Information technology (IT) has become fertile ground for buzzwords, particularly as new terms are needed to describe various aspects of computing. Perhaps due to the sheer speed of this trend, there are often linguistic inconsistencies within this one sector.
Almost everyone is aware, for example, of the dangers posed by computer viruses, whereby hidden programming code can corrupt systems or erase important data. Yet, just as computer users take preventive measures against viruses, many of them also revel today in so-called viral content.
For as an adjective, ‘viral’ has come to describe not the traits of computer viruses that are unknowingly spread from system to system, but instead any content that catches on within social networks and is quite happily shared among computer users.
The aim of viral marketing, for example, is to increase awareness of a corporate brand by providing content that captures the attention of users who will then choose to let other users know about it.
Viral videos can originate with no predetermined plan at all to perpetuate them, yet quickly become popular as they are shared via the Internet. Users wanting to be entertained will actively seek out these clips.
Indeed, such content is not treated like computer viruses at all. It may be time for the users to remember than when something is truly ‘viral,’ it’s a threat, not a treat.