From a bizarre South Korean dance craze to the trials and tribulations of Pussy Riot, here's RFE/RL's selection of the 10 viral videos that caught our attention over the course of this year.
10) "Gangnam Style" takes the world by storm
With over 1 billion views on YouTube, South Korean rapper
PSY's "Gangnam Style
was undoubtedly the Internet sensation of 2012.
Inevitably, PSY's quirky video quickly spawned dozens of parodies, encompassing Kazakh wedding parties
and opera versions
, with even England's exclusive private school Eton
also joining in the fun.
Here's what some Afghan-Americans made of the whole Gangnam phenomenon:
9) Kony documentary
Before "Gangnam Style" burst onto the scene, the most viral video of 2012 was a documentary about the African warlord Joseph Kony by the American charity Invisible Children
Garnerning more than 70 million views within a week of its release, it spread like wildfire across social media but also quickly sparked much controversy,
with many questioning the film's accuracy
and the value of Internet videos like this as a campaign tool:
8) One-pound-fish man
As is now customary, there were plenty of eccentric snatches of video in 2012 that caught the public imagination and quickly went viral, including this snippet of a Pakistani fish seller
touting his wares with a catchy Punjabi-style ditty.
This video proved so popular that it even landed Muhammad Shahid Nazir a record deal
and a slick, hugely popular music video
7) Social experiment on rhesus monkeys
The Occupy Wall Street movement trundled on into 2012 but failed to maintain the prolific media profile it enjoyed at the end of 2011.
Despite largely disappearing from public view
, however, the term "1 percent" became common parlance and is now a disparaging byword for the enormous concentration of financial power held by those at the top of the social ladder.
This could explain why so many warmed to a hilarious but poignant experiment showing how Rhesus monkeys reacted to receiving unequal "payment" for doing the same task.
Given the current economic climate, it's little wonder that the dramatic response of one animal to being treated unfairly struck a chord with so many people:
6) Melodramatic hamster
Besides monkeys, there were also plenty of other animal videos that spread rapidly around the web in 2012.
Among other things, this year saw millions of people lap up the antics of a heroic piglet
, some furiously spinning rodents
, and three baby bears
trapped in a Dumpster.
For our money, though, the cutest critter vid of the past 12 months had to be this clip showcasing the talents of a thespian hamster with an acute sense of drama:
5) Russian car crashes
In November, RFE/RL's Tom Balmforth reported on how Russian motorists have been increasingly using dashboard cameras
as a tool to help fight corrupt traffic police, as well as insurance fraudsters trying to extort money by deliberately staging crashes.
One of the outcomes of this dash-cam trend is that footage of several spectacular, often horrific
crashes have been uploaded to video-sharing sites.
There have also been many clips of dramatic collisions in which the protagonists have somehow managed to emerge unscathed.
Here's an excellent compilation of some of the most hair-raising, near-death driving accidents you're likely to see this year:
4) Staged-death marriage proposal
The advent of video-sharing sites has brought with it a slew of increasingly elaborate marriage proposals
that have subsequently ended up charming millions on social media.
This year, one Russian man raised the bar somewhat by staging his own gruesome death before proposing.
Apparently, he wanted to let his girlfriend know for a brief moment what it would be like not to have him around before he popped the question.
Amazingly, the lucky lady said yes (eventually):
3) Scary elevator prank
Short, "Candid Camera"-style pranks are ideal fodder for Internet audiences who seem to eat up these often-quite-cruel antics in their droves.
The most spectacular practical joke to sweep across the web this year has to be this Brazilian elevator scenario, which manages to be both horrifying and terribly funny in equal measure:
2) German ice diving
So-called "epic fail" videos
were as popular as ever in 2012. It seems that people never tire of enjoying the farcical misfortunes of others.
The fate of this intrepid German diving into an icy pool proved to be one of the most widely watched mishaps posted on the web this year.
At least this poor chap seemed to appreciate the funny side of what happened:
1) Pussy Riot
It's hard to imagine how the Russian performance collective Pussy Riot would have become such a cause celebre
in 2012 if it hadn't been for the power of the Internet.
Their arrest for an anti-Kremlin protest in a Moscow cathedral earlier this year sparked a storm of controversy on social media, which ensured that they remained firmly in the public eye.
The subsequent jailing of three of the group's members for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" caused outrage among rights activists and generated thousands of column inches all over the world.
Here's the original video of the performance that caused all the fuss:
-- Coilin O'Connor