Laws of the Internet

Not to be confused with the rules of the Internet, which is a 4chan (and 4chan-related) meme from late 2005 that was refined in 2007 to make it more /b/-oriented and continues to persist today in the form of the relative ubiquity of the term “Rule 34”1) in present-day netspeak, the laws of the Internet are a set of Internet-related aphorisms written in the manner of Murphy's Law that are meant to describe the mechanics of Internet communities and Internet culture in general. Though some have various degrees of tongue-in-cheek-ness, they all hold a degree of truth that can be extracted for serious analysis.

The following is a list of the “laws” I'm aware of. Some are popular, some not so much, some were found in popular places, some were found in more obscure communities, some predate the Internet iself yet they hold incredible relevancy, and some are, perhaps, even my own…

Sturgeon's Law

90% of everything is crap.

Not related to the Internet, and even written before it, it's broad enough to apply very well to it.

Wiio's Law of Communication

Communication usually fails, except by accident.

Another pre-Web adage, coined in 1978 by Finnish academic Osmo Wiio, it may as well encapsulate all the issues with contemporary online discourse.

One percent Rule

In any given Internet community, only 1% of its userbase creates new content, whereas the remaining 99% only consumes it.

Never properly formulated into a sentence and with numbers slightly spurious, this is the Internet version of the Pareto principle. It goes back to a bit before 2006; it boils down to acknowledging the existence of a minority of “superusers” that generate all the content of a website. Can be extrapolated, maybe, to the Internet as a whole.

90-9-1 variation: Same as above, but implying that 9% of the remaining 99% make editions to the created content while the remaining 90% are passive users - applies particularly in wikis.

Poe's Law

It is utterly impossible to parody of a fundamentalist point of view that can't be taken as real by someone.

The original law refers to Creationism and reads “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody a Creationist in such a way that someone won't mistake for the genuine article”. At this point in time, it can be safely extended to any sort of online parody, either of a mentality, a group, or an individual. Surely, the lack of tone behind online text has something to do with it.

Godwin's Law

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

Involving the invocation of nazis as the go-to modern figure of evil and ideological negativity, Mike Godwin coined this back in Usenet in 19902) as the Internet manifestation of the reductio ad Hitlerum.

John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory

Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad

From the Penny Arcade webcomic in 2004, meant to underline the cruelty of the honne when your identity is hidden through the Web. However, it's followed up by Croshaw's Variation: Normal Person = Total Fuckwad, from Ben Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame, which argues that it's not so much about the anonymity, but rather the lack of discernible consequences behind misbehaving online.

Wales' Law

Given sufficient time, every fandom will develop its own dedicated wiki.

A rather applied statement when, in reality, it could pretty much cover all possible entities without much inaccuracy, not unlike Rule 34: “if it exists, there's a wiki for it.”

And rule 63, in a lesser extent.
and promptly posted it everywhere in an attempt of forced memetic spread which, granted, seems to have worked pretty well.
internet/laws_of_the_internet.txt · Last modified: 2019/07/17 17:59 by Curator
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