On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog

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Peter Steiner's cartoon, as published in The New Yorker

"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog" is an adage and meme about Internet anonymity which began as a cartoon caption written by Peter Steiner and published by The New Yorker on July 5, 1993.[1][2] The cartoon features two dogs: one sitting on a chair in front of a computer, speaking the caption to a second dog sitting on the floor.[3] As of 2013, the panel was the most reproduced cartoon from The New Yorker, and Steiner had earned between $200,000 and $250,000 US from its reprinting.[1][4][5][6]


Peter Steiner, a cartoonist and contributor to The New Yorker since 1979,[6] said the cartoon initially did not get a lot of attention, but that it later took on a life of its own, and he felt similar to the person who created the "smiley face".[1] In fact, Steiner was not that interested in the Internet when he drew the cartoon, and although he did have an online account, he recalled attaching no "profound" meaning to the cartoon; it was just something he drew in the manner of a "make-up-a-caption" cartoon.[1]

In response to the comic's popularity, he stated, "I can't quite fathom that it's that widely known and recognized."[1]


The cartoon marks a notable moment in the history of the Internet. Once the exclusive domain of government engineers and academics, the Internet had by then become a subject of discussion in general interest magazines like The New Yorker. Lotus Software founder and early Internet activist Mitch Kapor commented in a Time magazine article in 1993 that "the true sign that popular interest has reached critical mass came this summer when the New Yorker printed a cartoon showing two computer-savvy canines".[7]

The cartoon symbolizes an understanding of Internet privacy that stresses the ability of users to send and receive messages in general anonymity. Lawrence Lessig suggests "no one knows" because Internet protocols do not force users to identify themselves; although local access points such as a user's university may, this information is privately held by the local access point and is not an intrinsic part of the Internet transaction.[8]

It also shows how Internet communication is liberated from familiar constraints. Sociologist Sherry Turkle elaborates: "You can be whoever you want to be. You can completely redefine yourself if you want. You don't have to worry about the slots other people put you in as much. They don't look at your body and make assumptions. They don't hear your accent and make assumptions. All they see are your words."[9]

A study by Morahan-Martin and Schumacher (2000) on compulsive or problematic Internet use discusses this phenomenon, suggesting the ability to self-represent from behind the computer screen may be part of the compulsion to go online.[10] The phrase can be taken "to mean that cyberspace will be liberatory because gender, race, age, looks, or even 'dogness' are potentially absent or alternatively fabricated or exaggerated with unchecked creative license for a multitude of purposes both legal and illegal", an understanding that echoed statements made in 1996 by John Gilmore, a key figure in the history of Usenet.[11] The phrase also suggests the ability to "computer cross-dress" and represent oneself as a different gender, age, race, etc.[12] On another level, "the freedom which the dog chooses to avail itself of, is the freedom to 'pass' as part of a privileged group; i.e., human computer users with access to the Internet".[12][13]

According to Bob Mankoff, then The New Yorker's cartoon editor, "The cartoon resonated with our wariness about the facile façade that could be thrown up by anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of html."[14]

In popular culture

  • The cartoon has inspired the play Nobody Knows I'm a Dog by Alan David Perkins. The play revolves around six different individuals unable to communicate effectively with people in their lives who find the courage to socialize on the Internet, protected by their anonymity.[1]
  • The Apple Internet suite Cyberdog was named after this cartoon.[15]
  • The book Authentication: From Passwords to Public Keys[16] by Richard E. Smith displays Steiner's cartoon on the front cover, with the cartoon's dog replicated on the back cover.
  • A cartoon by Kaamran Hafeez published in The New Yorker on February 23, 2015, features a similar pair of dogs watching their owner sitting at a computer, with one asking the other, "Remember when, on the Internet, nobody knew who you were?"[17]
  • It has become a frequently used joke in discussions about the Internet[18] and has become an Internet meme iconic to Internet culture.[19]
  • The cartoon is referred to by the character Nick Weinstein in the science fiction novel Redshirts by John Scalzi.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Fleishman, Glenn (December 14, 2000). "Cartoon Captures Spirit of the Internet". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 29, 2017. Retrieved October 1, 2007.
  2. ^ Aikat, Debashis "Deb" (1993). "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Archived from the original on October 29, 2005. Retrieved February 8, 2019. dead link
  3. ^ EURSOC Two (2007). "New Privacy Concerns". EURSOC. Archived from the original on January 26, 2009. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
  4. ^ "Everybody Knows You're a Dog / Boing Boing". Archived from the original on 2019-03-28. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  5. ^ Fleishman, Glenn (October 29, 1998). "New Yorker Cartoons to Go on Line". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 22, 2008. Retrieved October 2, 2007.
  6. ^ a b "Brown's Guide to Georgia". January 2011. Archived from the original on 2014-03-12.
  7. ^ Elmer-DeWitt, Philip; Jackson, David S. & King, Wendy (December 6, 1993). "First Nation in Cyberspace". Time. Archived from the original on February 5, 2009. Retrieved March 21, 2009.
  8. ^ Lessig, Lawrence (2006). Code: Version 2.0. New York: Basic Books. p. 35. ISBN 0-465-03914-6.
  9. ^ Hanna, B.; Nooy, Juliana De (2009). Learning Language and Culture Via Public Internet Discussion Forums. Springer. ISBN 9780230235823. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  10. ^ Taylor, Maxwell; Quayle, Ethel (2003). Child Pornography: An Internet Crime. New York: Psychology Press. p. 97. ISBN 1-58391-244-4.
  11. ^ Jordan, Tim (1999). "The Virtual Individual". Cyberpower: The Culture and Politics of Cyberspace and the Internet. New York: Routledge. p. 66. ISBN 0-415-17078-8.
  12. ^ a b Trend, David (2001). Reading Digital Culture. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 226–7. ISBN 0-631-22302-9.
  13. ^ Singel, Ryan (September 6, 2007). "Fraudster Who Impersonated a Lawyer to Steal Domain Names Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud". Wired. Archived from the original on October 21, 2008. Retrieved October 2, 2007.
  14. ^ Cavna, Michael (July 31, 2013). "'NOBODY KNOWS YOU'RE A DOG': As iconic Internet cartoon turns 20, creator Peter Steiner knows the joke rings as relevant as ever". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 30 August 2016. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  15. ^ Ticktin, Neil (February 1996). "Save Cyberdog!". MacTech. 12 (2). Archived from the original on April 19, 2012. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
  16. ^ Smith, Richard E. (2002). Authentication: from passwords to public keys. Boston: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-61599-1..
  17. ^ Vidani, Peter (February 23, 2015). "The New Yorker - A cartoon by Kaamran Hafeez, from this week's..." The New Yorker. Archived from the original on September 20, 2016. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  18. ^ Friedman, Lester D. (2004). Cultural Sutures: Medicine and Media. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press. ISBN 0822332949. Archived from the original on 29 June 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  19. ^ Castro-Leon, Enrique; Harmon, Robert (2016). Cloud as a Service: Understanding the Service Innovation Ecosystem. Apress. ISBN 9781484201039. Retrieved 4 June 2017.

Further reading

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