The history of the viral video is a long and interesting one. Viral videos are clips that become quickly and extremely popular after being uploaded and shared via internet sites or email. Most people associate them with humor, although the videos can also be serious or educational in nature. The clips have been around basically since the beginning of the internet and can be made by either amateurs or professionals.
The idea behind these clips have been present since the dawn of society. It began with the spreading of news and information from person to person and advancements in technology have allowed for the data to be shared increasingly quicker, first with the telephone and now with text messaging and internet sites.
The phenomenon behind this powerful and timeless sharing of information is studied by sociologists and psychologists. The general idea is that beliefs, patterns of behaviors, and information are essentially units of a specific culture and can reproduce themselves in the minds of their hosts. Which means that they can influence the beliefs of others thus perpetuating them.
In the early nineties, viral videos were mostly shared between people using emails. One of the first of these to gain international attention was dubbed the “dancing baby” video, as it featured a small cartoon baby dancing in place, and spent a few months being showcased in everything from television shows to commercials. Other early examples included short films about Santa Claus and humorous clips consisting of poorly translated video games.
Today, thanks to the internet, these clips are able to get passed along and enjoyed dramatically faster. The exact reason that one video becomes more popular than another isn’t fully understood but the hook used to keep an audience interested is a major factor, as is the content itself of course.
These clips have had a number of profound and relevant impacts on society as well. One of the most important ways they can contribute to modern society is through their potential impact on education. For example, teachers in Texas launched a website that was intended to share training and educational videos with other elementary school teachers. The site, which debuted in 2007, now gets millions of hits each week.
The clips have also become very popular methods for small bands and musicians to share their work. In the past, a band would have had to do this the old fashioned way, which consisted of making copies of their songs and manually sending them off to record companies and agents in hopes of garnering interest. Once signed, their label would have to tirelessly promote the band’s CDs and music videos in order for them to be seen. Now, this process is a thing of the past and musicians can gain fans simply by making and sharing their videos online. If they are lucky, a musician’s clip may even go viral and provide him with even more recognition and popularity.
The items have had an increasingly persuasive effect in the political world as well. In 2008, a number of the presidential debates were broadcasted and uploaded exclusively to a popular video sharing site.