Susan Boyle is racking up close to 100 million views on Youtube with versions of her singing performance on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. It isn’t a true example of an internet meme because it was propelled by broadcast TV but it shares many of the characteristics.
Youtube has played a key role in spread of great number of memes. The ‘Rickrolling’ phenomenon is ‘the’ classic example. Rick Astley was a UK popstar who had number one hits on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1980s (full disclosure…and showing off; I had the pleasure working with Rick Astley in a PR capacity at the start of his singing career). His still catchy hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” went to number one throughout Europe and in Australia in 1987 and hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States on March 12, 1988.
Rickrolling was a prank which originated on the image board site 4chan in which a link to somewhere (such as a specific picture or news item) would instead lead to a video of Rick performing ‘Never Gonna Give You Up”. The first instance of a Rickroll claimed to be a link to the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV but instead it took you to Rick. The prank quickly spread across the web. Because most of the links were to Youtube they quickly became aware of the phenomenon and on April 1st 2008 as an April Fool joke the web site Rickrolled everybody who clicked on one of their front page featured videos. There are several Rickroll links on Youtube which have had a combined total of hits of over thirty million.