7 Timeless Web Memes

[qi:060] Sure there are the flashy memes tied to poorly translated video games, 80s pop singers (I warned you) and bad dancing, but there are also serious topics of conversations that pop up online over and over — and over — again. Maybe they’re not Internet memes in the Wikipedia sense, but they are cultural ideas that live and exist because of the web. Below we offer a crash course on seven of them, complete with summaries and links.

  1. Renting vs. owning digital content: The varying business models and ongoing consumer irritation over digital rights management means there’s unceasing debate over how we will one day access our music, videos and even books online. There are those in the ownership society who feel like buying content and fair use laws mean they can copy their bits and bytes onto whatever device they please. On the other side are the renters, who don’t mind a subscription model.
  2. Storing digital files for all time: Every few months someone posts a thoughtful piece in which they wonder how we’ll manage to read our digital files 100 years from now. It’s an issue of interest not only to archivists and governments, but those of us trying to back up family photos. Some say the cloud will save us, but there are issues with file formats and provider longevity to consider.
  3. Open. Open. Open! On the web everything must be open. How open? Depends on who you’re talking to. With opinions ranging from those that advocate free software to those who use openness as a public relations stunt to those that shun it entirely, the meme will likely continue as the web’s version of Objectivism vs. Socialism.
  4. Where does virtual life meet real life? The New York Times helped cement this meme with its countless columns detailing the ways in which people behave and make money in Second Life. For those less concerned about virtual adultery or murder, CNET’s Declan McCullagh has done an excellent job tracking how our real lives can intersect with our virtual ones in the courts.
  5. Information Overload: The web is a shopping mall, but it’s also a giant mob scene with countless articles, tweets, emails and blog posts clamoring for our attention. Discussion on organizing information and declaring bankruptcy dominate this meme.
  6. The Friend Debate: It began with blogs, moved on to social networks, and now Twitter, but the question of how many people one can really count as friends online continues. The web can make those circles of friends larger, but the debate stems mostly from the very personal ways in which we define friendship.
  7. LOLCats: This may be the only true Internet meme. While folks worry about the web degrading literacy, typing skills or other social graces, nothing has wrought more damage — or served as such a fun waste of time — than LOLcats. Srsly.