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Published December 30th 2015

React: What Broke The Internet in 2015?

Brandwatch analyzes events that "broke the internet" in 2015 using data from thousands of tweets

From ‘The Dress’ back in February to Adele’s release of ‘Hello’ in October, the internet has been “broken” so many times this year it’s a miracle that it still works.

While “broke the internet” may be the most overused phrase of 2015, it serves as a useful metaphor for analyzing what’s going viral.

We tracked what Twitter users claimed “broke the internet” in 2015 to find out what did the most damage.

#TheDress confused everyone in February

While Justin Bieber’s Calvin Klein ad and the release of FourFiveSeconds accumulated hundreds of internet breakage mentions in January, nothing could have prepared us for what was to come.

In February confusion over the real color of a fairly unexciting piece of clothing divided the internet and set Twitter alight.

The infamous dress accumulated 2,650 “broke the internet” mentions in February alone, creating an enormous spike on 27th February and then another in March when American Idol contestant Jax wore the garment during a performance on the show.

The Dress February

In fact, February was the second highest ranking month for ‘broke the internet’ mentions with 7,022 mentions.

March saw a word with no meaning break the internet in China

The internet can be a weird and wonderful place and that was proved in March when the internet went mad for a word that had no official meaning.

‘Duang’, a word associated with a shampoo commercial starring Jackie Chan, appeared more than 8 million times on China’s micro-blogging site Weibo and got a whole bunch of “broke the internet” mentions on Twitter.

No one can really explain why the word went viral but, as with most viral crazes, the internet is an unpredictable beast.

A new Star Wars trailer drove social crazy in April

Star Wars fans went nuts in April when a teaser trailer was released for the film that came out this December.

Broke the internet 2015 star wars

The film succeeded in maintaining buzz throughout the year on Twitter. When the film was finally released we found that associated hashtags were pulling in billions of impressions, sending Twitter into meltdown.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi caused a Twitter stir in May

While tweets about Mayweather vs. Pacquiao and Met Gala 2015 were popular “broke the internet” candidates in May, Modi’s trip to China unintentionally went viral when pictures of the Prime Minister’s visit to the famous Terracotta Warriors museum were hilariously captioned by internet users.

#ModiInChina aside, May was the time when the internet was healthiest according to “broke the internet” mentions, registering only 1,783.

Then came June…

The internet was turned into a quivering wreck in June with a series of blows from various sources.

Vanity Fair’s ‘Call Me Caitlyn’ cover sent the internet into overdrive with public interest in Jenner’s life and transition at an all time high. “Broke the Internet” tweets spiked the day the magazine was released, marking quite a moment for internet breakage this year.


Meanwhile in June, E3 2015 and the Game of Thrones season 5 finale sent the “broke the internet” alarms ringing, making up for July’s comparatively dull social buzz.

Broke the internet june pie

Drama at the VMAs fires up the internet

August’s VMAs were full of drama, fun and Miley Cyrus. It was a recipe for internet breakage if ever we saw one.

Arguments on social broke out. We know the VMAs have broken the internet but who is responsible? Miley Cyrus’s outfit? Nicki Minaj’s spiteful words? Kanye’s plans to run for President in 2020?

Either way, we know the VMAs dealt quite a blow to the internet in 2015.

Hello October

Following a slow month in September, October saw one major internet-breaking moment.

Adele’s release of ‘Hello’ after years of relative silence from the British artist sent social wild. “Broke the internet” mentions associated with the song have since neared 1,000 mentions and Adele even told an interviewer that she “Did a Kim”.
Adele’s internet breaking continued into November, towering over popular topics like Kobe Bryant’s retirement announcement and Black Friday.

Adele Broke the internet

Steve Harvey’s goof-up breaks December’s internet

December is a time for reflection, which is one explanation as to why it’s the most popular month for “Broke the internet” mentions as tweeters look back on an eventful year on social.

Of course, as things wound down for Christmas and we all got nostalgic, nothing could stop two big moments breaking the internet as the year came to a close. The birth of Saint West on the 5th of December prompted huge public interest while Steve Harvey’s hosting skills at Miss Universe 2015 went viral for all the wrong reasons.

Kim sets the benchmark

It’s undoubtable that Kim Kardashian was queen of breaking the internet in 2014 and she has certainly set the benchmark.
With Adele describing her internet tidalwave as “doing a Kim”, she also appears in an incredible number of comparison tweets (e.g. “Kim may have broken the internet last year but _____ just did it for 2015”).

kimk sets bar

But, even while her 2015 shenanigans were also dubbed as “internet breaking” by many a tweeter, there are definitely some new kids on the block.

What broke the internet in 2015?

With candidates ranging from Star Wars to Prime Ministers the competition is tough but the winner is undeniable.
With the most incredible peak in “broke the internet” mentions and its maintained currency in “broke the internet” conversation, the winner can only be The Dress.

Broke the internet mentions by day dress

Have you decided what color it is yet?


Follow @bw_react for more hot data stories.

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