Everything You Need to Know About the Rickroll – The Internet's Favourite Prank

By Spencer Hart on at

Rick Astley was a singer, sure, but most importantly he was inadvertently responsible for one of the biggest internet crazes of the last decade, a phenomenon known as Rickrolling.

Today, the great man turns 49, so as a celebration to almost half a century of musical genius (he was probably a child prodigy), here's everything you need to know about the internet's favourite prank.

The Song's History

Never Gonna Give You Up was released in 1987 as the first single from Rick Astley's much misunderstood debut masterpiece, Whenever You Need Somebody. The song was written and produced by the hit-making-machines Stock, Aitken and Waterman and became a number one single in 25 countries.

Over here in Blighty, Astley's homeland (Lancashire lad), the song was number one for five weeks, and was crowned the best-selling single of the year. The catchy track also won a Brit Award for Best British Single in 1988.

After the song's initial success the buzz surrounding it died down, and the airwaves moved on...

How did the Rickroll begin?

May 2007 brought the first known instance of 'Rickrolling'. In 4chan's video game forum, /v/, a user posted a mirror-link to the first Grand Theft Auto IV trailer (which was unavailable due to heavy traffic).

Old-school YouTube, I quickly forgot the site ever looked like this. [Image Credit: ModMyi]

Of course, the link didn't take eager video game fans to the Grand Theft Auto trailer, but instead directed them a YouTube video of Astley's beloved song.

This prank is thought to have been a variation of 'Duckrolling'. A craze in which users were directed to a photoshopped image of a duck on wheels. If someone followed the link they were said to have been 'Duckrolled'.

Has anyone actually been duckrolled? No, me neither. [Image Credit: NeoGaf]

For a while this prank was confined to 4chan, but it soon spread onto the rest of the internet. By May 2008, Rickrolling gained coverage on mainstream media, cementing its position in popular culture.

In April 2008, a poll carried out by SurveyUSA estimated that 18 million Americans have suffered a Rickroll.

Notable Rolls

One of the largest cases of Rickrolling was on April Fools Day, 2008, when every single hyperlink on YouTube redirected users to Never Gonna Give You Up.

Astley participated in a live Rickroll during the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. While the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends characters were singing Best Friend Astley emerged from the float and began lip-syncing his infamous song (with a soulless look in his eyes).

Astley did not look happy on Thanksgiving, 2008. [Image Credit: YouTube]

As promotion for the game Dante's Inferno, wooden boxes were sent to gaming websites that played the song on a continuous loop. These boxes contained a hammer and pair of goggles – the only way to stop the song was to destroy the box.

Microsoft had a novel way of dealing with torrenters using their free Wi-Fi at its 2009 TechEd conference in Brisbane. The company redirected BitTorrent trackers to a local web server containing a Rickroll.

There was also the story of a sixteen-year-old who managed to bypass Vine's six-second rule and upload the full-length music video to the social media service.

Consequences

One of the factors behind the success of Rickrolling is that there are very few consequences (apart from minor annoyance).

Rick Astley isn't bitter about the fad either, in fact, he's gone on record as saying he thinks it's "brilliant". Although he would say that, seeing as the prank is responsible for reviving his career.

"Just stare lovingly at this burger while I take your picture for the album cover." [Image Credit: Wikipedia]

According the The Register, Astley only received $12 (£7.80) from YouTube, despite the song being played over 100 millions times. This is because he only receives performer royalties.

Further Reading

Harvard Medical School published a scientific study that links Rickrolling with post traumatic stress in over-95s, the full document can be read on their website.

[Featured Image Credit: BBC]