The history Of (Internet) Memes (and more useless knowledge)

Oh memes. How dull would the internet be without you? You came into our lives like a wrecking ball, taking away our hula hoops and MTV, and leaving a trail of dancing babies and 7 second videos. But we don’t mind. We love you! But how can you truly love something until you understand it? Here is our guide to memes, their history, and concept.

What Is A Meme?

The term meme originated from the famous author and scientist Richard Dawkins in 1976. Memes was used as a term for media or information that changes, or evolves, through popular culture. While internet memes are only a part of this idea, memes has come to basically mean popular things on the internet. Any popular web idea or media can be a meme. However, seem the definition of a meme is a meme itself, changing its own meaning through time and perspective. Now when people say “meme” they usually are talking about a video or image usually displaying humor that is going viral through social media. Sometimes current online fads are considered memes, such as the ice bucket challenge or rainbow profile pictures.

Okay So When Did Memes Start?

Before social media, there was only human contact through actual voice phone calls and in person conversation. In these dark days, we luckily still had the internet. I believe I am one of the few people alive today who still remember the dark ages of life before internet, so allow me to school you on such events. Since we could not “share” or “like” media on the interwebs unless we showed someone in real life, internet fads (later to be called memes) were only calculated in popularity by what us old school designers called “hits”. the actual websites themselves would hold data of how many views their internet media had received. This ancient technology allowed us to tell what were some popular memes in early history to this day! Many lol’ed while others rolled their eyes to this silly online characters. Remember that singing rat bug thing? God I hated that thing. Until the more standard memes of today with that “IMPACT” font and same boring pictures/concepts over and over again, memes were random ass media. Examples of this are videos, websites, and even ringtones.

Anyways those dark ages were called the 90’s and here are some memes from then. oh yea, need new headline first…

First Memes Of The Internet

Memes Of The 90’s

The nineties gave us the beginning of pop culture online. The internet was growing, and emails were circulating. Although memes wouldn’t be established for years later, the 90’s gave us out first glimpse of what was to come.

dancing baby meme – 1995/1996
One of the first internet memes, or viral internet sensation in history, the dancing baby was a show of digital effects and the low res video possibilities of gifs. Dancing Baby GIF is truly groundbreaking, truly historical, and truly creepy in the world of memes.

The Hampster Song – 1998/1999
Not the most annoying, but definitely up there, is the hampster song video. Like I said, dark ages. It did not take much to entertain us back then.

All Your Base – 1998
All Your Base meme was the first of its kind. Like many internet memes today, it was spread as a mistake, or blooper, and made fun of. It trended in different forms, evolving, changing, like many memes do currently.

Memes Of The 2000’s

By the mid 2000’s memes started finding their format and style as more people started sharing memes. Before memes were mostly shared by email or found on websites. But thanks to the technology of social media and smart phones, memes were being shared more and seen on a grand scale. Websites even started focusing more on just being meme sites (like us). Real popular memes started in this era, such as…

4Chan – 2003
The release of the imageboard website 4Chan forever changed memes, web culture, and internet fads. Many original viral memes would come from 4Chan for many years to come after its release.

RickRoll/RickRolling – 2006/2007
Originating in 2006, by 2008 RickRolling was a popular fad where people tricked others into viewing the 1987 music video “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astly. It’s believed the reason this particular video was used is because when the original song was released on the radio in the 1980’s many were surprised to see such a deep voice love song coming from a scrawny white boy when the music video was released.

I Can Has Cheezburger -2007
Probably one of the first well known memes to be known as an actual meme. This meme was also near the beginning stages of many meme sites. It could be credited with starting the popular mainstream meme format we still use today, an image with usual an impact font, and also lolspeak.

AutoTune Remixes – Around 2008/2009
I huge viral internet fad was using autotune to remix or redo memes, news, ando ther popular memes and media. This fad started around 2008 and ruled the internet for a few years.

Rage Comics – 2009
Rage comics along with troll face started showing crude drawing done simply which showed strange characters, and became a new viral fad on Reddit, 4chan, and also is now still on memebase.

The Big Boom of Memes

By 2012 memes as we know them really started to explode in viralness and popularity. Reaching new heights, many of the most classic and memorable memes such as success baby, grumpy cat, scumbag steve, and many soon standard knowledge memes are born in the 2010s.

Grumpy Cat – 2012
Grumpy Cat was such a popular meme that it became a household name. Grumpy Cat even has books, and merchandise that can be found online. There has even been rumors of a Grumpy Cat movie.

More Meme Stuff:

Popular Memes By Year – 1995 to current
For even more about the historry of memes see our list of popular memes in order by year.

Classic Memes (an collection)
A collection of some of the most popular memes with images, gifs, and video.