Rickrolling, what the hell is that?

Our weekly series What the Heck Is … aims to explain some of the unfamiliar acronyms and buzzwords that sneak into our daily lives.

It will be Rick Astley’s birthday on Saturday. This English pop star has had so many hits including “When I Fall in Love”, “Together Forever”, as well as “Never Gonna Give You up”, the 1987 track that is synonymous with Rickrolling.

Most people are familiar with the Rickroll. We’re happy to assist you if you haven’t been able to enjoy the Rickrolling joys (perhaps you’ve been on an arduous journey of Georgia’s Krubera Cave for years or worked on a nucleur sub).

You might even feel inspired to do a Rickroll on your own.

What is a RickRoll and how does it work?

It’s an internet joke. It’s a good one.

Rick rolling began around 2007, when users posted links that led to unintended videos of Rick Astley’s song “Never Gonna Give You up” on online bulletin boards such as Reddit and 4chan. Hence, Rickrolling.

This is supposedly an evolution from a prank called duckrolling, where people were sent to an image of a duck riding on wheels and accompanied by DarkMateria’s “The Picard Song”. We prefer the Astley version.

The rick roll evolution

Rickrolling has grown beyond the simple link in years past.

Students have turned in exam papers. Protestors have rickrolled Scientologists. There were hundreds of people who once gathered at , a flash mob at London’s Liverpool Street station.

Rick Astley was involved in the phenomenon, performing unexpectedly on a children’s float at a New York Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Celebrity rickrolls

Numerous big-name celebrities have been involved in and subject to Rickrolls, ranging from.

Rock royalty, the Foo Fighters, Rickrolled through Westboro Baptist Church members last year. Characters like Beaker, who are known for their hate speech, also received the Rickroll treatment. However, Barack Obama is the most well-known celebrity rickroll. He was the star of the parody video “Barack Roll”. This video has been viewed over 7 million times. It features Obama singing Astley’s hits and Ellen DeGeneres dancing.

Another political rick roll is a fake “Barack Roll”, of Republican John McCain. A Tweet of the White House tweet feed and a video of members of the Oregon Houses of Parliament that deliberately included the lyrics in their parliamentary discourse.

Rickroll hacks

It’s not surprising that the tech scene has seen many Rickrolls in protest and in jest.

Dan Kaminsky, a security expert, used the medium to expose vulnerabilities in the PayPal and Facebook websites. Students hacked the Massachusettes Institute of Technology building to display a huge set of the first musical notes of “Never Going To Give You Up”

Apple is also involved in the action, with Astley’s words displayed around an Apple Watch’s face on one of its help pages.

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