Stuffed Cats, Millionaires and Internet Forums

Posted on: 28th Apr 2014 by: Dokoo

With all this talk of memes on the Dokoo blog, we started wondering if there was any way to find out what the world’s first meme was - not necessarily of the computer age. Of course by meme we’re talking about something that is identifiably similar to those that fill our news feeds every day - image based. That’s when we came across this:

Yes, ironically, the first meme was indeed a cat - a dead cat...

It’s a black and white cat ‘meme’ from 1905 created by Harry Frees. Frees had been taking pictures of taxidermied animals in these poses, particularly cats, since the 1870s and they were incredibly popular! He’s widely viewed as the first creator of memes. It seems that this trend setter even predicted how important cats would be in meme-culture.

Like we’d mentioned previously in a past article, the style of digital meme that has come to be so prevalent can be traced back to that most notorious of forums, 4chan. Started by a young internet entrepreneur called Christopher Poole in October, 2003 the website came to be called the ‘ground zero of Western web culture’. Users could post anonymously, something which was initially very important for meme-evolution, given their edgy humour. With over 35,000 threads started each day the amount of content was staggering. It quickly became known, among other things, as the ‘internet’s meme factory’ - thousands of them trickling out from this one source across the web. 

No one quite seems to know what the first meme out of 4chan was, but many of the most dominant image and video based memes came from there. Though from ‘Chocolate Rain’ to ‘Rick Rolling’ no one meme has been as popular as ‘lolcats’. 

‘Lolcat’ memes are absolutely simple in nature and not all that unlike Mr Frees’ first efforts. The modern pictures of cats adorned with funny text usually contain the deliberate spelling and grammar errors. Yes, it seems cats retain their funny very well indeed, over a century on. A blog owned by Eric Nakagawa, amongst the first to feature ‘lolcats’, is now worth a staggering $2 million. In 2007 the page received over half a billion hits, that’s more than the New York Times did. So, it appears these cats are no laughing matter. What does remain, is that this is a strange obsessive phenomena that began almost 140 years ago with some dead cats wearing tiny clothes. Humanity is weird.


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Tags: social media in northern ireland, lolcats, internet memes, marketing belfast, digtal marketing northern ireland, social media marketing agency, digital strategy, social media advertising,