He’s holding the truck’s steering wheel with both paws. His orange and white face is contemplative, distracted. The caption reads: “Bob drove home slowly, deep in thought; he’d made up his mind–but how to tell Bernice he wasn’t going through with the neutering?” In another version, the same cat’s pensive expression holds a more sinister meaning: “It all happened so fast, a blurr (sic) of fur, a yelp of pain, the thump under the truck bed; Spot was dead, and Fluffy knew there were few options.”
Fluffy may have few options when it comes to disposing of Spot’s body, but for Icanhascheezburger.com enthusiasts, the possibilities for funny captions are endless. And that’s essentially all the site is: pictures of cats with funny captions. Simple? Genius? Lucrative? Yes, yes, and yes.
Since its debut in 2007, the site, which began as a joke between two friends, has exploded into an empire with a cult following. Pet Holdings, Inc., the company behind the site, has 18 spinoff sites, including Ihasahotdog.com, Totallylookslike.com, and Failblog.org. Ten of those sites, such as Thisisphotobomb.com, Pictureisunrelated.com, and Ugliesttattoos.com, all debuted this June, spreading humor like dogs spread fleas and giving us 10 more excuses to put off doing anything productive–not that writing funny captions isn’t productive in its own creepy-I’m-obsessed-with-my-cat-and-dress-him-up-in-cute-little-outfits kind of way.
The flagship site is visited monthly by 2.1 million LOLcat fanatics around the world, and approximately 10 million humor-loving Web surfers also check out the spinoff sites each month. So who exactly are the Cheezburger obsessed? According to Quantcast.com, the site ranked at 1,124th for most visited by U.S. Web surfers has a demographic mainly of educated young adult Caucasian women who shop at Hot Topic. Who knew that purple-spiked-haired, all-black-wearing goth chick who sat behind you in chemistry class had such a soft side?
But it’s not just casual entertainment for some registered users of the site, which has reached subculture-esque proportions. Take user “jimincairns,” who has created a whopping 1,527 captioned pictures (known as LOLz), or user “Thecat” who has 1,917 friends on the site and 11,900 favorite LOLz. And take a peek at “10puppyluv10″‘s profile: “i luvs goggies, and we has wun, but den mai kitteh ran awai. Iz so sad! dis iz wun uf meh top favurit sites! i luvs hoomans, so feel free to rekwest meh as a frend.” Ummm, what?
Ah yes, LOLspeak, a few funny pictures away from taking over the English language as we know it. Some common words and phrases? Goggie (dog), fud (food), ohai! (greeting), nom (verb meaning “to eat” also sometimes substituted for “fud” as a noun), interwebs (Internet), kthxbai (goodbye).
Clearly, this empire has attracted more than the attention of sullen cat-loving goth chicks. Icanhascheezburger.com won a 2008 Blogger’s Choice Award for Best Animal Blogger, and that same year won two prestigious People’s Voice Webby awards for the Humor and Weird categories. In 2009, Failblog.org won two People’s Voice Webby awards for the same categories as its predecessor.
It may seem to be at the top of its game, but Icanhascheezburger’s popularity isn’t about to dwindle. The site has a page on Facebook, a surprisingly difficult and addictive online game called NomNomNom4Fud, an application for iPhones, and even a book.
Blast wanted to peek inside the genius minds behind the LOLcatz, so we spoke with Pet Holdings, Inc.’s CEO, Ben Huh, who answered our tough, probing questions about this growing empire.
Blast: Can you briefly tell us how Icanhascheezburger.com began?
BH: Icanhascheezburger.com was started by two friends in Hawaii back in January of 2007. They exchanged some LOLcat pictures over IM and the site was born the next day.
Blast: So. What’s with this elusive cheezburger? Do cats like burgers? Did I miss something?
BH: It takes a cat to understand the mind of a cat… I’m pretty sure we’re missing everything.
Blast: Do you know about the online LOLspeak glossary? And do you foresee this taking over the English language as we know it? Can people actually misspell LOLspeak, or is it constantly evolving?
BH: We started speaklolspeak.com. It’s an evolving Internet-based language that’s incorporating parts of text-speak, IM-speak and l33t-speak [a language that substitutes numbers for letters, as in “n00b” for “newbie”].
Blast: There are “Star Trek” conventions, “Star Wars” conventions, “Lost” conventions… will there ever be a LOLcat convention? And if so, will there be cheezburgers?
BH: *shrug* I don’t see why not?
Blast: Do you have a favorite LOL? If so, what is it?
BH: I have lots of favorite LOLz here:‚ http://cheezburger.com/pictures-by-I-Can-Has-Cheezburger/favorites
Blast: Do you make LOLz yourself, or just sit at a desk reading them all day? Oh, and are you hiring?
BH: I do make them myself, but NOT A SINGLE ONE has ever been voted on to the homepage. And yes, we’re hiring.
Blast: So who invented much of the LOLspeak? Geniuses over at corporate or obsessed fans? Or both? Any you are responsible for?
BH: I think we’re all a little bit responsible for LOLspeak. Like any real language, it’s a cultural evolution.
Blast: Why do you think your sites have become so insanely popular and have attracted such a following?
BH: I think there’s a great sense of community behind them. They’re powered by the very people who enjoy the content. That tells you about what a little bit of effort can do for Internet culture.