A still photo of the YouTube video of "Never Gonna Give You Up", the song played when viewers are Rickrolled.
Rickrolling is an Internet meme involving the music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song "Never Gonna Give You Up". The meme is a bait and switch; a person provides a hyperlink which is seemingly relevant to the topic at hand, but actually leads to Astley's video. The link can be masked or obfuscated in some manner so that the user cannot determine the true destination of the link without clicking. People led to the music video are said to have been rickrolled. Rickrolling has extended beyond web links to playing the video or song disruptively in other situations, including public places, such as a live appearance of Astley himself in the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The meme helped to revive Astley's career.
Rickrolling is said to have begun as a variant of an earlier prank from the imageboard4chan known as duckrolling, in which a link to somewhere (such as a specific picture or news item) would instead lead to a thread or site containing an edited picture of a duck with wheels. The user at that point is said to have been "duckrolled".
The first known instance of a rickroll occurred in May 2007 on /v/, 4chan's video game board, where a link to the Rick Astley video was claimed to be a mirror of the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV (which was unavailable due to heavy traffic). The joke was confined to 4chan for a very brief period.
By May 2008, the practice had spread beyond 4chan and became an Internet phenomenon, eventually attracting coverage in the mainstream media. An April 2008 poll by SurveyUSA estimated that at least 18 million American adults had been rickrolled. In September 2009, Wired magazine published a guide to modern hoaxes which listed rickrolling as one of the better known beginner-level hoaxes, alongside the fake e-mail chain letter.
In a March 2008 interview, Astley said that he found the Rickrolling of Scientology to be "hilarious"; he also said that he will not try to capitalize on the rickroll phenomenon with a new recording or remix of his own, but that he would be happy to have other artists remix it. Overall, Astley is not troubled by the phenomenon, stating that he finds it "bizarre and funny" and that his only concern is that his "daughter doesn't get embarrassed about it". A spokesperson for Astley's record label released a comment which showed that Astley's interest with the phenomenon had faded, as they stated "I'm sorry, but he's done talking about Rickrolling".
In November 2008, Rick Astley was nominated for "Best Act Ever" at the MTV Europe Music Awards after the online nomination form was flooded with votes. The push to make Astley the winner of the award continued after the announcement, as well as efforts to encourage MTV to personally invite Astley to the awards ceremony. On 10 October Astley's website confirmed that an invitation to the awards had been received. On 6 November 2008, just hours before the ceremony was due to air, it was reported that MTV Europe did not want to give Astley the award at the ceremony, instead wanting to present it at a later date. Many fans who voted for Astley felt the awards ceremony failed to acknowledge him as a legitimate artist. Astley stated in an interview that he felt the award was "daft", but noted that he thought that "MTV were thoroughly rickrolled", and went on to thank everyone who voted for him.
In 2009, Astley wrote about 4chan founder moot for Time magazine's annual Time 100 issue, where he thanked moot for the rickrolling phenomenon.
According to The Register, however, Astley has only directly received $12 in performance royalties from YouTube. Although by 2010 the song had been played 39 million times, Astley did not compose the song and receives only a performer's share of the sound recording copyright.