, being what many have described as an "organic" entity, has long been a resource for the circulation of humorous ideas and jokes
. Countless web-sites are devoted to the collection of Internet humour, and every day thousands of emails cross the world containing the text of humorous articles, or jokes about current events.
"Internet humor" is distinguishable from "Humor on the Internet" through the concept of ownership. There are definite examples of commercially protected humor on the internet, examples include the cartoons of Dilbert or the newspaper columns of Dave Barry. "Internet Humor" is regarded as that which belongs to the public domain.
Internet humor may also be regarded as humor that specifically relies on characteristics belonging to the Internet, and the "geek" or "hacker" humor. That is, humor that would not exist if not for the Internet.
Generally, this type of semi-institutionalized humor starts as a specific group's in-joke, and grows until it reaches a significant portion of Internet users, gaining popularity, "rules" and mythos.
Longstanding and widely recognized examples of such humor are:
The concept of authorship with regard to Internet humor is very difficult to define. Frequently a "list" type joke may get started but within a few generations of distribution it evolves beyond recognition. A classic example is the well-known "You have two cows" joke - after circulating in more primitive media throughout the 1980s, it seems to have first appeared on the Internet in 1993
with simple descriptions of communism
. However, the version presented within the Wikipedia
has expanded to include all forms of government, regional variations, philosophical systems, and even art movements. Attempting to define an "author" of the joke hence becomes impossible, and it becomes a publicly owned resource, simply because no-one could validly claim legitimate ownership.
Though the Internet has allowed the global explosion of collectively-authored comedy, its precursors existed on bulletin boards, corporate messaging systems, and even through such low-tech mechanisms as the facsimile since at least the 1970s.