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O RLY is internet slang for “OH REALLY?” with implicit sarcasm. Since gaining traction through with usage on Internet forums, O RLY has become a popular deadpan response to any statement that is deemed either highly doubtful or obviously true.
The original “O RLY?” Snowy Owl image macro used a photo taken by nature photographer John White, which was subsequently posted to a Usenet newsgroup named alt.binaries.pictures.animals on February 17th, 2001. White has since sent numerous cease and desist letters to those using the image without his permission.
The deadpan response “O RLY” originates from circa 2003 on the Something Awful forums, where it was used as a deadpan response to anything you found doubtful, unimpressive or just plain dull. The earliest documented use of the phrase “O RLY” can be found in a thread posted on August 20th, 2003.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
:lol: o rly? Best essay ever.
An isolated instance of “O RLY” image macro featuring Jack Bauer from the TV series 24 was posted onto YTMND on October 20th, 2004, but there was little reception. In the spring of 2005, the O RLY phenomenon reached the anonymous community 4chan, where the phrase was paired with White’s incredulous-looking snowy owl for the first time.
The popularity of the snowy owl image macros reached its peak when one of the 4chan moderators implemented a wordfilter script that replaced all mentions of “repost”--an overused 4chan term referring to duplicate content--with the word “owl,” provoking users to respond by uploading owl image macros with text reading: “every day is owl day.”
Every day is
Every day is owl day.
Most variations of the “O RLY” image consist of similarly captioned images based on other pictures of snowy owls, including “YA RLY,” “NO WAI” and “SURREALY” among others.
The popular use of the image macro on 4chan quickly spread to the YTMND community, spawning hundreds of GIF animations and captioned images on the site.
In May 2006, anti-virus company Sophos discovered a computer worm known as “W32/Hoots-A”, which sends an image of the snowy owl to a print queue when it infects a Windows-based computer. A Sophos spokesman said that it appeared that the virus, written in Visual Basic, was not written by a professional, but that: “it appears this malware was written for a specific organization, by someone who had inside knowledge of their IT infrastructure.” 
Search queries for “O rly” peaked in late 2005 to early 2006 and has been since phased out of trend.
SomethingAwful – What was the weirdest/funniest answer you ever put on a test?