Bit Rate

Rick-Rolled

3/07/2008 1:50 AM

Apparently, this phenomenon has been kicking around the Internet for months, if not years, but I don’t hang out in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) so it’s escaped my notice until now.

The term of the day: "rick roll." This refers specifically to an online bait-and-switch prank wherein said prankster posts or e-mails a link promising a tantalizing video tidbit when in fact the link directs the hapless victim to a clip of 1980s schlock-popster Rick Astley’s "Never Gonna Give You Up."

Example: 

Dude chek out this awesome trailer of the new Batman movie with Heath Ledger !!! -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBGIQ7ZuuiU

You’ve just been rick-rolled. Stupid? Yep. Funny? Oh, yes. 

Note that rick-rolling has contributed millions of views to YouTube. This clip has been viewed more than 6.55 million times since user "YouGotRickRolled" posted it nine months ago.

Why bring this up?

Because you can’t rick-roll somebody on cable VOD. You couldn’t do it even if, for some reason, a cable operator had "Never Gonna Give You Up" somewhere in its VOD servers.

As Internet video usage continues its upward trajectory, the Rick Astley prank highlights a key shortcoming of cable VOD.

The range of interactivity possible on the open Internet makes cable VOD seem… frozen in time. Like, something from the 90s. Or OMG even older, from the 80s, like it’s wearing a denim shirt buttoned all the way up to the top.

Much of YouTube’s dramatic rise is attributable to its simple, link-based architecture that lets people just copy-and-paste the URL and share it: "you gotta see this 5h17!" (YouTube was also a first mover and, to hear Viacom tell it, for a long time turned a blind eye to copyrighted material that has fueled its popularity.)

The point is, you can’t share stuff easily with cable (or telco) VOD. Even quasi-walled-garden Internet video services like Joost aren’t as straightforward.

Cable thinkers know they have to try to co-opt the best interactive features of the Web.

Not that cable systems should be feverishly working to roll rick-rolling per se into their VOD platforms. But wouldn’t it be great if cable had a truly open, Internet-like development platform that could let some kid in her basement trick up that kind of feature by herself?

March