The Rick Roll: A History of the Internet’s Most Iconic Prank

Have you ever clicked on a link that promised something interesting, only to be greeted by a familiar face and a catchy tune? If so, you have been rick rolled, one of the most popular and enduring internet pranks of all time. But what is the origin and purpose of this meme, and how can you rick roll someone yourself? Let’s find out.

What is a rick roll?

A rick roll is a type of bait and switch, where a person provides a link that is supposed to lead to something relevant or desirable, but instead redirects to the music video of “Never Gonna Give You Up”, a 1987 hit song by British singer Rick Astley. The video features Astley performing the song while dancing in various locations, wearing a trench coat and sunglasses. The song is known for its catchy chorus, which repeats the lines “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you”.

The prank is meant to surprise and annoy the unsuspecting victim, who may have expected something completely different from the link. The prankster may also enjoy the humorous contrast between the serious or enticing title of the link and the cheesy or outdated video. The victim is said to have been rick rolled, and the prankster may declare “You just got rick rolled!” or something similar.

How did it start?

The rick roll meme has its roots in an earlier internet prank called duck rolling, which originated on the imageboard 4chan in 2006. The site’s moderator, Christopher “m00t” Poole, implemented a word filter that replaced the word “egg” with “duck” as a joke. This resulted in the word “eggroll” becoming “duckroll”, which inspired an anonymous user to post an edited image of a duck with wheels, calling it a “duckroll”. The image became a target of a hyperlink with a misleading title, and anyone who clicked on it was said to have been duck rolled.

In March 2007, the first known instance of a rick roll occurred, when a user on 4chan posted a link claiming to be a trailer for the highly anticipated video game Grand Theft Auto IV, but instead led to the “Never Gonna Give You Up” video. The prank was inspired by the similarity between the words “duck” and “rick”, and the fact that both Astley and the duck image were considered to be outdated or obscure. The prank quickly caught on and spread to other websites and platforms, such as YouTube, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and more.

Why is it popular?

The rick roll meme gained mainstream attention in 2008, when several publicized events and media outlets used it as a joke or a reference. For example, YouTube featured the video on its homepage as part of its April Fools’ Day prank, and the New York Mets played the song during a game after fans voted for it online. The meme also received coverage from various news sources, such as CNN, BBC, and The Guardian.

One of the most notable rick rolls was performed by Astley himself, who made a surprise appearance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2008, interrupting a performance by the characters from the Cartoon Network show Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. Astley sang a live rendition of his song, while the crowd and the viewers cheered and laughed. Astley, who had retired from the music industry in 1993, was initially reluctant to embrace his newfound fame from the meme, but later accepted it as a compliment and a way to revitalize his career.

The rick roll meme has remained popular and relevant over the years, as it has been used in various contexts and occasions, such as political campaigns, protests, weddings, funerals, and more. The meme has also evolved and adapted to new formats and technologies, such as QR codes, email links, phone calls, and more. The meme has also inspired variations and spin-offs, such as the Barack roll, the Nirvana roll, the Rick Astley roll, and more.

The rick roll meme is widely considered to be one of the most iconic and influential internet memes of all time, as it has transcended its original purpose and become a cultural phenomenon. The meme has been recognized and celebrated by various awards, such as the MTV Europe Music Award for Best Act Ever in 2008, and the Webby Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2020. The meme has also been studied and analyzed by various scholars and experts, who have explored its origins, meanings, effects, and implications.

How to rick roll someone?

If you want to join the fun and rick roll someone yourself, here are some tips and tricks to make it more effective and enjoyable:

  • Choose a suitable link. The link should be relevant to the topic or the interest of the person you want to rick roll, and should sound enticing or intriguing enough to make them click on it. For example, you can use a link that claims to be a news article, a video, a game, a quiz, a coupon, a download, or anything else that might appeal to them.
  • Hide the URL. The URL of the “Never Gonna Give You Up” video is well-known and recognizable by many internet users, so you should try to disguise it or shorten it to avoid suspicion. You can use a URL shortener service, such as 11, to create a new URL that looks different from the original one. You can also use a QR code generator, such as 11, to create a QR code that contains the link, and then print it or share it online.
  • Be subtle and natural. When sharing the link or the QR code, don’t overemphasize it or draw too much attention to it. Bring it into the conversation casually and smoothly, and don’t give any hints or clues that it might be a prank. For example, you can say something like “Hey, have you seen this video? It’s hilarious!” or “Check out this article, it’s really interesting!” or “You won’t believe what I found online!” or something similar.
  • Enjoy the reaction. Once the person clicks on the link or scans the QR code, they will be rick rolled, and you can enjoy their reaction. Depending on the person, they might be surprised, annoyed, amused, or indifferent. You can also reveal that it was a prank and say something like “You just got rick rolled!” or “Never gonna give you up!” or something similar. Be careful not to be too rude or mean, and respect the person’s feelings and boundaries. Remember that the prank is meant to be fun and harmless, not malicious or harmful.


The rick roll is a classic internet prank that involves tricking someone into opening a video of Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up”. The prank started as a variation of the duck roll prank on 4chan in 2007, and became a viral sensation in 2008, when it was used in various public events and media outlets. The prank has remained popular and relevant ever since, as it has been used in various contexts and occasions, and has evolved and adapted to new formats and technologies. The prank is widely considered to be one of the most iconic and influential internet memes of all time, and has been recognized and celebrated by various awards, scholars, and experts. The prank is also easy and fun to do, as long as you follow some simple tips and tricks, and respect the person you are rick rolling.

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