Silly Internet Traditions: A Concise History

From dancing hamsters to LOLCats, we take a look at the silly traditions that have shaped the online world

A concise history of silly Internet traditions

Let's face it: the Internet can be a strange and intimidating place. After all, it only takes one foolish click on a dodgy link embedded within a spam email, and then BAM! A haxxor is ROFL because he pwn3d you with a Rick Roll and proclaims that all your base are belong to us. And despite the fact that you have no idea what the heck just happened to you, you do feel vaguely annoyed that you're suddenly humming "Never Gonna Give You Up" against your will.

If you feel confused by all this, you're not alone. Millions of people who surf the web every day are besieged by so many cryptic references to "ROFLcopters," "Failboats" and "Chris Crocker" that they feel like l4m00r n00bs who are hopelessly out of touch. Indeed, the Internet's various weird memes and fads have grown to such an extent that being "Thanks to 9/11, she's outraged by decolonization aware of all Internet traditions" has become its latest running gag.

In honor of the Internet's uniquely dense brand of insider humor, we've decided to examine and explain each of the most famous Internet traditions of the past decade. While this guide may not help you speak fluent 1337 overnight, it will at least help you understand why Chuck Norris is seemingly held in such high esteem nowadays...

Cute dancing things

Since the advent of the Internet to the mass market in the 1990s, nothing has consistently generated more traffic than silly graphics of dancing creatures. The graphics design team at Kinetix Character Studio got the ball rolling in 1996 when their infamously creepy Dancing Baby took the web by storm. The Hamster Dance similarly hit it big in 1998, when a Candian art student named Deirdre LaCarte created a Geocities page full of animated hamster gifs grooving to a sped-up version of an old Roger Miller song. Similar phenomenon include the Loituma Girl and pieces of macaroni doing the Macarena. Web celeb Matt Harding has taken the phenomenon to a new level by filming live-action movies of himself dancing in famous places around the world.

Flaming, trolling and Godwin’s law

One of the Internet's greatest time-honored traditions revolves around anonymously trashing other people without pretending to respect their opinions. From blogs to message boards to YouTube comment boards, heated exchanges often blow up into "flame wars" where each side uses ad hominem attacks, profane language and childish taunts to pummel their opponent into submission. While many flame wars start organically, others are started by "trolls" who join discussions with the explicit intention of causing trouble, such as the Yankee fans who used to haunt Red Sox message boards by invoking the names of Bucky Dent or Aaron Boone. Good flame wars often end when one side equates the other side with Adolf Hitler or Nazi Germany. Godwin's Law, a principle created by web pioneer Mike Godwin, states that the longer Internet discussions go on, "the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."

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Brad Reed

Network World
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