The History of Rickrolling


via Variety

Rick Astley in the music video for hit song ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’

Rick Astley’s 21st-century revival of the forgotten 80s hit, “Never Gonna Give You Up,” manifested itself into one of the most popular internet memes. The infamous beginning drum beats and 80s synths are enough to terrorize any digital citizen. 

Rickrolling is a meme that has grown into a universal internet phenomenon, which entails pranking someone with the music video of Rick Astley’s 1987 song “Never Gonna Give You Up”, by means of an unexpected link. A seemingly unrelated link is used for bait and switch, and the disguised hyperlink leads the victims to the music video. The meme usage has also extended to singing lyrics or reciting them in unexpected contexts. This meme’s origins are rooted in an online bulletin board called 4chan. Its predecessor, Duckrolling, paved the way for Rickrolling and other internet memes of that nature. Christopher Poole (better known as “moot”), the creator of 4chan, made it so that anytime a user-entered “egg,” it would autocorrect to “duck.” Users found it amusing that when one would type in the word “eggroll,” it would become “duckroll”, and such amusement coined the name. In May of 2007, a user in 4chan’s video game board posted a link, seemingly one for Grand Theft Auto IV trailer, but it really was a link to a freebooted upload of “Never Gonna Give You Up.” This freebooted upload was detected by Google Wayback Machine as one of the earliest uploads of music videos on Youtube and predates the official upload of the music video by two years. Rickrolling peaked on April 1st, 2008, when Youtube redirected everyone who clicked on the site to the music video. The prank swept the internet, and Rick Astley himself revisited the spotlight he had exited in his 20s after the initial release of the song. Since then, the internet meme has grown to become one of the most notorious memes ever and continues to capture victims to this day.

In 2020, Rickrolling received a resurgence of popularity, with online classrooms on Zoom and such. Students often found opportune to Rickroll classmates, friends, and teachers. In early 2021, a 4K remastering of the music video attained viral popularity. On July 1st, 2021, Nintendo and Pokemon announced the day as “Bidoof Day,” announcing something major, which would be a Rickroll using a parody of “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

Rick Astley himself has commented on the amusement of the meme. Despite its notoriety, the meme itself is beloved by the internet, a treasure the internet has sustained for over a decade. Rickrolling is a fine example of the peculiar nature and bizarre humor of internet phenomena.