Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am trying to determine when the phrase "going viral" was first used. Similarly, when did the phrases "viral video" and "viral marketing" get their start? I have looked online at various sites, but none really address this question (other than saying "recently").

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The Oxford English Dictionary's earliest citation for the use of viral in the sense of ‘involving the rapid spread of information’ is dated 1989. The earliest citation actually including the verb go is as late as 2004:

Their petition also went viral, gathering half a million signatures in a few weeks.

share|improve this answer
1  
Found a use with go in this article dated from 2000. (Under #2 of the "six key steps") –  Callithumpian Jan 2 '12 at 4:23

It looks like the phrase started being used in print in about 1999 or 2000. And viral video seems to date from 2004.

share|improve this answer

Going viral

I found no earlier example than the one in Callithumpian's comment from July 31, 2000 by Seth Godin for Fast Company:

Have the idea behind your online experience go viral, bringing you a large chunk of the group that you're targeting without your having to spend a fortune advertising your new service.

"go viral" OR "went viral" OR "gone viral" OR "going viral"

Viral video

The earliest I found is from 21 March 2003 in an article by MediaWeek titled:

Splinter Cell for the PS2 launches with viral video

In 2002, search engine Lycos had set up a Viral Chart for people to upload the viral attachments that people spread via email. When promoting the chart in May 2002, they referred to viral videos:

Sign up to the Viral Chart vTeam and become part of a select group spreading the word about Lycos' brilliant new Viral Chart - it's THE place on the web to find the coolest, funniest, most outrageous viral games, pictures, videos and more!

Here's an archive of the Lycos Viral Chart.

Viral marketing

I found nothing earlier than the 1989 Barrie noted from the OED, in PC User:

The staff almost unanimously voted with their feet as long waiting lists developed for use of the Macintoshes... ‘It's viral marketing. You get one or two in and they spread throughout the company.’

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.