5 Most Viral Videos of 2006

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In 2006, YouTube was just a year old and still unknown to many Internet users. That didn’t stop a few folks from taking a chance on the fledgling video-sharing site—with sometimes surprising results. These videos, many of which were shared using email, helped make YouTube the viral video destination it is today.

5 Leprechaun in Mobile, Alabama

Mobile, Alabama, is a magical place—or so this local news clip would lead you to believe. Several members of the Crichton community were convinced there was a leprechaun living in a tree in their neighborhood. Never mind that most people associate leprechauns with rainbows, which can only be seen during the day—this leprechaun only came out at night. Although if you shined a light at him he’d disappear. So no one had gotten a good glimpse of him. Didn’t stop one local artist from drawing a sketch of this magical fellow, which is truly the highlight of the whole clip. No word on whether that artist received any money for the sketch, which 20 million people worldwide have now viewed.

4 Leeroy Jenkins

It’s happened to you. There you are, odds stacked against you, trying to bring a group together on a plan to achieve the best possible outcome—and there’s always “that guy.” That one dude who just charges right in to the situation despite your careful planning, leaving everyone else scrambling. In this case the context was the online game World of Warcraft, but you didn’t have to be familiar with the game to feel the pain of the other team members as “that guy” ignored patient attempts to delegate resources and prepare for the battle ahead. Instead, he charged ahead into a roomful of foes waiting to lay waste to the team, screaming his name. “Leeroy Jenkins!” became synonymous with this sort of gung-ho foolishness that leaves fellow teammates panicked (and cursing).

3 Numa Numa

Americans were unfamiliar with the Romanian pop band “O-Zone” and their song “Dragostea Din Tea” until 2004, when a young man used his webcam to record a fist-pumping lip-synch video of the song. He became known on the Internet as “Numa Numa Guy” and the video, which was uploaded to YouTube in 2006, became an instant favorite. The video appeared on major television networks including CNN and VH1, and the guy was parodied on South Park—thereby etching his pop-culture contribution in stone.

2 The Sneezing Baby Panda

It was literally the sneeze heard ’round the world. A tiny baby panda, no bigger than a stick of butter, lets out a tremendous sneeze that echoes off the walls of the enclosure and startles its mother. In just 17 seconds, this video managed to capture nearly everything the Internet loves: Rare, exotic creature? Check. Adorable baby version of said creature? Check. Normal occurrence that is startling in context? Check. Startled reaction? Check. Short enough to play over and over again? Double-check. No wonder the video’s been seen over 150 million times and counting.

1 Evolution of Dance by Judson Laipply

A self-styled “inspirational comedian,” motivational speaker Judson Laipply decided to upload a short video he’d created to YouTube. People were taken by Laipply’s 6-minute summary of popular music and dance styles through history and eagerly shared the video with their friends—70 million of them, in less than a year. Laipply became not just an Internet celebrity, but something of a real celebrity as well, appearing on television, in music videos and even performing in the halftime show at the NBA finals one year.

Jennifer Mueller has been writing professionally since 1995, when she began writing a bi-monthly column for "This Week in WNC." Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from the Indiana University School of Law.

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