produced its share of celebrities: Lonelygirl15, the lip-syncing Chinese teenagers known as the Back Dormitory Boys, and Tyson, the skateboarding bulldog, to name a few.
But no single video by any of these user-generated superstars has ever attracted as many viewings as a clip of a little girl wearing a "Princess" T-shirt, reciting the Bible's Psalm 23. That video has been viewed more than 3.7 million times — not on Google's YouTube but on Godtube.com, the site's upstart competitor.
Godtube, a user-generated content site that focuses on Christian-friendly videos and filters out profane or sexual references, became the single fastest-growing site on the Web just after launching in August, according to comScore Media Metrix. Chris Wyatt, the company's founder and chief executive, says the site attracts over 3 million unique visitors a month.
The idea for Godtube was sparked two years ago, when Wyatt read a Pew Internet survey saying that only 35% of Christians would regularly attend church in 2025, compared with 70% today. Wyatt, a former television producer who had only recently begun to practice Christianity seriously, spotted an opportunity.
"If that kind of statistic had come up in any commercial industry, it would have set off bells and whistles and fireworks," he said. "A young generation of Christians is adopting technology quickly, and they want streaming video."
Today, popular videos on Godtube include Christian parodies of Apple's "Mac vs. PC" commercials and "Baby Got Book," a Bible-focused remix of "Baby Got Back," Sir Mix-a-Lot's 1992 ode to oversized derrières. Another popular video depicts a Web user destroying his computer after he accidentally views pornographic sites.
"We apply Web technology to the gospel in a way that appeals to young people," Wyatt says. "We call it Jesus 2.0."
Other sites have also spotted the surging potential for attracting traffic from churchgoers. Mypraize.com bills itself as a Christian-focused social network. MyChurch.org mimics Facebook's model of school-based groups, but instead clusters users around the 10,000 churches that have already registered on the site. Conservapedia.com offers right-wing Christians an alternative to Wikipedia, which it sees as overly liberal and secular. And Jesus isn't the only deity going online; Muxlim.com is trying to tap into a parallel market with a site that offers file-sharing, streaming video, search and social networking, all for a Muslim audience.
Muxlim's founder, Mohamed El-Fatatry is the Muslim equivalent of Mark Zuckerberg, a fast-talking 22-year-old based in Finland with visions of tapping a largely untouched Muslim user base around the world. "If I wasn't a Mohamed, I would still want to target this market," he says. "There are 150 million Web-using Muslims that have yet to be unpacked. And the fact that I am a Muslim means I know what they need, that I have an edge."