Some of the oldest memes on the internet, each marking a significant step in the evolution of online meme culture, include:

  1. Godwin’s Law (1990): An internet adage suggesting that as an online discussion grows longer, the likelihood of a comparison involving Hitler or Nazis increases. This meme reflects the tendency of internet conversations to escalate into extreme comparisons​​.
  2. Dancing Baby (1996): Also known as Baby Cha-Cha, this was one of the earliest viral internet sensations, featuring a 3D-rendered baby dancing to music. It gained popularity through email chains​​.
  3. All Your Base Are Belong to Us (1998): Stemming from a mistranslation in a Japanese video game, this phrase became a popular internet catchphrase and an early example of widespread internet humor​​.
  4. Hampster Dance (1999): One of the earliest single-purpose websites, it featured rows of animated GIFs of hamsters dancing, created to generate web traffic in a friendly competition​​.
  5. It’s a Trap! (early 2000s): Originating from a quote in “Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi,” this meme became an early example of a reaction image used to warn of bait-and-switch situations​​.
  6. ROFLcopter (c.2000 – 2001): An ASCII art meme that became popular on internet forums. It initially poked fun at the overuse of “l33t” acronyms like ROFL (roll on the floor laughing)​​.

These memes not only highlight the creativity and humor of early internet users but also showcase how meme culture has been an integral part of online communication for decades.