Compiling this year's list of the best viral videos proved a slightly more difficult task than just finding cute kittehs and epic fails. In 2011, it seemed, viral videos weren't just watched as a fun distraction from the more somber daily news — they were the news.
From uprisings in Egypt to the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," online video did about as much to inform us about what was happening outside our cubicles as anything.
For example, anyone could read any of a dozen news stories about Occupy protests popping up around the country (and around the world), but do those reports spark the same reaction as watching Lt. John Pike pepper-spray students on the campus of the University of California at Davis? Did anything symbolize the relief of LGBT servicemen and women at the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" more completely than Air Force airman Randy Phillips finally showing his face on YouTube? Most likely not.
That's not to say all of this year's newsy viral videos were quite so heavy. This was also the year that Marines started asking out movie stars on YouTube.
To honor the less-quirky-but-very-relevant viral videos of 2011, Wired.com put together a shortlist of some of the best. Check them out in the gallery above and let us know your favorites (and which ones we missed) in the comments below.
Youth revolutionaries had been creating a stir in Egypt for quite some time before Asmaa Mahfouz posted a vlog to her Facebook calling for the citizens of her country to demand their rights and protest the regime of Hosni Mubarak. But something about what she said caught fire, and now she's credited with having sparked the protests that erupted in Cairo in January of this year.
"If you have honor and dignity as a man, come and protect me, and other girls in the protest," she said in the video. "If you stay home, you deserve what's being done to you, and you will be guilty before your nation and your people. Go down to the street, send SMSes, post it on the internet, make people aware." Already a member of the April 6 Youth Movement, Mahfouz was just one person in front of a camera, but her call was heard around the world.