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“On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog” is an idiom popularized by a cartoon in The New Yorker, which has come to illustrate an understanding about the way privacy an anonymity works on the Internet.
The New Yorker published a cartoon by artist Peter Steiner on July 5th, 1993, which featured an illustration of a dog seated at a computer telling his canine companion that “on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” (shown below). Years later on December 14th, 2000, The New York Times published an interview with Steiner in an article titled “Cartoon Captures Spirit of the Internet,” noting that the cartoon did not receive much attention initially, but steadily grew in popularity over many years.
On December 6th, 1993, Mitch Kapor, the founder of the spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3, was quoted in a Time Magazine article as saying that the New Yorker cartoon was a sign that interest in the Internet had reached “critical mass.” In 1995, the cartoon inspired the play Nobody Knows I’m a Dog by Alan David Perkins (shown below), which told the story of six people who find courage on the anonymous Internet.
In February of 1996, the Apple news magazine MacTech reported that the computer company had been working on a set of Internet tools known as “Cyberdog,” which had been apparently named after the New Yorker cartoon. In September 2005, Wired featured an article titled “On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Bot,” reporting on the growing usage of computer programs for gambling in online poker games. On October 5th, 2009, the tech news blog Tech Crunchpublished an article titled “On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re Not in the USA,” which explained how to mask your IP address location using proxy servers. On January 23rd, 2011, Tech Crunch published an article titled “NSFW: On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Journalist,” lamenting the deteriorating state of journalistic ethics on the Internet. On May 25th, 2012, YouTuber miicard uploaded a video titled “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a…” which featured a stop motion animation of a cat using an online dating site to hunt down mice.
On October 31st, Redditor MrDressUphasSwag submitted a post titled “Nobody knows,” which featured a photograph of a man wearing a lime suit and a horse head mask with the caption “On the Internet / Nobody knows you’re a horse lime / Nobody” (shown below). Within 24 hours, the post received over 16,800 up votes and 155 comments.
The adage is often used to caption photographs of dogs sitting at the computer and has inspired the snowclone template “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a X.”
Tech Crunch – On The Internet, Nobody Knows You’re Not In The USA