Impact: Fourteen months after it was acquired by Google, the seminal video sharing website Chen and Hurley started in February 2005 is more relevant than ever, its unique users and page views spiking 83% and 200% respectively from September 2006 to September 2007.

Buoyed by its new parent’s resources — which allow its videos to be posted high within Google search results, for example — YouTube remains far and away the most vital brand in an ever-more competitive online video programming business that it itself created.

The heated election season should provide further opportunities for growth and media legitimacy, with the YouTube-CNN presidential debates promising to open up entirely new audience demos for the site.

POV: “Google didn’t acquire YouTube just to stuff the brand — the brand was a lot of what they bought,” says Josh Bernoff, VP and principal analyst for Forrester Research. “The fundamental features of YouTube that made it popular are still there: extreme ease of use, social networking features like commenting and channels, and to the extent they can get away with it, a laissez-faire attitude toward copyright.”