Stop Saying Viral Video

Stop Saying Viral Video

October 28, 2011 by Kevin Michael Gray

Where on earth did that name originate from?  'Viral videos' to be completely honest I've never been fond of that name… today's featured article shines some light on the origin of the name… article originally posted in late 2009 from whatconsumesme.com.  Read more below:



Alright, let’s put a nail in this zombie’s head. How a virus works: A virus is essentially a set of genetic instructions wrapped in a protein. Outside of a living cell, a virus is inert. Once attached to a host cell, a virus injects its instructions into the cell, which takes over the normal machinery of that cell for the express purpose of producing more virus particles and assembling those particles. The virus particles then reach a critical mass and break free from the host cell in order to find a new cell to commandeer. The only purpose of a virus is to produce more of itself. We began applying the viral term to digital environments with the invention of the computer virus. This made some sense. Computer viruses often primarily function to reproduce themselves; to seize the normal functions of the system and use it to infect every host file the system accesses. Add the internet, and viruses begin to commandeer email applications in order to infect more and more systems. (these days the viral term is erroneously used to describe malware, adware, and spyware, which are not created to copy themselves) Then came the marketers. When we began to spend more and more of our time within networked digital systems, more examples of highly shared content appeared – this sharing occurred long before YouTube or a wide-adoption of video, but it’s safe to say that when YouTube came along, the marketers started paying attention to what we were watching. Maybe it was because of arrogance… Perhaps marketers couldn’t fundamentally understand why we were all sharing and spreading clips of large men lip-syncing to European hit singles rather than their award winning commercials. And maybe this is why the term viral took hold – because to the marketers it must have seemed that if Numa Numa could have millions of views, almost anything could (which is true, in a way). Regardless, the viral term was applied to these videos and it has taken hold. Language tends to do that and we often tend to take artistic license with terms, marketers especially so. Big deal. Right?

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