Funny images on the internet are almost as popular as that other thing that you always clear your cookies for and is most assuredly not safe for work. There's a very good chance that the first image you ever saw on the internet could be labeled as funny; or least tried to be funny. How is it different today from when the internet first started entering homes across the world?
The most popular funny pics today are undocumented lolcat images, which combine word captions (in this instance conveying emotion or conversation) and lovable kitties. The lolcat images are really an evolution of humor's existence on the internet. The first popular image macros (itself a reference to a user-defined "macro" inserting itself onto an image) were born within the forums of Something Awful. Around 2005 the 4chan imageboard featured a once weekly entry of "Caturdays," a predecessor to the now infamous lolcat images. From then until 2007 lolcats floated under the public's general radar until commercial efforts bought lolcats to the forefront of the web.
Another staple of today's funny pic genre are the motivational poster parodies. You may also see these described as demotivational posters or demotivators. This meme's popularity also owes it's roots to 4chan and it's / b / board. The promise is simple enough; take an image which can have obvious humorous attributes or none at all, add a keyword and then finish it off with a sentence to include the punch-line. Here's an example: A poster-like image features a picture of a wooden fence with a sign that reads "Electric Fence." The keyword written in a big bold script reads "Intelligence," and the punch-line written below is "If anyone tells you that you have some, they are lying or they hate you."
The appeal and popularity of the motivational poster parodies is the easy access for anyone to make one. Many websites feature programs that will help to automatically create the look of a motivational poster, with the user only needing to apply the image and wording.
That in essence brings us to the tried and true funny pics of the internet; the photoshops. Requiring sometimes a bit more skill and patience than lolcats and demotivators, photoshops have proven to be sky's the limit when it comes to humor. Something Awful (with it's Photoshop Phrolidays) and Fark have hosted photoshop contests and events for years. The basic promise behind these is to create a theme or idea for entrants to follow; for example "Product Placements," which would combine ordinary or well-known settings with unexpected product placements (ie: Coca-Cola armband on Hitler at a Nazi rally). Sometimes combining in-jokes, clichés or pre-existing memes the humor behind these imaginative creations may be lost on someone who is relatively new to the internet or is not aware of it's undercoming repetitive jokes. The photoshops that are able to combine those in-jokes with universal appeal are the ones that always manage to find their way into your e-mail box next to the 10 Worst Pick-Up Lines that your mom sent you.