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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 which began as a cartoon caption 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 listening to the first.[3] As of 2011, the panel was the most reproduced cartoon from The New Yorker, and Steiner has earned over US$50,000 from its reprinting.[1][4][5]


Peter Steiner, a cartoonist and contributor to The New Yorker since 1979,[5] said the cartoon initially did not get a lot of attention. Later it took on a life of its own, and that 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".[6]

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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9] The phrase also suggests the ability to "computer cross-dress" and represent oneself as a different gender, age, race, etc.[10] 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".[10][11]

According to Bob Mankoff, 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."[12]

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]
  • 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?"[14]

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 January 20, 2008. 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. Retrieved October 2, 2007. 
  3. ^ EURSOC Two (2007). "New Privacy Concerns". EURSOC. Archived from the original on January 26, 2009. Retrieved January 26, 2009. 
  4. ^ Fleishman, Glenn (October 29, 1998). "New Yorker Cartoons to Go on Line". The New York Times. Retrieved October 2, 2007. 
  5. ^ a b "Brown's Guide to Georgia". January 2011. 
  6. ^ Elmer-DeWitt, Philip; Jackson, David S. & King, Wendy (December 6, 1993). "First Nation in Cyberspace". Time. Retrieved March 21, 2009. 
  7. ^ Lessig, Lawrence (2006). Code: Version 2.0. New York: Basic Books. p. 35. ISBN 0-465-03914-6. 
  8. ^ Taylor, Maxwell; Quayle, Ethel (2003). Child Pornography: An Internet Crime. New York: Psychology Press. p. 97. ISBN 1-58391-244-4. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ a b Trend, David (2001). Reading Digital Culture. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 226–7. ISBN 0-631-22302-9. 
  11. ^ Singel, Ryan (September 6, 2007). "Fraudster Who Impersonated a Lawyer to Steal Domain Names Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud". Wired. Retrieved October 2, 2007. 
  12. ^ 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. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  13. ^ Ticktin, Neil (February 1996). "Save Cyberdog!". MacTech. 12 (2). Retrieved September 3, 2011. 
  14. ^ Vidani, Peter (February 23, 2015). "The New Yorker - A cartoon by Kaamran Hafeez, from this week's...". The New Yorker. Retrieved July 29, 2016. 

Further reading

  • Jones, Christopher R. (2004). "Nobody knows you're a dog". In Land, Ray & Bayne, Siân. Education in Cyberspace. New York: Routledge. 105 pages. ISBN 0-415-32882-9. 
  • Nielsen, Jakob (1995). Multimedia and Hypertext: The Internet and Beyond. San Diego: AP Professional. 172 pages. ISBN 978-0-12-518408-3. 
  • Nakamura, Lisa (2002). Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. New York: Routledge. 35 pages. ISBN 0-415-93837-6. 
  • Schneider, Edgar (2003). Living the Good Life With Autism. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 44 pages. ISBN 1-84310-712-0. 
  • Turkle, Sherry (1997). Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon & Schuster. 352 pages. ISBN 0-68483-348-4. 

External links

  • Peter Steiner's site
  • Myth/Reality
  • The Cartoon Bank online
  • Nobody Knows I'm a Dog production
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