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4chan

4chan

“A website with a large and extremely active userbase is completely useless if everything they post is garbage.”
– Anonymous1)

4chan is a popular English bulletin board website that was established by Christopher Poole on October 1, 2003 and took inspiration from Futaba Channel.2)3) On September 21, 2015, it was acquired by 2channel founder Hiroyuki Nishimura4) for a combined total of $8 million.5)

Summary

“As with most boards on 4chan, popularity/posting speed has not been its friend.”
– Christopher Poole6)

The website was intended to be an English analogue of Futaba Channel,7) yet this ended up being a mix of 2channel's stupidity with images. It wasn't the western internet's first introduction to anonymity,8) but it's certainly notable enough for housing it at such a large scale with inconsistent moderators who take a relaxed approach, which has incidentally bred a hostile and contrarian community over time.

It's also taken a huge toll in quality since newcomers come for low-effort memes or trolling, then you have a group of people clearly unfit for society who think that politicizing everything and dropping random insults makes good conversation. Creativity is also pretty weak, if not dead. Some people say anonymity is 4chan's strongest point, but others say notoriety is why it barely stays relevant.

History

“its TWO TIMES THE CHAN MOTHERFUCK”
– Christopher Poole9)

In 2001, the Something Awful forums establishes the anime subforum, “ADTRW”, that would later influence the creation of the “Raspberry Heaven” Direct Connect hub. At some point, users became interested in Futaba Channel (“2chan”) until non-Japanese IPs were barred from posting. On September 29, 2003, Poole registers “4chan.net” as an email address, but this would later lead to bigger things ahead.10)11)

2003–2010

“This will be largely image and comedy based, we have no intention of partaking in intelligent discussions concerning foreign affairs. By sister-site, I mean focusing primarily on certain likable aspects of 2chan.”
– Christopher Poole12)
“Within the first month the site had attracted thousands of users, the majority being from outside of SA.
– Christopher Poole13)

4chan sets up their first imageboard on October 1, 2003 and announces it on Something Awful.14) It was met with a long-winded rant about how World2ch did it first,15) yet Poole took time to respond to this.16)17) That aside, most of 4chan's early days consists of adding new boards, fixing bugs, and all of the attempts at taking it down.18) Eventually, the “4chan.net” domain was taken down on February 11, 2004.19)

This would force 4chan to move to “4chan.org”, a move that would become permanent as GoDaddy gave “4chan.net” to domain squatters.20) At the time, 4chan also relied on PayPal donations, so it's not a surprise that it became their opponent's next target. Needless to say, the account was frozen which caused a fourth shutdown on June 20, 2004.21) During the two month absence,22)23) people took refuge at IIchan.

Once they returned, 4chan needed financial support but they hated Wikipedia's annual fundraising strategy, so they banked on a one-time donation drive in 2005. As things stabilized, 4chan held real-life panels at Anime USA 2004,24)25) Otakon 2006,26) and Otakon 2007.27)28) However, as chaos and publicity stunts create notoriety, 4chan drew in new users that clashed with the old.

The year 2006 is regarded as a turning point with the rise of Anonymous, the “/b/-day” scandal that really reminded users that 4chan had rules, and numerous false terrorist threats. As for their web development, new themes were added to end the “Times New Roman” era29) and ReCAPTCHA was implemented to fend off automated spam and worms, though its implementation later turned out to be permanent.30)

2011–2014

“But while the questions have remained the same, the 4chan of today is not the 4chan of yesterday.
– Christopher Poole31)

As the internet became more accessible, the new decade marked an interesting culture shift for 4chan. The “News” (/new/) and “Robot9000” (/r9k/) were removed on January 2011,32) but following a discussion with Encyclopedia Dramatica's founder,33) Poole reverted this on November 10, 201134) and white supremacist trolls seeped back into the rebranded “Politically Incorrect” (/pol/) board.35)

From there, the “4chan Pass” is made to be a new source of revenue,36) the catalog and inline extension is added to Yotsuba,37) they held a 10th anniversary panel at Anime Weekend Atlanta 2013,38)39)sage” would no longer be visible,40) and WebM support was added.41) The removal of “sage” is troubling since it looks like a “user friendly” move, but it also meant that “user feedback” was no longer there.

Moving on, the 4chan Blog moves to Tumblr and the Blotter makes a comeback, but “Rapidshares” (/rs/) and World4ch are sacrificed.42) In 2014, the GamerGate movement emerged, but was forced to depart to 8chan,43) then there was Anon-IB's celebrity nudes story. As for 4chan's “culture”, power would be divided among the “Politically Incorrect” (/pol/), “Sports” (/sp/), and “Shit 4chan Says” (/s4s/) boards.

2015–2022

“I think people again, as I pointed out in that sticky, have kinda chosen to kinda conflate or willingly misinterpret being an advocate for anonymity as being an advocate for free speech.
– Christopher Poole44)

On January 15, 2015, Poole had announced his intent to step down.45) Then on September 21, 2015, it was revealed that 2channel founder Hiroyuki Nishimura, whom he met at 2011 SXSW,46) would take over47) in what turned out to be an $8 million sale to Hiroyuki Nishimura, with Kadokawa Dwango and Good Smile Company.48) This was a surprise as he just had 2channel stolen49) and allegedly sold user data.50)

“Thanks. We have to get more free speech on 4chan than TV.”
– Hiroyuki Nishimura51)

Unlike his predecessor, Hiroyuki explicitly praised free speech,52)53)54) but messed with advertisements55) in this odd donation scheme.56)57)58)59) After that, Hiroyuki would largely be hands-off with 4chan, allowing an administrator named “RapeApe” take over and enforce these new politically charged ideals, largely enabling the “Politically Incorrect” (/pol/) board into becoming a stain on the website.60)

The longtime sponsor J-List would cut ties in 2017,61) forcing 4chan to utilize shady ads for revenue until all work-safe boards were moved to the “4channel.org” domain on November 17, 2018.62) As the fifth year under Hiroyuki passes, we would see additions and removals to their board lineup, as well as their brand new slider CAPTCHA on July 5, 2021 that ended free labor to Google's reCAPTCHA service.63)

2023–

Around December 16, 2023, all boards on the “4channel.org” domain were moved to “4chan.org” after five years, leaving only the work-safe variant of the front page. On April 13, 2024, an email verification system was introduced to the “Business & Finance” (/biz/) board, allegedly to curb the board's constant onslaught of pump-and-dump schemes.64)

List of April Fools pranks

  • 2004: “Mootxico” - Poole starts uploading images of a random man, claiming to be “Robert Bopkins”, and it becomes a running gag until the face reveal at Otakon 2005 on August 13, 2005.
  • 2005: “April Fur's Day” - Despite promising to never make one,65) Poole sets up a “Furry” (/fur/) board, which lasts two whole days, then banned everyone who posted in it for three months.
  • 2006: The “Random” (/b/) board was given a Tanasinn-themed layout. “Don't think. Feel and you'll be Tanasinn.” plays on loop, and random letters are corrupted into three dot mathematical symbols.
  • 2007: The “Random” (/b/) board concludes “The Great re/b/oot” saga that began on March 26, 2007, with techno music in the background while the layout remained the same.
  • 2008: Sticky, a parody of Office Assistant Clippy, appears in the bottom right corner.
  • 2009: None.
  • 2010: “4chan 2.0” - 4chan pretends to implement Facebook integration… during the “.hta” spam.
  • 2011: None.
  • 2012: The “Politically Incorrect” (/pol/) board, a politically right-wing board, gets a Communist-themed layout featuring Joseph Stalin while the State Anthem of the Soviet Union plays.
  • 2013: “Shit 4chan Says” - 4chan adds a Reddit-themed “Shit 4chan Says” board, mocking the highly contentious /r/shitredditsays subreddit, and an "AdultCatFinder" pop-up appears on /s4s/ and /b/. It ended up becoming a meaningless, yet oddly nostalgic, stream of chaos that included GETs.
  • 2014: 4chan features fake Japanese CAPTCHAs, revealing the real CAPTCHA when hovered over.
  • 2015: Sticky, a parody of Office Assistant Clippy, returns. Recycling the 2008 prank.
  • 2016: 4chan imitates Google's Material Design, poking fun at Poole's employment at Google, and every name and tripcode is overridden by a randomly generated name that doesn't stick.
  • 2017: Several board mergers occur, though purely on a temporary basis. Some hilarity ensued.
    • “Anime/Cute” (/c/) + “Animals & Nature” (/an/) → “Cute Animals” (/can/).
    • “Comics & Cartoons” (/co/) + “Food & Cooking” (/ck/) → “Comics & Cartoons & Cooking” (/cock/).
    • “Fashion” (/fa/) + “Photography” (/p/) → “Fashion & Photography” (/fap/).
    • “Fitness” (/fit/) + “Literature” (/lit/) → “Well-Rounded Citizens” (/fitlit/).
    • “Mecha” (/m/) + “Auto” (/o/) → “Mecha & Auto” (/mo/).
    • “Music” (/mu/) + “Television & Film” (/tv/) → “Video Killed The Radio Star” (/mtv/).
    • “My Little Pony” (/mlp/) + “Politically Incorrect” (/pol/) → “My Little Politics” (/mlpol/).
    • “Outdoors” (/out/) + “Cams & Meetups” (/soc/) → “Outdoor Socialization” (/outsoc/).
    • “Sports” (/sp/) + “Anime & Manga” (/a/) → “Tanoshii Sports” (/spa/).
    • “Video Games” (/v/) + “International” (/int/) → “International Vidya” (/vint/).
  • 2018: Based on the sum of your IP address' last two octets, you were assigned to one of five teams: Team Peep (0), Team Chocolate (1), Team Creme (2), Team Peanut Butter (3), and Team Mini (4).
  • 2019: 4chan temporarily implements a “Like” system, similar to Futaba Channel's “そうだね” system.
  • 2020: In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, posts were given a glow to symbolize infection.
  • 2021: “The Day of the Rake” - Canadian-themed Among Us event. 4chan implements the “rake” system which sent Canadians, including people who sent too many false reports, to a “Quebec” (/qb/) board. The flags were hidden and Canadian-themed wordfilters were temporarily added.
  • 2022: 108 emotes were added to quick reply. 58 were emojis, 108 were Discord/Twitch-like emotes. However, you had to discover them, then get points to roll or unlock and actually use them.
  • 2023: Random posts recieved a randomly generated name and a “Powered by GPT-4chan” tag.66)
  • 2024: “Yotsuba Stock Exchange” - A stock exchange parody, poking fun at Reddit going public, which offered 18 stocks whose ticker updates every 5 minutes. Users could enter the ticker into the “Options” field, if they held at least 10 shares of said stock, and get a portfolio rank (up to $5M).

Notes

  • Early users joked that 4chan could be read as “Yotsuba Channel” (よつばちゃんねる).
    • For this reason, “Yotsuba Koiwai” (小岩井よつば) from Yotsuba&! became the unofficial mascot, though she kinda evolved into a separate entity called the “404 Girl” instead.
    • Yes, they still ban people who upload pornography of her, regardless of Global Rule 3.
  • “Foone”, the former 4chan moderator who coded /rs/ and /r9k/,67)68) proposed to delete /new/ since it was an unmanageable cesspool,69) was allegedly fired for not developing a 4chan dating service dubbed “4meet”,70) and confirms that “4chan, LLC” does hire full-time employees which (despite all the “>he does it for free” jokes) do get paid for their work on the website.71)
    • As a reminder, /rs/ was made in 2007 and /r9k/ was made in 2008, so it partially conflicts with their claim that they were fired “around 2006” for not coding a dating service.72) Now, it's interesting to note that /soc/ was added on January 9, 2011, somewhat implementing this idea, and it was 8 days before it was decided that /new/ and /r9k/ would be removed on January 17, 2011.
    • On the subject of paid 4chan employees, the administrator “RapeApe” had been receiving a salary of >$3,000/mo in 2015, which has since risen to >$4,400/mo in 2022.73)
  • 4chan has consistently supported net neutrality.74)75) Its users, however, have changed.
  • From 2012 to 2013, Poole held four Q&A (PMQ) threads on the “4chan Feedback” (/q/) board. It's easy to forget these happened in the Archive era as they've been overshadowed by his 2015 Q&A.
    1. >>>/q/176519 - 2012-09-12 22:03 to 2012-09-13 02:39.
    2. >>>/q/287492 - 2012-11-18 20:07 to 2012-11-19 03:39.
    3. >>>/q/590845 - 2013-05-12 19:31 to 2013-05-13 18:04.
    4. >>>/q/762240 - 2013-09-04 23:42 to 2013-09-05 04:34. Livestream, Archive (1, 2).
  • After 4chan, Poole worked at Google from March 7, 201676) to April 22, 2021.77)78)
    • During his tenure, he was a co-founder and leader at Area 120, and he worked on Google Maps from Tokyo, Japan in January 2018.79) Did he know about the Chiba Kenma?
  • In the past, the janitor application form used to mention IRC and Skype,80) but this recently changed to Discord around late 2018.81) Also, the “do it for free” part was added in 2019.82)
    • If you do apply, be warned that the hiring process reportedly involves revealing your home address, signing an NDA contract, and being interviewed by a manager using your real-life identity.
    • The first Discord leak occurred on August 29, 2019, but the vengeful user who posted it attempted to connect then-recent U.S. shootings (i.e. Gilroy, Dayton, El Paso*) to 4chan.83)
  • Purchasing a 4chan Pass will occasionally be difficult as payment processors might not want to be associated with 4chan, leaving cryptocurrency as the only option. At the time of this writing, the option to purchase a 4chan Pass using a credit card (via Stripe) is currently active.
  • 4chan started conducting self-serve advertising campaigns with “bid.glass” from 202184) to 2022, was dropped, and currently conducts the campaigns through “danbo.org” in 2023.85)

See also

  • Culture / ~2011
    • /b/-day - The weird 2006 alternative-promoting outcry about furries and /b/ having rules.
    • No Nut November - Once a sexual abstinence week, now it's an annual month-long challenge.
    • Pedobear - A bear that marked troll posts, somehow became a pedophilia caricature.
    • SCP Foundation - The collaborative writing project on supernatural, paranormal anomalies.
  • Culture / >201186)
    • Pepe the Frog - A now-overused frog reaction image with diverging histories.
    • QAnon - The far-right conspiracy theory, though it's mostly associated with 8chan nowadays.
    • Wojak - Once an inversion of Trollface, now a highly exploited reaction image.
  • Raspberry Heaven - P2P-related IRC community often associated with early 4chan. Not important.87)
    • Not4chan (2004-2006) - A third-party website with boards that 4chan didn't want to carry.
    • World4ch (2004-2014) - The former textboard section that was roughly inspired by World2ch.
  • 4chan (p4chan) - The front page of 4chan.
    • @4chan on Twitter - You might find server stuff, but it's mostly Nishimura being confusing.
    • @hiroyuki_ni on Twitter - The current administrator. He posts often, but it's mostly Japanese.88)
    • @moot on Twitter - The founder. He doesn't post much, so you have to dig deep.
    • 4chan Blog on Tumblr - The 4chan blog and status checker hasn't been updated in years.
  • 4stats - This website gathers statistics on 4chan using its API. See also: Flag Analysis.
  • 4chan on Archive Team - They usually have the most comprehensive list of 4chan archive sites.
  • 4bans (⚠️ NSFL) - A log of banned posts on 4chan. You may find gore and graphic content, so I'd reconsider clicking unless you're a broken person or prepared to encounter said content.
1)
"Friendly boards" (October 3, 2014). Wakaba /soc/.
2) , 12)
"WELCOME" (October 1, 2003). 4chan.
3)
It's often clarified that the “4chan.net” domain was registered on September 29, 2003 as an email address, then formally opened and was announced to Something Awful and World2ch on October 1, 2003.
4) , 47)
"FULL CIRCLE" (September 21, 2015). 4chan.
5) , 48)
6) , 13) , 87)
"4chan history" (September 10, 2013). 4chan /q/.
7)
In fact, it used to be “Yotsuba Channel” (よつば☆ちゃんねる) until it was clear that nobody called it that.
8)
For example, Slashdot offers the “Anonymous Coward” alias.
9) , 11)
"4chan history" (January 19, 2011). Jonathan's Reference Pages.
10) , 18)
"4chan". Everything Shii Knows.
14)
"4chan.net - English 2chan.net!" (October 1, 2003). Something Awful.
15)
"DEATH TO SOMETHINGAWFUL." (September 25, 2003). World2ch /pc/.
16)
"Welcome" (October 1, 2003). 4chan.
17)
"WORLD2CH" (October 2, 2003). 4chan.
19)
"DOMAIN" (February 14, 2004). 4chan.
20)
"4CHAN.?" (March 28, 2004). 4chan.
21)
"DING DONG, 4CHAN IS DEAD" (June 20, 2004). 4chan.
22)
"RESURRECTION?" (August 7, 2004). 4chan.
23)
"WE'RE BACK!" (August 11, 2004). 4chan.
24)
"4CHAN ENTERS THE REAL WORLD" (October 27, 2004). 4chan.
25)
"IS THIS IT?" (September 15, 2005). 4chan.
26)
"OTAKON 2006" (July 20, 2006). 4chan.
27)
"OTAKON 2007" (July 17, 2007). 4chan.
28)
"RE: OTAKON 2007" (July 23, 2007). 4chan.
29)
"WHERE WE'RE AT" (April 18, 2008). 4chan.
30) , 34)
"BEYOND ONE BILLION" (August 6, 2012). 4chan.
31) , 40)
"FULL HOUSE" (October 18, 2013). 4chan.
33)
"ROFLCon Summit - Internet Underground" (October 1, 2011). Internet Archive.
From 40:12 to 45:27, Poole questions DeGrippo's decision to kill Encyclopedia Dramatica for Oh Internet, critiquing her “beholden to the community” comments. The discussion doesn't give much insight, but the takeaway is that Poole realized his hypocrisy in critiquing DeGrippo's decision to displace her own community when he did the same for /r9k/ and /new/.
35)
"Stormfront using 4chan as a base" (November 16, 2012). 4chan /q/.
36)
"IF ONLY IT GREW ON TREES" (September 18, 2012). 4chan.
38)
"BUT PLEASE, DON'T DRINK THE KOOL-AID" (September 3, 2013). 4chan.
39)
"4CHAN: THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY PANEL" (September 30, 2013). 4chan.
41)
"WebM support on 4chan" (April 6, 2014). 4chan on Tumblr.
42)
"Goodbye to some old friends" (April 7, 2014). 4chan on Tumblr.
43)
"Regarding recent events" (September 18, 2014). 4chan.
44)
"moot's final 4chan Q&A" [6:07:00]. YouTube.
45)
"THE NEXT CHAPTER" (January 21, 2015). 4chan.
46)
"FULL CIRCLE" (September 22, 2015). Asks.
50)
"How Hiroyuki is going to sell 4chan data." (September 23, 2015). Pastebin.
54)
"Difference Between 4chan and Reddit." (November 25, 2016). Twitter.
56)
"Donate to 4chan" (October 28, 2016). 4chan on Tumblr.
57)
"4chan bandwidth was 3PB last month." (October 28, 2016). 4chan on Tumblr.
62)
"HIRO WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING" (November 17, 2018). 4chan /qa/.
63)
"Test the new CAPTCHA here" (July 5, 2021). 4chan /qa/.
64)
"Email Verification Required" (April 13, 2024). 4chan /biz/.
65)
At the time, the “furry” subculture was heavily stigmatized over at Something Awful, so it's natural that such stigma was emulated on 4chan as well.
66)
“GPT-4chan” is a reference to the ML/AI language model trained on “Politically Incorrect” (/pol/) posts from 2016 to 2019 that was unleashed on May 16, 2020 and used proxy severs in the Seychelles. Alternatively, it's a pun on OpenAI's GPT-4, popularized by the ongoing ChatGPT and DALL-E trends.
76)
"My next chapter" [Archive] (March 7, 2016). Chris Hates Writing.
78)
"4chan founder Chris Poole leaves Google" (April 23, 2021). Ars Technica.
79)
"About" [Archive]. Chris Hates Writing.
80)
"4chan - Janitor Applications" (February 20, 2014). 4chan.
81)
"Janitor Application - 4chan" (May 21, 2018). 4chan.
82)
"Janitor Application - 4chan" (February 15, 2019). 5chan.
83)
"Here is your happening. Don’t ask how." (August 29, 2019). 4chan /pol/.
86)
Some of 4chan's culture past 2011 might have history on 4chan before 2011, but didn't gain any notoriety until after 2011. Furthermore, much of its recent culture is imported from other websites.
88)
According to his LinkedIn page (Archive), he's obviously a Japanese native speaker, but has limited proficiency in English, and only knows basic French as he now resides in Île-de-France.
4chan.txt · Last modified: 2024-05-18 23:19:52 by namelessrumia