The dress that broke the Internet

The dress that broke the Internet
The dress that broke the Internet

A badly lit photograph of a $77 off-the-rack dress broke the Internet Friday, spawning arguments, memes and half-baked pseudo-scientific explanations over the viral frock's real colors.

By some reckonings, Buzzfeed invented "viral," but its deputy news director, Jon Passatino, appeared truly surprised by just how many clicks the dress generated. He tweeted that it broke the site's traffic records, with more than 670,000 people viewing the post simultaneously at one point and garnering 16 million hits in six hours.

Neetzan Zimmerman, formerly an editor at another viral content machine, Gawker, and widely considered an expert in virality, tweeted that the dress is a "viral singularity."

It appears to have started with a Tumblr post of the photo, headlined "what colors are this dress," and spread from there as those who saw white-and-gold engaged in pitched battles with the blue-and-black camp.

Even Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, got caught up in the excitement, letting his followers know that he's in the white-and-gold camp.

If a Mashable post is to be believed, in real life, the dress is a 50-quid offering from British retailer Roman Originals, and it's most decidedly blue and black.

Thoughts on #TheDress as expressed by Regina George.

—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1