Toward the end of his tenure at Equals Three, Johnson began branching out into other mediums. His first scripted web series, Riley Rewind, premiered on Facebook in 2013. He created a television concept that was purchased by FX also in 2013. He made his live-action acting debut in the indie road film Who's Driving Doug alongside former Breaking Bad star RJ Mitte. Additionally, his production company, Mom & Pop Empires, is co-producing a documentary with Supergravity Pictures about monopolies in the cable television industry.
Johnson was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He graduated from Norman North High School in 1999. From there, he went on to Columbia University where he studied history. His goal was to later earn a law degree after completing his undergraduate studies. He began posting videos on YouTube during college. These videos were standard video blogs that Johnson published on a now-deleted channel. These early videos garnered a following of around 30 people.
Johnson began posting videos to his "Ray William Johnson" channel in April 2009. The Equals Three series (=3, humorous for its resemblance to the male genitalia) featured Johnson adding commentary and jokes to viral videos. In 2011, the channel became YouTube's first to reach 5 million subscribers. The channel had also attained nearly 2 billion total views. Originally, Johnson produced videos out of his New York City apartment, but, in 2011, he signed a deal with Maker Studios to produce videos on set in Culver City, California. While at Maker Studios, Johnson produced a Spanish-language version of the series, Igual a Tres, and also produced a series of comedic animated music videos on a side channel called "Your Favorite Martian."
In October 2012, Johnson announced that he would be leaving Maker Studios, contending that they had been pressuring him to sign a new contract that limited his access to his AdSense account and would reportedly take 40% of his earnings from the series. The contract also would have required Johnson to give up 50% of his intellectual property rights to the show and his other animated web project, Your Favorite Martian. In November 2012, Johnson founded his own production studio, Equals Three Studios, and continued producing Equals Three. Your Favorite Martian series was ended that same month.
In December 2013, Johnson announced that he would be ending Equals Three in the near future to focus on other projects. His last show as host (titled "THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING") was published on March 12, 2014 and was around 14 minutes long. The channel had over 10 million subscribers and 2.6 billion total views at the time of Johnson's departure. The show returned in July 2014 with Robby Motz as host. Motz would depart in July 2015 at which point Kaja Martin, one of Johnson's frequent collaborators, took over as host, but Martin was subsequently replaced by Carlos Santos in December 2015.