Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Day The Internet Died

It all started innocently enough. Sally was enjoying a cup of sustainable coffee at the corner cafe when she spotted it. ZOMG. Cutest. Cat. Ever. An explosion of uncontainable fluff wrapped in a hamburger bun sweater with a toy iPhone 4S hanging around its neck. My friends have to see this, thought Sally. And thus it began. Not with a virus, nor a worm, but a cat. An insanely cute cat.

The picture that brought down the Internet was captured at 12:21PM on December 21, 2012 with a slightly abused white iPhone 4S. It went vintage before going viral, cause honestly, sepia makes everything better. And off it went.

Sally's Instagram auto-posted to her Facebook, where 237 of her closest friends (she has 1,649 friends, but I mean, at least 400 are just, you know, on there) immediately saw The Cat. Sally's above-average hotness meant that her re-share rate hovered around 10%, and sure enough, 26 of the initial viewers re-shared to their combined total of 4,013 friends.

The Initial Post also cross-posted to Twitter, and within minutes, #HamburgerCat was trending worldwide. The analysts would later note that had Ashton not been 5 minutes late from brunch with the mystery girl, he likely would have missed TC's retweet of CNN iReport's #HamburgerCat coverage. But alas, the Fates conspired against the Interwebs on that day, and Ashton saw The Cat. And within a few minutes, most of his ten million followers did as well.

Like the Great Flood from Biblical days of yore, The Cat and its photogenic cuteness rushed through The Pipes with a ferocity unlike any that had befallen Time. It was the Auto PhotoMods that sparked the inevitable cascade towards darkness. As the Historians of Shoreline Road would recall, society had collectively unlocked an epic laziness whereby modifying photos by hand was an unheard of feat, but re-sharing unmodified pics had lost most of its appeal. And thus arose a proliferation of Auto PhotoMod apps that would extract a picture from the Stream, add a silly prop customized for the user (that December, personalized hipster wireframe glasses auto-positioned with the eye finder were especially popular), and re-publish the picture anew. Simple idea, but entirely destructive to the anti-replication schemes put in place by the Networks years before.

TwitPic fell over first, followed soon after by Facebook Photos, which might have been the end, had the tipping point not already been breached. Fifty some-odd million accounts were automagically regurgitating new versions of #HamburgerCat to all corners of the globe at breakneck speed. The Akamai edges tried to keep up with the new pics, but soon began to fail in unrepentant desperation. They had been running above throughput specification for months and were consistently on the verge of overheating, but the drastic spike in Cat traffic was enough to make them give up altogether.

As luck would have it, Sally had geo-tagged her photo and checked into Foursquare, which crowned her the unfortunate new mayor of Internet Apocalypse Ground Zero. Twenty thousand Relevant People Nearby were alerted, activating all of their GPS sensors to see if they were close enough to retake the Mayorship. This lit up the Auto GeoTumblrs, which shamelessly spewed out well-shortened links to 200,000,000 people whose precise minute-by-minute locations made them pawns in the largest location-based game in cyberspace. Yet when the GPS Sats started crashing, only a few thought to look up.  But that was nothing new.

Screencaps of the failures rushed onto YouTube in a river of Meta, instantly overtaking every spot on the Day's Top Videos, and due to the massive upload numbers, ironically began streaming immediately back down to a half billion passively-watching devices worldwide. A few isolated souls feared that the outages portended worse than the Ten Second Blip of that summer, but unfortunately, their comments were unanimously and unhelpfully reduced to a solitary word: "This."

And so it was, at 12:27PM on the Day of the Internet Reckoning, that all went metaphorically black. There was no singularity, no evil artificial intelligence plotting humanity's destruction. No, it was far simpler.

All it took was a cat.



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