The YouTube Awards are awards given out as formalized recognition of the best YouTube videos of the preceding year, such as favorite music or comedy genres, as voted by the YouTube community. The awards were organized in 2007 to "call out some of the most popular videos and let the users choose which ones deserve some additional recognition". The awards are the first time that videos would receive any formal recognition; previously, high-ranking videos were only recognized by dynamic lists of most-viewed videos. The winners received a trophy, which was a stand with a large glass "play" button. In addition, they received an invitation to an event to occur "later this year".
The videos to vote upon are chosen by YouTube staff, while the winners are selected by YouTubers. The Awards were first given in 2007—called the 2006 Awards—for the best videos of 2006. The awards were in seven categories: Adorable, Comedy, Commentary, Creative, Inspirational, Musician of the Year and Series. Each category then comprised 10 videos which YouTubers ranked in order of preference. For the 2007 Awards, five new categories were added: Eyewitness, Instructional, Short Film, Sports and Political; a general "Music" category replaced the "Musician of the Year" category of the previous year. In addition, each category held only six videos for which YouTubers could vote.
Voting for the 2006 Awards took place from March 18, 2007 to March 23, 2007. The 2006 YouTube Awards came just a week after Viacom sued YouTube's parent company, Google, for more than $1 billion for copyright infringement of television shows owned by Viacom.
The Awards received criticism from New York Times writer Virginia Heffernan when first organized. She suggested that the Awards created too much of a formalized process on YouTube. YouTube, she argued, should not be about awards and individual recognition of merit. Rather, it should be a free place where one can post videos and express oneself free of judgment on quality. Caroline McCarthy of CNET News commented on the 2007 awards in agreement with Heffernan: she argued that YouTube "is a cultural hub rather than strictly a creative outpost." She also commented many of the most popular videos are not high quality, or original content.