This review is aimed at unifying our understanding of cartilage viscoelastic properties in compression, in particular the role of compression-dependent permeability in controlling interstitial fluid flow and its contribution to the observed viscoelastic effects. During the previous decade, it was shown that compression causes the permeability of cartilage to drop in a functional manner described by k = ko exp (epsilon M) where ko and M were defined as intrinsic permeability parameters and epsilon is the dilatation of the solid matrix (epsilon = tr delta u). Since permeability is inversely related to the diffusive drag coefficient of relative fluid motion with respect to the porous solid matrix, the measured load-deformation response of the tissue must therefore also depend on the non-linearly permeable nature of the tissue. We have summarized in this review our understanding of this non-linear phenomenon. This understanding of these flow-dependent viscoelastic effects are put into the historical perspective of a comprehensive literature review of earlier attempts to model the compressive viscoelastic properties of articular cartilage.