This meme is an example why early detection is so incredibly important. We had many chances to stop this thing before it spread. But it seemed so benign at first.
In 1997, 17-year-old Swede Daniel Malmedahl recorded himself mimicking the sound of a two-stroke combustion engine and posted it on a website. The sound became something of a meme itself, at least in its native Sweden. A local TV producer convinced Daniel to perform his sound on national television, probably on a Swedish prime-time hit called Sounds Made By People.
In 2003, another Swede, Erik Wernquist, created an animated frog to go with the sound, and correctly christened it The Annoying Thing.
Pretty harmless, right?
By 2004, what would come to be known as "Crazy Frog" had spread all over the internet, making the rest of the world wish Sweden could just stick to making Volvos and Victoria Silvstedt.
Where it Crossed the Line:
Shortly after Wernquist combined the frog with the noise of a nearly grown man pretending to be a motorcycle, he was contacted by a German ringtone company called Jamba!, who asked to use it as a downloadable ringtone for cell phones.
The ringtone became one of the most successful ever in the United Kingdom. Jamba! quickly earned approximately £14 million from download sales and everyone who downloaded it quickly lost all their friends.
Again, it seems like some kind of intervention could have kept this thing from going any further. But the world's government turned a blind eye, and soon a dance track was recorded.
It charted in Europe and follow ups were released. By March 2008, the Crazy Frog had three complete albums, all of which serve as proof that music can be weaponized effectively.
Also released in the UK was a string of merchandise including an electronic game, key rings, backpacks, lunch boxes and air fresheners. Two computer games, each widely loathed by critics, have been released for the Playstation 2.
Worse yet, a German production company called The League of Good People have made a sad mockery of their name by entering into talks with a production company to create a Crazy Frog TV show. A film is rumored to be in the works, and is likely.
Unless, of course, it turns out that there is a just God.
One of the earliest internet phenomena, the Dancing Baby (or if you're official about your internet meme history "Baby-Cha-Cha") first appeared on the internet back in 1996-97.
The 3-D-rendered animated dancing baby comes complete with a somewhat disturbing hip thrust and mincing arm movements that suggest his parents shouldn't hold out for grandchildren. It was created as a product sample source file for release of a groundbreaking 3-D character creation program "Character Studio" which was apparently dedicated to creating the creatures that populate our nightmares.
Where it Crossed the Line:
Its most famous crossover was on the popular 1990s legal drama Ally McBeal, as a hallucination Ally experienced.
On the show, it was supposed to represent the ticking of Ally's biological clock or some shit, but to us, it just interrupted our fantasies of "accidentally" entering the firm's unisex restroom to find Calista Flockheart and Lucy Liu having a race to remove their underpants first.
The baby appeared in the music video for Blue Suede's cover of the 1969 hit Hooked On a Feeling. Then a song called "Dancing Baby (Ooga Chaka)" was released by a UK group called Trubble, who not only used an internet meme extensively in their marketing, but also felt the need to spell their name as if an infant had written it.
The Back Dorm Boys are two former Chinese college students who lip-sync most notably Backstreet Boys songs. Using a grainy webcam, they filmed themselves lip-syncing in a college dorm room whilst an uninterested third student sat in the background with his back to the camera, playing a computer game.
They completed their first video in May 2005, a synced version of "As Long As You Love Me" by the Backstreet Boys. They released it on their local college network, but their act was so compelling that it showed up on YouTube and quickly accumulated millions of views.
Where it Crossed the Line:
Before the end of the year, while still in college, the Back Dorm Boys were signed up as spokespeople for Motorola cellphones in China and became the hosts of Motorola's online lip-syncing contests.
They were also employed by Sina.com, China's biggest internet portal, presumably meaning that to millions of Chinese peasants, the internet appeared to be nothing more than a high-tech karaoke device. The Back Dorm Boys also maintain a blog, one of the most popular in China, which, in a somewhat unsurprising turn of events, was awarded the "Best Podcaster" award in 2006. The award was given by their employers at Sina.com, but still.
In February 2006, just before they left college, the Back Dorm Boys signed a five-year deal with Taihe Rye, a Chinese talent management company in Beijing, to continue making lip-syncing videos. As it stands, the Back Dorm Boys have made at least 19.
At this point the Back Dorm Boys began to infect the rest of the world, getting mentions in the US on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, South Park and in the first episode of Heroes. We can't imagine that anyone has gotten more famous on less talent. And luckily we don't have to, because our number 3 meme exists.