THE INTERNET, which turns 25 this week, has given rise to celebrities whose fame and achievements may have otherwise gone unknown in a previous age.
Here is a look at some individuals who have been made famous with the help of the world wide web.
The former National Security Agency contractor turned whistleblower shook the world with his leaking of secret documents in July 2013. Snowden worked with journalist Glenn Greenwald to reveal the extent of mass surveillance programs such as the NSA-run Prism and the GCHQ-operated Tempora. The leaks were published around the world and have prompted a debate about the role and oversight of security and intelligence services in the United States, Britain and Australia. Snowden was named Person of the Year by US Time magazine in 2013.
The Canadian popstar’s talents were first discovered on YouTube, where he amassed a following of millions after his mother began posting videos of him singing cover versions of R B songs. Bieber’s YouTube renditions brought him to the attention of Justin Timberlake and Usher, who entered a bidding war to the sign the 13-year-old to their record labels. Justin eventually signed to Usher’s Raymond Braun Media Group and first full-length studio album, My World 2.0, made Bieber the youngest solo male artist to top the US Billboard 200 since Stevie Wonder.
The controversial Australian established the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks in 2006, but only came to international prominence when the site published thousands of US military and diplomatic cables in partnership with a number of media organisations in 2010. The leaks, which included battlefield video clips and classified reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, came from US Army Intelligence Private Bradley Manning. In April last year, WikiLeaks published more than 1.7 million US records covering diplomatic or intelligence reports on every country in the world. Much of the work was carried out by Assange from the confines of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been living since June 2012 to avoid deportation to Sweden.
The Sheffield-born rockstars were the first artists to “go viral” before the term itself was known. The indie rockers built up a virtual fanbase by gigging locally and then giving away their songs on Myspace.com. The band reached widespread attention with their video of I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor in 2005 and later went on to have the fastest-selling debut album in British music history.
England’s Renaissance man was best known in Britain as one half of the comedy duo Fry and Lawrie and for his appearances on Blackadder in the 1990s. But the technology enthusiast was one of the earlier adopters of the social networking site Twitter and now has a global following of more than 6.5 million users. Fry regularly uses his Twitter account and his corresponding website to promote causes such as gay rights and mental health awareness.
The creator of the Gangnam Style dance craze had the first video to reach a billion views on YouTube in 2012. The K-Pop artist’s signature moves have bought him international fame, with the Gangnam style even having been attempted by Prime Minister David Cameron and London mayor Boris Johnson, according to the latter. Psy has had an audience with President Obama and has even been hailed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as a “force for world peace”.
Commander Chris Hadfield:
The former commander of the International Space Station went viral after he recorded a video of a version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. The retired Canadian astronaut used social media to record his final space mission with the ISS in May 2013, uploading videos and pictures of his daily life to his one million followers. His version of Space Oddity, which was recorded on board the space station, has been seen 22 million times on YouTube.
The Kardashian-Jenner family:
Reality television stars the Kardashians have been labelled the “most famous family in TV” by Forbes magazine, and much of the American clan’s ubiquity derives from their presence on social media. The moves and fashion choices of sisters Kourtney, Kim and Khloe, as well as their mother Kris are documented daily on their Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook accounts, while their younger half-sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner have also become stars as fashion designers and models. Middle sister Kim, who is engaged to rapper Kanye West, has 20 million Twitter followers.