Online video-sharing pioneer YouTube has been named Time magazine's "Invention of the Year" for 2006.

The free website allows users to upload, view and share video clips, whichrange from online confessionals and popular comedy skits to violent clips ofbackyard wrestling andattacks on U.S. soldiers and insurgentsin Iraq.

YouTubebeat out such achievements as a vaccine that prevents a cancer-causing sexually transmitted disease and a shirt that simulates a hug.

Time said YouTube's scale and sudden popularity have changed the rules about how information — along with fame and embarrassment — gets distributed over the internet.

It said the video-sharingwebsitecame along at just the right time, just as social-networking websitesbecame hot, camcordersgot cheaper and do-it-yourself mediahas expanded beyond text-based blogs.

YouTube inherits the award from last year's winner Snuppy, a cloned puppy.

Site spawned celebrities, copyright firestorms

The website has soared since it was launched in February 2005, now showing more than 100 million video clips per day.

With its rapid ascent into everyday culture, YouTube also spawned a new class of online celebrities.Such unlikely starsinclude a 79-year-old pensioner from England and a female video diarist known as lonelygirl15, who later was revealed —much to theconsternation of the website's faithful — as the fictional work a New Zealand actress and producers developing a film project.

The site has alsofeatured prominentlyin the online political fray in the buildup to the U.S. midterm electionsby showing various attack ads ofboth parties and pundits'videoblogs, which have garnered a massive viewership.

YouTubehas also been at the centre offirestorms over content ownership and recently deleted nearly 30,000 files after a Japanese entertainment group complained of copyright infringement.

The website reached an agreement inOctoberwith CBS Corp. and three major recording companies — Warner Music Group Corp., Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment— to allow the website to post copyrighted music videos and other content in exchange for sharing ad revenue.

Internet search leader Google recently acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion US.

With files from the Associated Press