Long before Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, back when AltaVista provided the search results and Netscape Navigator was the must-have browser, people would send each other jokes by email, or “viral emails” as they became known.
Someone working for a large company might receive a viral email from a colleague which he would then forward to his family and friends. And they'd send it to all their contacts, and so on, and so on. By the time the message arrived in your inbox, it would be encrusted with a dozen > symbols in the left margin and buried under a tangled spaghetti of header lines containing the email addresses of literally hundreds of people you'd never heard of.
Which added to the experience somehow. You felt you were “in on the joke” with all those other people from around the world.
The quality varied enormously, but some of them were genuinely funny and have stood the test of time. I've put together a selection of links to what I think are some of the best viral emails ever. If you've read some of them before, it's because they're classics! Wherever possible, I've linked to the original source.