One of the most unusual YouTube channels of the year came into existence with an expiration date. Unus Annus, the brainchild of gaming YouTubers Mark “Markiplier” Fischbach (27.5 million subscribers) and Ethan “Crankgameplays” Nestor (1.8 million subscribers), would upload a video every single day for a year. And then, at the end of said year, the YouTubers were going to delete the channel from existence.
Don’t bother looking it up. It’s already gone. Fischbach and Nestor are both reportedly also doing what they can to keep re-uploads of Unus Annus videos off the internet, to preserve the sanctity of the collaboration.
“We’re not joking around when it comes to that sort of thing,” Fischbach said in a livestream where he warns viewers not to host their own videos, lest they risk getting a takedown notice and, potentially, the deletion of their own channel.
The Unus Annus channel held a variety of different schemes and hijinks, from cooking with sex toys to building an escape room. While some of the videos were typical YouTube fare — there was an instance where the two YouTubers drank each other’s pee after filtering it — the fact it was temporary granted the channel a different vibe than what you typically see on the social media platform. Notoriously, many YouTubers find that it’s easy to get obsessed over numbers and continually growing fanbases. If someone quits, they tend to leave their channel active for others to enjoy. Some even end up coming back after quitting. Others still make a big to-do about deleting their channels, only to pull a fast one on viewers.
By setting a hard limit to uploads and content viewing, Unus Annus doesn’t operate in the same playing field at all. This might explain why, in mid-November, over 1.5 million people came together to watch Fischbach and Nestor delete the channel live. It was such an event that some people set alarms to view the ending, or spent the last couple of weeks trying to watch as much as possible before it went away.
“I firmly believe that the entirety of what something is cannot be truly appreciated until it ends,” Fischbach said in a post-mortem on the project.
“It was a year’s worth of work to build up to one moment,” he continued later on. “That one second, before we hit the delete button. That last second — that was everything. And now it’s over.”
Sure enough, many on social media are commiserating over what the project meant to them, and how they’re going to commemorate their love for it.
I know it has been a couple of days since unus annus has met its timely end, but I still want to give my thanks. This channel gave me great moments and memories. It taught me to accept death. I can’t explain my appreciation for the channel completely. Memento Mori. Unus Annus pic.twitter.com/omdisvRAzi
— the stranger man (@man59241268) November 16, 2020
When I turn 18, I wanna get an unus annus tattoo on my wrist. I don’t think anybody has done it yet, but here’s a pic of what I want it to look like. (Sorry for bad quality) pic.twitter.com/yiSJAZU0ao
— John TheWickable (@YourRealMomma) November 16, 2020
In the last 10 minutes before deletion, the pair got together in black and white suits while a timer played on a television in the background. Comments poured in as the two looked on a computer screen confirming that they wanted to permanently delete the channel. Here, the duo recalled their favorite moments from the whole endeavor, like drinking coffee in the desert. While Fischbach made a name for himself with exuberant gaming videos, the YouTube personality was quiet and contemplative during the livestream.
“You will have bragging rights for the rest of your life that you were here at the end,” Fischbach told viewers at the time.
“It is a little narcissistic, no one will do it like us,” Nestor said of the project during the livestream. “Nobody. We are the first to do this thing.”
I can transcribe these remarks because, despite everything, some people have re-uploaded the videos. Curiously, some of them promise to delete the re-uploads after a short period of time. While much of the fandom seems invested in preserving the intention of the project, these re-uploads seem to be going over well because, well, not everyone managed to tune in on time. A couple of the top comments on a video showcasing the final 10 minutes, for example, has viewers saying they accidentally slept through the proceedings. But, it might just be a matter of time before Fischbach and Nestor get to the remaining copycat videos.
In Nestor’s look back video on the project, the YouTuber got teary-eyed as he talked about the now-deleted channel.
“I truly think that it was something that will go down on YouTube history and something that can’t be replicated,” he said.
“It taught all of us that everything is temporary, and we have to make the most out of every single second, because we will never get a single second back,” Nestor added. “The clock, whether it’s visible or not, is always ticking. Always. You cannot change it. You can’t try and bargain for more time. You have a finite amount of time. And we gave ourselves one year. And despite what 2020 was, we rolled with it. Because you have to.”
During the reflection, Nestor admitted that on a video-to-video basis, some things that lived on the channel may not have seemed impressive on their own. But, he argued, it was more about the overarching concept of making the most of what you have, and knowing when to let go. The fans, in turn, speak of the project in almost philosophical terms, or use it as a springboard to talk about difficult topics like death.
Megan Leigh, a commenter on Nestor’s video, says that the project helped her navigate the recent death of her father, who died shortly after the project shuttered.
“I listened to Mark and Ethan talk about conquering the fear of death, and I listened and let it drill into my brain, and [I’m] glad I did,” she wrote. “You ended Unus Annus the day before I lost my Dad. You gave me advice I never knew I would need so soon. Thank you.”
Perhaps this is why both Fischbach and Nestor can look at the deleted channel with a sense of both melancholy and satisfaction.
“I feel better than I ever have in a long time of making stuff on YouTube,” Fischbach said in his post-mortem. “I know that a lot of people are grieving … grieving was the point, the loss was the point.”