The top memes and viral videos of 2015

Katy Perry performance at the Super Bowl Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Left Shark, momentarily more famous than Katy Perry

It's been a bit of an annus horribilis for the internet and all of us who frequent it.

Cyber-attacks, trolls, terrorist propaganda, sexism, racism, Twitter mobs... stop the web now, Mr Berners-Lee, we want to get off.

So, when it came to compiling 2015's list of the most viral videos and memes (see 2012's, 2013's and 2014's), I decided to impose a couple of ground rules to keep things upbeat.

Rule number one: nothing miserable.

The world was a scary place in 2015. Consider this list a safe, feel-good haven.

Rule number two: nothing in this list was created specifically to go viral.

As in, a committee of advertising executives didn't sit around a room and decide how to spend money on making it a hit.

Of course, everyone wants their posts to be popular, but let's just say this list is intended to feature some of the more organic fun.

Off we go!


January was about… getting frostbit

Image copyright UTV
Image caption Ruairi McSorley has turned his "frostbit" soundbite into a media career

One of the remarkable things about Ruairi McSorley is how he managed to change a tiny soundbite into a media career.

Asked by UTV reporter Gareth Wilkinson about the weather conditions in Northern Ireland, McSorley's charming accent led to him being dubbed the most Irish man in the world.

His "frostbit" soundbite has led to countless TV appearances, events and, soon, a charity single.


February was about… Left Shark

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Katy Perry's Superbowl appearance went viral thanks to Left Shark

If you're not a fan of American Football - and sometimes even if you are - the half-time show is the most interesting part of the sporting extravaganza.

And not since Janet Jackson's wardrobe "malfunction" has their been a more talked about moment than singer Katy Perry's performance.

She was joined on stage by two adorable backing dancers, although one of them, the shark on the left, struggled to keep up.

Left Shark fever swept the world, coming to symbolise the daily struggles we all face to keep up with the world.

Katy Perry's lawyers tried to trademark "left shark", but were denied.

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Media captionIs it white and gold? Or is it black and blue? David Sillito explains

Also in February, a garment now consigned to history as simply "the dress" was stirring debate.

Optical illusion, colour blindness', strange lighting - whatever caused the difference of opinion, the image of the white/gold or blue/black dress became one of the most shared of the year.

And then we all agreed it was blue and black. Didn't we?


March was about… hitching a ride

Image copyright Martin Le-May
Image caption Martin Le-May caught the moment when the woodpecker took flight with a weasel on its back

If Katy Perry's Left Shark was a symbol of life's daily struggles, the shot of a weasel hitching a ride on a woodpecker is a reminder of how we should all be able to get along, no matter our differences.

"Weasels are fearless," commented wildlife expert Lucy Cooke. Evidently!

Also in March, shocking footage emerged from Thailand showing an elephant, clearly intoxicated, clambering into a bath.

Did I say intoxicated? I meant adorable.


April was about... maths

Image copyright Matthew Weathers
Image caption A maths lesson with an interactive twist. Not much learning, mind

Annual sense-of-humour-vacuum April Fools' Day brings a flood of prank videos.

Most are terrible, but some are beautifully executed - like this magic from a maths teacher in California. It racked up an impressive 13 million views.

Maths was a continuing theme in April.

This brain teaser, originally posed to Singaporean schoolchildren, had the world scratching its head and arguing over the solution. Did you figure it out?

(The answer's on Wikipedia…)


May was about… the dancing man

Image copyright AP
Image caption Dancing Man Sean O'Brien enjoyed new fame and support

"Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week. He stopped when he saw us laughing."

So wrote a poster on 4chan, the notoriously dark online message board. They attached a picture of Sean O'Brien, a large Liverpudlian, who had been dancing at a gig.

After attention was brought to the apparent "fat-shaming", the internet rallied round and Mr O'Brien was tracked down.

In May, the Dancing Man had a huge party thrown for him in Los Angeles - attended by Monica Lewinsky, Moby and Andrew WK.

"I'm still pinching myself," Mr O'Brien said.

Back in London, it was a "hipster cop" that had people talking.

Peter Swinger - who sports a stylish, curly moustache - was spotted on duty at a protest march.

However, according to the Daily Mail, a close relative said Mr Singer, a father of three, was "definitely not a hipster".

What a hipster thing to say.


June was about… flying cats

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Media captionStowaway cat surprises plane's passengers mid-journey

Behold, the best double-take ever captured on film.


July was about… SHARRRRRKKK!!

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Media captionSurfer Mick Fanning: "I punched the shark in the back"

Champion surfer Mick Fanning waiting just six days to get back into the water after this terrifying incident.

The 34-year-old was competing in South Africa when two sharks appeared in the water.

No problem for Mr Fanning, though - he just punched one of them and swam off, avoiding probable death.


August was about… the Duck Army

Image copyright Youtube/Kevin237
Image caption The Duck Army haunted dreams for months

Kevin Innes found a pile of dog toys in a shop in Norway. And then he pressed them.

The Guardian called the resulting clip the "best thing on the internet today".

I'd go as far as declaring it the best thing on the internet this entire year.

Why? It sums up the very best thing about viral hits - that ability to give the entire world that "oh, you had to be there" experience.

Also in August, everyone melted after watching this little lad who definitely isn't going to miss his mum when he's at school.


September was about… RONNIE PICKERING!

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption The road rage video of Ronnie Pickering shouting "Do you know who I am?" has attracted a huge flurry of mixed responses on social media

The undoubted star of this next clip is the woman in the passenger seat. Quiet, stoic… resigned.

Next to her, the now world-famous Ronnie Pickering.

Who? Ronnie Pickering. Who? RONNIE PICKERING!

Mr Pickering's road rage was captured on film by cyclist Steve Middleton, and spread around the world as people asked: "Who's Ronnie Pickering?"

The video can be viewed here, but be warned it contains a flood of swear words.

Mr Pickering's son later took to Twitter to say his Dad's a great guy and a great laugh. So, let's give him the benefit of the doubt - we all have our off days.

Meanwhile, in September, this Manhattan rat was having the "on" day to end them all.


October was about… Drake's dancing

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In this internet age, it's quite reassuring that the humble music video format still has the ability to get people talking.

Though now, it's not enough to merely like a music video - you have to remix it.

Hip hop artist/dancing visionary Drake's video for Hotline Bling spawned hundreds of remakes.

To save you the time, just watch this one - it's by far the best.

For a short while in October it seemed that every cat owner in the world was buying up cucumbers to scare their cats.

(Although it must be said that experts later advised against it - it's pretty mean.)

There are numerous theories as to why cats seem to jump out of their skin at the sight of a cucumber - one expert, speaking to ABC News, said it's because cats are genetically wired to bounce away from snakes.


November was about… Otto

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Media captionOtto broke the Guinness World Record for skateboarding through the "longest human tunnel" in Lima, Peru

Ever since the demise of CBBC's Record Breakers, the public's appetite for world-beaters has been left unsatisfied.

Good job we've got Otto, then, a bulldog who rode a skateboard through the legs of 30 people.


December was about… not going in the sea

Image copyright Twitter

If there's one thing we've learned this year, it's that being Irish increases your viral potential by roughly 100x.

Here, TV news reporter Teresa Mannion took to the coastline of Galway, in the west of Ireland, to broadcast to RTE viewers.

But Storm Desmond had other ideas, giving poor Ms Mannion a right blustering.

"Don't swim in the sea!" she screamed in her dramatic live report. And then the internet got to work.

And on Christmas Day, a lot of Dads fell off their hoverboards.


So, there we have it. An eclectic year of road rage, Irishness, dresses and sharks of varying ferocity.

The next year could see big changes to the internet.

Debates on encryption and censorship may alter the very fabric of how this series of tubes works.

But through it all, let's hope we keep our sense of humour and not take ourselves too seriously. When life gives you cucumbers, make a video.

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC (and tell me what I missed!)

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