In an elaborate April Fool's prank, YouTube announced it was going dark for a decade, and that the site was merely an eight-year contest to find the best video.
"It's finally time to pick the winner," YouTube representatives announced in a 3:32 minute video posted on its homepage.
The message was simple: the world's most popular video-sharing website would close at the end of the day to review all the video submissions it has received over the years, and would announce the best one in 2023.
"We are so close to the end. Tonight at midnight, youtube.com will no longer be accepting entries. After eight amazing years, it is finally time to review everything that has been uploaded to our site and begin the process of selecting a winner," said Tim Liston, named as "competition director".
YouTube CEO Salar Kamangar said that "we started YouTube in 2005 as a contest with a simple goal: to find the best video in the world."
Users have uploaded more than 70 hours every minute to the site, YouTube estimated.
"I encourage everybody to watch as many videos as possible before YouTube deletes everything tonight," said Antoine Dodson, who became an internet sensation when a musical version of his 2010 TV interview about a house intrusion was posted on YouTube.
"Distinguished" film critics, YouTube celebrities and some of the site's "most prolific" commentators are on the judges' panel, according to Liston.
The Google-owned online video sharing venue said less than two weeks ago that more than a billion people now use YouTube each month, with viewing on smartphones helping drive growth.
The YouTube team noted that nearly one out of every two people on the internet visits the website, which has grown into a global hit since its launch.
Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $US1.65 billion and has yet to disclose whether the service has turned a profit.
YouTube has gradually added professional content, such as full-length television shows and movies to its vast trove of amateur video offerings in a bid to attract advertisers.