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Biography of Christopher “moot” Poole: The Hacker Known as “4chan” (256kilobytes.com)
205 points by its_y0ur_boy 76 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 200 comments



It’s very interesting that the founder of 4chan ended up being super liberal leaning.

I remember when I first visited 4chan sometime in 2006. It was totally unlike anything I had seen before. I remember feeling as though I had found an entirely new universe to explore and exist in. Back then, when you refreshed b, no matter how frequently, there was essentially no recycling of threads. The volume back then was so high that browsing b was like swimming in a vibrant ocean of the future — a relentless torrent of human thought and memes. Back then, memes were exclusive to 4chan. Nobody knew what a meme was and you could only find them on 4chan. I remember when memes starting appearing on clothing and mainstream places it felt very weird. B is now a shell of what it used to be. In life, every once in a while you get to experience something like early b. I hope I get to do it one more time before I die.


>It’s very interesting that the founder of 4chan ended up being super liberal leaning.

I dunno, a lot of 4chan’s image as right leaning is just a product of the time. The left has the cultural prominence to be uptight hall monitors of society, so the anything goes platform will attract and outwardly appear right.

When I was much younger the left were the cool rebels to the right’s status quo. If the timeline was slightly different 4chan could have just as easily been a lefty hangout with a conservative founder.


> Back then, memes were exclusive to 4chan.

naaaah

fark and somethingawful had them in, idk, 2002 or so.


I mean, even ytmnd predates 4chan. Maybe things like that were tame in terms of content, but the memes were still there. Memes been around since the web busted out of cern.

A person of a certain age might think 4chan is the beginning sure, but SA was basically where 4chan came from. At least how I remember. Again, less extreme maybe.

Not that my memories of those days is that great, I guess.


Not the same at all.


No, exactly the same. Somethingawful goons were a very large portion of the early population of 4chan.


I’ve seen very similar viral images on Starcraft forums in the late 90s.


Back in my day, we called them image macros.


I find it fascinating how the word meme came to be so specific and yet so vague. Now you have 'memes' as in image macros, 'memes' as in 'funny images,' sometimes 'memes' as in snowclones, 'memeing' as essentially a synonym of 'shitposting,' and occasionally, 'memes' in the traditional sense (pretty much a general term for things that spread virally.)

On 4chan, it started with image macros, reaction images/gifs, demotivational posters, etc. and at some point, all of those just became what 'meme' has come to mean, and if you say the word meme without context people just assume image macros, a la meme generators.

I suppose there's nothing wrong with this, since all of those things do indeed tend to be memetic, but it made so much more sense early on than it does now.


> 'memes' in the traditional sense (pretty much a general term for things that spread virally.)

The original meaning:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme

The word meme was “coined by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976)[11][16] as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book included melodies, catchphrases, fashion, and the technology of building arches.[17]”


Actually, the word "meme" was used in a small fraction of academia before Dawkins popularised it, in a meaning similar, but not quite the same, as Dawkins' meme. I'm positive I've read a paper from some Dutch university about that. [Citation needed]


I couldn't help but dig a bit, and I managed turn up a couple of papers [1] [2] that suggests that the pre-Dawkins meme was variously called "mneme" (which spelling is closer to the Greek root of the word), and completely different things. The Dutch connection seems to be the Leiden school of linguistics [3].

[1] https://semioticon.com/virtuals/imitation/van_driem_paper.pd...

[2] https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/42774/b...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Leiden_school

Edit: Formatting and typo


I think it's a little bit of a generational thing.

I was aging out of SA before 4chan even really got going (not maturing out, since I'm not that mature; just being done with college, moving on to professional school; not spending as much time on forums/etc). I never spent any real time looking at 4chan.

I of course know what image memes are, but if you just said meme to me with no context then I still think of it as the Dawkins 'Selfish Gene' idea.


There was a miniature Eternal September moment in 2010-2011 when image macros hit mainstream sites like Facebook. Months of "haha look at this funny meme! It's called a 'bad luck Brian'!" used out of context.

It pushed thr chans/SA deeper and darker. Honestly I'm surprised it isn't more recognized as an inflection point.


I'd put the first couple of weeks of pokemon go in that category.


I would disagree. 4chan was the nucleation point from which our modern lives sprung. It was the start of a very fundamental shift in the way people live. 4chan was the place where regular people and high bandwidth internet became married, and where the consequences of that union first materialized. I remember people would find online obituaries and organize raids on the family of the deceased, in one instance tormenting the parents of a deceased child with prank phone calls. People would live stream their suicides and other people would watch them and actually egg them on in the chat. The consequences of total anonyminity was a completely new concept back then, completely new territory. It’s something we have become accustomed to now. Meme culture was totally new, seemingly silly but underpinned by a fundamental arbitrage in communication that proved to be very important. You were not only experiencing these new things, but experiencing them as a part of a relatively small and exclusive group of people. 4chan was a microcosm of the future, and that is what made 4chan so amazingly potent. Pokémon go doesn’t even hold a candle to that in my view.


Something Awful did all of that before 4chan did (well, sans the suicide livestream). 4chan was to SA what Reddit and Imgur are to 4chan.


Not quite; reddit and Imgur are normie-4chan. 4chan was definitely not normie-SA, it attracted the sleaziest of SA from the start; it was more an anonymous refugee camp.


It's not really about normie or not, but amplification (through number of users) and ease of access. Not just as a reader, but also as a contributor.

SA had a paywall. It had an elitist community that was unwelcoming towards new users, with strict etiquettes shaped by moderators and users alike, and users that were predisposed to forming cliques, along with strictly enforced rules that made it easy to get banned and forced to pay money. One ban was enough for most people to not return, even if they were able to pay. All of these combined to form a significant barrier for new users.

4chan dealt with all of these issues. It was free. It was anonymous, so no one could tell if you were a new user or not, and cliques weren't an issue. There was almost no moderation outside of illegal stuff. The SA community was also very anti-anime, which meant you weren't welcome to be a weeb anywhere other than the dedicated subforum (ADTRW).

So then 4chan gets huge. It's overwhelming for the average person. There's just too much content to sift through. Some of that content is too shocking for the average person. Posting/contributing can be harder for some people who don't want to risk being insulted when they think they are following the informal rules.

Early-mid Reddit ends up being a sort of middle-ground between SA and 4chan. It's free. It's somewhat moderated. It's curated by users through the upvote/downvote system. You need to register an account to post, but you can make new accounts whenever you want (old Reddit didn't require an e-mail), so you can basically be anonymous if you want to. You can further curate and filter content with subreddits. The shocking content is still there for those who want it.

Then Imgur ends up becoming Reddit for people who primarily use mobile devices and don't like Reddit's UI. But the communities exist alongside each other.

A bunch of old SA posters go to Twitter, because it turns out the average Western internet user finds SA posting and humor funny, and the biggest motivation for FYAD shitposting was always attention and building up your "brand". They inadvertently start what becomes known as "weird twitter". SA-style shitposting has now become the standard posting style for people who "get" Twitter.

Between Reddit, Twitter, and Imgur, there's now enough ease of access for your average internet-savvy person to be exposed to a unified Western internet culture, with the flow being 4chan -> Reddit/Imgur -> Twitter, and then Twitter leading to exposure through media like TV, online "journalism", etc..


Yea I agree. I included “high bandwidth” very deliberately. Could you give an account of what went on at SA?


Came in here to give a shoutout to SA and the goon squad. Also Offtopic housed a lot of creativity in the early days.

After all, that’s how I co-created the 2g1c website.


Shout out to Offtopic. Plenty of original memes came out of that community.


Your comment hit me like a brick to face. Nostalgia panic. Your writing style is great, btw.


> I remember people would find online obituaries and organize raids on the family of the deceased, in one instance tormenting the parents of a deceased child with prank phone calls. People would live stream their suicides and other people would watch them and actually egg them on in the chat

It must have been extraordinary to watch sociopathy being mainstreamed in real time. And surprising that the hammer has not yet been brought down on its origin.


I would classify Pokemon Go as a fad that was just big enough to get the media’s attention, something more like fidget spinners or Furbies. 4chan was a long-running part of the internet that would never have been mentioned on the evening news. It was somewhere between being taboo and under quarantine.


More like the strange uncle nobody dared to talk about...

And Pokemon Go seems to be still going strong, unlike spinners or furbies.


Oh god. The second weekend after it launched I had to go to the local mall. That was the most infuriating walking experience of my life. Nobody was looking where they were going and would stop randomly.

Looking back, it was pretty cool how that went down - but entirely pissed me off at the time.


You mean when that massive corporation slapped that massive international brand skin on that already extremely successful mobile game that they then furiously spent tens of millions marketing and press releasing months before release and months after?

That's more in the line of waiting in line for days for Return of the Jedi to come out than the early days of 4chan.


It's pretty obvious he's liberal, if you understand the word in its original meaning and not the current mainstream distortion (== leftist)


> Notably, it was never publicly revealed what sort of position he was offered at Google. Given Poole's natural inclination toward privacy, and in wake of the negative attention that 4chan brought to him in more recent years, it's likely that he's living contentedly as a Google employee and will be out of the public eye for good.

Chris Poole's LinkedIn says he's a PM in Google Maps: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopher-poole/


This is also my biggest curiosity related to Poole.

I've read on /g/ that he's been working on Google Plus. In the thread I read that, people were joking that he is going to get fired now that the project is sun-setting, but there was no real evidence to back that up.


If you check the profile page someone else screenshotted below, it says he started as a "founding partner and co-lead of Area 120", which is a an internal startup incubator.

Whatever he worked on while there is anyone's guess, could have been a dozen things, but mostly I'd guess he was probably working on getting the general program off the ground and self sufficient.

Then he worked on Hangouts Chat (replacement for Hangouts) for a REALLY short time (7mo it says) before moving to Geo. I wouldn't read too much into the brevity of his time in chat because the move to the Maps team also moved him to Tokyo. If you really want to live somewhere in particular it's not uncommon to decide what office you want to work in and find a team there to move to. My understanding is is that Poole really likes Japan, so this doesn't seem crazy.

Altogether his career progress looks... normal. Perhaps a bit of trouble finding a niche, but that happens. Just another guy trying to figure out where he fits in, what he wants to do. So, no real story here; nothing of particular note.


> My understanding is is that Poole really likes Japan

I think that is true. I heard he started some kind of message board like a decade and a half ago. Some kind of place for people interested in anime to talk with one another. :^)


Some people got the idea that Google hired him to make an "internal employee's only imageboard" but as far as I can tell there was never any truth to that, or at least any evidence of it. Because Google+ is/was an internal social media of sorts, that apocryphal story of an "internal 4chan" morphed into "moot runs G+".


When I worked at Yandex (aka Russian Google) there were two internal social networks. The official one, where work-related content was posted, and a secret anonymous imageboard known as "yachan". It was used to anonymously complain about various things or people at Yandex, but there were also some sexist, racist and other -ist posts as well. I wouldn't be surprised if Google has a secret chan-style imageboard too, hopefully it's less toxic though.


Why would anyone trust the anonymity of a site on an internal corporate network?

I just assume every keystroke I make and everything I do is being logged and reviewed by someone while at work. I don't even log into any of my accounts at work because I don't want my employer stealing my passwords and covertly monitoring my email and social media communication. To say nothing of actual camera surveillance.


Putting a lot of faith on the organization's leadership: it would befit them to treat it as anonymous, even if they have the capability of identifying posters. It would be an incredibly valuable window to honest feedback, although harder to pin down.

It's similar to how every employee understands that their manager has the capability of getting their corporate chat logs. It's one thing to have the capability and another to act on it. If a manager acts on it, it will almost always destroy any trust between the manager and his/her team. Within the organization, they will almost certainly be branded "that psychopath manager that reads chat logs" unless there was an exceptionally good reason to justify it (e.g. a legal reason).


Good find. Forwarded your note to the article's author.


says profile not found



Shows up fine for me. You might not be close enough to his network or not logged in.


Interesting. I didn't know that. This seems similar to the shadow banning that HN does.


It's just degrees of separation. Looks like you're 4th degrees or farther away from him.


[flagged]


I can't find anything specifically about sharing job role, but in general it's against company policy to share employee data. So I don't think anyone can answer you.


Any Google employees willing to divulge non-public information about someone without their consent? :)


They are working for google....


well since you asked nicely... (jk, just feels wrong to share personal info)


There are features of 4chan that I don't often see discussed that I think contribute to the communities ease of conversation.

Firstly that all conversations are flat and always chronological. This might not sound very interesting but it reduces the cognitive load of moving through a thread, everyting is very predictable.

Second is that any post, from any thread, on any board, can be referenced by any other post. The ease at which narrative can be strung together by reference is probably one of 4chan (and other image boards) best features. The fact that you can just hover over a link like >>45646435645 and it shows you what the post said negates the need for nested conversations and produces a narrative of conversation that is both simpler than nested forums because of the 0 nesting, but also more complex because of the expressiveness of referencing anything.

I'm not sure if the second feature requires the first to work as a mental model, or it would get very messy.


The inline nature is great. Unlike me having to reply to you directly here, on 4chan I could address both your post and others which touch on the same topic in one shot.

And since my post would have direct citations of the posts I'm referring to, you could then better structure your comment.

The hover over feature killed the duckroll though.


The duckroll?


The precursor to Rick-Rolling: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/duckroll


> you can just hover over a link like >>45646435645 and it shows you what the post said

This is a very recent, far post-decline feature, though. Not that it wasn't an improvement for imageboards to start implementing it, but it didn't have any role in their rise or peak.


May 2012 is when it was added. So last Thursday.


I think 4chan extensions were doing that for a while though.


another early one was the lack of censorship and freedom of speech. no place like that exists at the moment. i always associated the freedom of speech and hacker culture together, but sadly that no longer seems true (ex even here on hn it is not too hard to get a ban)


I find it sad that a project with as much cultural influence as 4chan didn't make the owners sufficient money. It's sad, because the whole idea behind 4chan is that people can be unfiltered and say what they want to say. But sadly, this means that the site can't make much money, because advertisers aren't willing to risk advertising on the site.


I don't really understand the romanticization of 4chan - it seems mostly like people yelling at each other, trying to be offensive/shocking, and memes. It's like if reddit was entirely its lowest quality content.

If anything it seems to support the idea that anonymous environments bring out the worst kind of discourse. I get the draw of a place where people can be unfiltered without having to worry about their reputation, but in practice it doesn't seem to create a great environment for any interesting discussion.


People are so enamoured by 4chan precisely because it isn't like reddit. Reddit, Facebook or any social media platform that rewards users with up votes, karma, reputation, likes or whatever creates a system in which people want to please others and develop reputations they have to uphold. 4chan is free from those chains and people are able to freely throw ideas into the mix. This is why 4chan has been so instrumental in coming up thousands of memes that define internet culture today. Reddit, Facebook and others are usually consumers of those memes rather than generators.

I know this is a massive generalization, but that's been my impression being on digg, reddit, Twitter and 4chan for 10 years now.

The problem is that a lot of the original 4chan users either moved on or just grew up and at the same time 4chan got over taken by alt-light type folks. I still think the basic idea of 4chan has a lot to offer that maybe could be replicated on an other platform, with a fresh set of people.


>The problem is that a lot of the original 4chan users either moved on or just grew up and at the same time 4chan got over taken by alt-light type folks.

This is relatable. I was a pretty notable figure on /mu/ for a few years, and my tripfriends WERE my social circle when high school couldn't do that for me. Then I went to college and realized how much toxicity it had instilled in me, and moved on.

It's interesting to reflect on that bit of my teenage years!


>I was a pretty notable figure on /mu/

Only Biotroll and CLT get to claim this status :P


At one point, 4chan was the source of a lot of internet culture and memes, but that ship has firmly sailed.

Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, and even Facebook are now massive generators of original content and memes.

The alt-lite type folk were always on 4chan. Just only "recently" has the political atmosphere shifted in such a way that we have a word to describe that sort of ideology and behavior.


That is absolutely false. Shit tons of political memes and conspiracy theories picked up by the likes of Breitbart, Alex Jones, etc still originate there


I didn't say their meme output dropped to zero. I said that other websites are the dominant force for generating the memes we see today.


I agree with you that 4chan isn't the meme generator place it used to be. But I would say that the memes produced on reddit, Twitter or Facebook are different qualitatively. They have much broader appeal usually (normie) than 4chan. But yea..4chan is not the cool subversive place it used to be any more. People make a huge difference... Platforms are not enough on their own. And the people have moved on


But you can look at the memes that we have today, 'image macros' and their origins from things that started in places like 4chan.


I don't mind principles or rules but I don't like what most websites have in place.

4chan was completely unpredictable and unorganized; no tension was trying to make something out of it except for the people there. Something there made me like that. I never really used it except for a few readings once a year.. and I always like this raw side. Somehow.. it's so raw it feels honest and trustable.


Funny images and phrases, yes.

Anything more substantive than that... quite rarely.



> If you slept exp(n) instead of n it could easily include negative integers too!

Hilarious!


Hillary Clinton showed 4chan Pepe memes during her campaign. The Vice President is protected by soldiers who wear a Qanon-patch. Pizzagate and Podesta's hacked emails play a large role in the Russia investigation.


Lol what. Qanon patch?



>The account has falsely accused...The conspiracy theory..., has been widely characterized as "baseless",[11][12][13] "unhinged"[14] and "evidence-free".[15] Its proponents have been called "a deranged conspiracy cult"[16] and "some of the Internet's most outré Trump fans".[17]

I have no idea what this is and im sure its ridiculous. But wtf happened to wikipedias neutral tone and point of view style? Ive read articles about all sorts of ridiculous conspiracy theories, cults, political parties, etc, and never seen this kind of language. Using quotes like this isnt an excuse.


It really is lizardpeople-style crazy. It is halfway between a troll and a Russian PSYOP. That language really does it justice.


Pretty sure there was a math proof posted on 4chan originally.


Yep - someone posted an original proof of the lower bound for the Haruhi problem http://mathsci.wikia.com/wiki/The_Haruhi_Problem



I wouldn't say never.


It's a disgusting place full of pretty much the worse the internet has to offer, but it was for a while a haven for people who simply weren't accepted by any other social group in the world, to no "fault" of their own. Be it a shitty situation at home (tons of foster kids on there in the old days), broke ass young adults, suicidally depressed, autistic, whatever, whoever just could not fit in, they had humans they could interact with, which is demonstrably imperative to human health.

Bad actors would do bad shit there due to the very nature of the site. Probably, the misfits could have found some other, healthier, place to congregate. But they didn't, and so 4chan was important, to many people.

It's a shame it got weaponized by bad actors. There was once a day when such attempts would be met with "4chan is not your personal army." Unfortunately, the bad actors got smart enough to figure out how to turn them into an army anyway.

Beyond that, I believe it's important for social / cultural / political structures I disagree with to exist in small "gardens," left to their own devices - both as a living example of "yup, x or y doesn't work, go to 4chan to see what it results in," but also because sometimes it does work, and it's important to keep those traditions alive.


I really can't get behind the idea that it's a disgusting place, even now. There are some parts that I was hesitant to use because it would drag me into arguments with right-wingers, but there were many other parts that were just really, really good. The kind of discussion that prevailed was often insightful (if usually short). On /mu/ and /lit/, the kind of people you don't want to be engaging with usually keep to their own threads, because they know their input is worthless in better threads. It is possible for me to have a good discussion about Marx (for instance) on /lit/ with minimal interference. This is an amazing feat considering how 4chan doesn't have the "walling" features that subreddits provide. That's often a bad thing but it's sometimes a good thing too.


It doesn't have to always be disgusting, to be a disgusting place.

The unabashed use of racial and LGBT slurs is disgusting. So is the gore raids, the frequent suggestions to self harm (regardless of the presence of "white Knights"), general misogyny, frequent jailbait content (moreso in the old days), shit like that.

Not everything there is disgusting. Not everyone is disgusting. But, compared to, say, imgur or something, you are far more likely to come out of 4chan with a terrible taste in your mouth I would say.


You are also able to come out of it with a different perspective you'd never otherwise gain due to up and down voting being missing.

A merit of 4chan is that you get exposed to content you don't like.


Yep. It's incredible how you can have a reasonably intelligent discussion in 4chan, while in reddit and similar vote based sites, once the mob comes to visit the site, they take over and no one can have a good discussion anymore.


4chan boards are fine. there’s nothing wrong with the free expression of ideas. you can respond back to any incorrect idea all you want.


You can certainly post thoughtful comments, but they will invariably be shouted down by shitposts and outright abuse. It's not worth it, because the 4chan hivemind doesn't want it. The boards are too hectic and posting moves too fast.


Judge much?


Care to elaborate? I was as much a member of the community as anyone else, I believe I'm allowed an opinion on it.


The romanticism comes from the fact that 4chan has been incredibly influential in internet history.

Chaos is a ladder, as they say in GOT, and some of the best content out there has come from 4chan.

The lack of identity and point system also brings out some of the most interesting conversation. I recommend checking out /mu or /lit (/b, /pol/, and /r9k are all containment boards). If you contrast the conversation on /mu and /lit with similar reddit boards (r/music - or even spin offs like r/hiphopheads - and r/books) you will find much more interesting and original content. I find the point system on reddit lends itself much closer to a 'hivemind' where everyone ends up conforming to the same opinion, which makes things boring


Same goes for HN. Even with throwaways, the point system serves as this “corrective” barometer, that you’re expected to notice, even care about, and supposed to strive toward.

But perhaps most pathetically, even the moderators are brainwashed by it, as if the positivity trends of some mob are the smartest ruler to obey.

So, what if I disagree with the mob, and what if I’m right?

Well, the eigenstate of schroedinger’s cat tells us that there’s some degree of probablity that excuses us from ever taking that bet, so you can eat this hellban and lap up the antikarma like it’s the secretions of your wildest fantasy.

Enjoy the vacuum of the echochamber. In space, no one can hear you scream.


[flagged]


This is slightly meta, but I find it interesting that the person you're attacking is questioning the utility of a point-based system and yet that very system is trying to silence your speech rather than theirs. The mob wants you to know that refusing to question the mob is against the rules.


The mob wants to think it's self-critical when asked directly.

But I dare the mob to be self-critical of some popularly held belief without the pretext of this meta commentary. HN can be very one sided, and it shows in lots of discussions, from ads to piracy to language choices.


Or the mob simply didn't like their tone or phrasing.


I don't think it's good for communities when they became echo chambers and alienate people with different opinions.


Railing against trends is less a commentary against the premise of the site, and more a commentary against the emergent whims of groupthink.

Points systems amplify the perception of groupthink, and getting karma stomped into a ban happens a lot.

Getting banned for a greyed out comment is kind of lame, and I think a certain sort of darwinism, of letting vitriolic people express their contempt has utility.

In other words, more people should develop a thick skin, and fewer people should be silenced. In theory, that sounds good, but obviously it can also go wrong, to let people bloviate too much.

I think the solution is to permit the full stream but classify and sort the responses, but in most cases, NLP just isn’t good enough to automate grouped selections of comments, so we get stuck with a one dimensional mechanical turk voting rank. Yay versus boo!

I don’t enjoy the idea of AI submerging buried comments deepet, but trusting people to vote according to quality of discussion is a dubious gambit, and you really only get an edge detection doppler return revealing the joints of political fault lines, which gets old when holy wars guide many an opinion.


The principle still stands. Why care about points? Wasn’t that the motivating factor to remove displaying comment points on HN in the first place? Facilitating hive mentality?

If everyone agrees with a comment it probably adds no value. If everyone disagrees it probably adds no value. Maybe interesting discussions should be sorted by controversial, but I don’t think that would be a “safe space”.


That's a fallacy. The best comments in HN aren't the "edgy" or controversial ones, they are the ones where someone shares information that I've never seen somewhere else.

Saying offensive things doesn't lift the level of discourse, no matter how much people who would love not to be downvoted complain about the "hive mind".


[flagged]


Why are people whose views differ from your "the hive", but you, and those with whom you agree, are not?


I guess being against censorship is inherently hypocritical given you're trying to censor the censors. I'll have to live with that hypocrisy.


In a way that's 4chans strength. The comments and threads that get most noticed are the ones with most replies - ie the most controversial ones. Thats why Alexandria Ocasio Cortz is one of the most prominently posted figures on 4chans alt-light/pol/ board


> Wasn’t that the motivating factor to remove displaying comment points on HN in the first place?

lobste.rs shows points (and moderation logs and who invited who).

It still feels much "safer" than HN, but I guess the real reason is because they are much stricter about what topics are accepted.

Which means HN is more interesting to me but I also like lobste.rs a lot.


Let me pull up the front page of one of the "better" boards /lit/ right now and read literally the first post. It's for making fun of a woman's OKCupid profile. Here's a sampling of comments:

"She's a pleb with a mental illness."

"hello Jamal" (replying to someone who said they enjoy R&B)

"women are conformist by nature, is it really all that surprising?"

Let's move to post 2: "Describe hell to me"

"Imagine a place that is really really really really really really really really really really gay."

"dying to meet Hitler"

"A fat girl sits on your face and farts on you for the rest of eternity"

Is this the place we should be romanticizing? This was all within about 90 seconds of opening the site. I spent a lot of time on 4chan when I was younger, specifically /mu/ and /lit/ and I think it was really bad for me and my mental health at the time. These communities are extremely toxic, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, and more than anything, downright cruel.


You have to take the good with the bad in the case of 4chan. Consider that any thread can be bumped to the front page with a reply, and consider that when a new thread is created, one is pushed off page 10 and then disappeared/archived. 90 seconds after first opening 4chan or any similar imageboard do not tell you anything. Yes, if you randomly go on the front page of any board, it is not exactly weird to see low quality threads that were either just recently made or have been freshly bumped. And you do not know why the thread was bumped without going into it. It may have been a poster who came in to complain, or to shitpost inside of it because it was a shit thread anyway. This is just part of imageboard culture unlike other sites which actively hide all the bad from you. Unless a thread explicitly breaks rules, is completely unrelated to the respective board, or is cancerous in its own right, it won't be deleted right away unless it has some backlash either by live feedback from anons or reports. On 4chan, you see all the bad that comes along with the good. Or no good at all sometimes. Depends on whoever's posting that day and how they feel. It's free(as in freedom) and pretty great usually.


I used to spend a lot of time on these boards, for years when I was younger. I know how it works, and I am familiar enough with 4chan to know that this language is common and normalized (calling people f-----s, n-----s, etc). /lit/ in particular I remember as being violently misogynistic (and a quick browse today confirms that). I'm familiar with the culture, the "irony" that justifies this kind of language, all of it. I was immersed in it for a long time, I "get" it. And it's not OK.

I think 4chan is an incredible, fascinating experiment, and I don't think all of it is trash or worthless, and it's true that not all boards are /b/. But it is undeniable that the overall culture is one of hostility, aggression, and cruelty, especially towards marginalized groups (not to mention the creepy sex stuff, which also pervades all boards). It's not a model for a healthy internet community by any means.

Edit: OP was edited, want to add a bit:

My overall assessment of 4chan is totally different: it is a cautionary tale of what free as in freedom on the internet actually looks like: a place where a few cynical teenage/early 20s white dudes may have a good time, while creating a culture totally devoid of empathy or inclusion for anyone else. A hotbed for lawlessness where violence and extreme ideologies fester and have real world consequences, the worst of the mid-2000s web.


I don't deny that 4chan is a cesspit, but like I said, you have to take the good with the bad. From my experience, as a person who is of a minority race, as long as you do not mention your race, literally no one cares. You're perfectly welcome to join in on the shitposting. Back then and still today, it has been race and sexuality related bigotries, but 4chan would be happy to insult you in any other fashion as well if given the opportunity. But since those words still have power given to them by those who choose to be offended by those words, they are still by far the best weapon of choice for 4chan users to rally behind. Do I endorse it? No, but I'm not against it either.

While I don't think 4chan is a model for a healthy internet community, I believe the internet is healthier if 4chan exists than if it did not. Some say it is the last bastion of free speech on the internet and I would agree. I can't name any other place I would go to see what I see on the chan.


> those who choose to be offended

This is simply not how the brain works. "Taking offense" comes out of a mix of low-level mental responses and emotions, bubbling up into the conscious mind from below, rather than being the outcome of a top-down rational thought process which one could "choose" to switch off.


The whole site reminds me of teenagers who are trying too hard to act rebellious. The problem is that it apparently has a large enough audience that some adults find that kind of behavior acceptable.


Incredibly influential in internet history? We were doing all those things before reddit and 4chan.


Memes in the form they took on on 4chan definitely weren't a thing before.

The word meme itself was a sterile almost scientific term.

I'm not sure how old are you, but if you were around at the time this happened (early to mid 00s) and active on imageboards you would surely have noticed just how different the experience was.


My memory is the word being used quite often as any “contagious idea”. It started to became synonymous with “tired internet joke” in the late 90s with dancing baby, then cemented 2001 with the someone-set-us-up-the-bomb video.


Surely the memes of 4chan fame came directly from SA and related forums?


I think you're just noticing the more egregious examples which garner a lot of attention. Quite a lot of original content that didn't have any other common place used to originate on 4chan. Eventually a lot of it shifted to Reddit as Reddit came into being and gained in popularity, but there's a reason that some content (such as very short science fiction stories, or humorous explanations of DND sessions in "greentext") is archived in the form of screen capture images, and that's because one of the few places you could find this with a wide audience was on 4chan.

I've only ever been on 4chan a handful of times, and yes, the boards that people expect to be a clusterfuck are indeed a clusterfuck, but if you pay attention it's hard to discount the influence 4chan had on internet culture in benign ways as well.


From the outside, looking in, people tend to mistake 4chan for /b/, (and more recently /pol/). It’s similar to if someone decided to write off reddit, just because of the content on /r/funny.

For one, I think /a/ - 4chan’s anime board is still the largest, English speaking, Japanese culture board out there. There have been animators, authors and directors on /a/, albeit answering questions in broken English. And /a/, unlike /b/, or /pol/, tends to not put up shock crap and humor. Many of the smaller boards are also like this (with the exception of probably /tv/ and more recently /fit/)

The format itself, when not overrun edgy teenagers, is like nothing else. Every post is given equal representation. It's designed to be ephemeral and there's tends to be a lot less community politics. I won't argue that the format lends itself to a bastion of quality - it's a lot of wading through waste to find something good. It's the double edge sword of not having a "karma" system. But when its good - it's good, and when it's weird it _weird_.

I think the problem with 4chan has had recently was moderation. moot made all the rules and was the final arbiter in all things 4chan. What that meant was only moot could really ban a discussion topic without it being overreach by mods. moot coming out and saying “naruto is allowed on /a/“ or “gamer gate doesn’t belong on /v/“ was the only real mediating force that could transform the community. If an anonymous mod did it, it would always be met with a meme mocking mods (“he does it for free”)

When moot was more active, defending everything you said with “free speech” wasn’t really a thing either. Mods could ban you whenever they wanted for mostly whatever they wanted and bans tended to be more public. This mod power had a special hidden power - it was harder to take over the community around some singular meme. Eventually a mod would ban because he was tired of seeing X, and that was the end of that (similar to what happened to gamer gate - even during gamer gate people of people complained that games journalism didn’t belong on 8 of the 10 threads on /v/)

I secretly wish for moot to come back and roll heads just to make things interesting. Currently I think a lot of threads get derailed because bait-politics gets injected into almost everything. Threads get derailed because of "someone who is tangentially related to the subject being discussed is a woman and/or minority and if you support X that means you hate America" type of posts. And I also just wish he'd pop by and tell us how he's doing. I hope he's happy now.


Outsiders to 4chan would probably also be surprised at the site-wide outpouring of genuine sadness, nostalgia and gratitude when moot announced that he was stepping down.


4chan was the punk rock of websites in an era of increasing corporatization of the internet. It was an incubator for internet culture before other websites took that mantle and ran with it (Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, and even Facebook now fill a similar role).


I feel like you just haven't spent much time there. Lots of interesting discussions are to be had on a vast number of topics. Much of Internet culture originated there as well.

I feel like 4chan has shown just how needed an anonymous forum is to experimentation and community.


It shows people want the worst kind of discourse. You might not like it but if such a sizable community does its a shame it can't live on its own.

Not everyone gets online to peruse HN or even learn anything at all and there isn't anything wrong with that.


Well no, it shows that people are willing to accept some worthless discourse; but that doesn’t mean it all is.

It’s the same as when you spend an hour trafing memes with your friends — its utterly worthless, but that doesn’t mean all of your conversation looks like that. But anyone else who wanders in blindly might only see the meme trading and think that’s all you do. In the context of 4chan, its just wandering into the wrong board (eg /b/), or the wrong thread, and thinking that was the only thing that happened round these parts. Like the whole hacker and gore thing came out of a single subcommunity, but became the public face of 4chan; but none of the other boards cared about it (although bots would randomly start getting through captcha and spam gore/loli porn, which most users simply hid or ignored. Some people praised the bots for keeping out the riffraff (those unwilling or unable to ignore things they dislike), but otherwise, they were far more an idea people had about 4chan and its users than the userbase actually did or supported


I find it weird how many people are ok with 4chan but freak out about Gab.


Not enough porn.


That's exactly what it is / was. But like with startup investing, banging enough turds together eventually produces a few diamonds.


Most memes on Reddit originated on 4chan.


I disagree. Anonymous environments bring out the best kind of discourse with the occasional annoyances. There is a reason why most people agree that reddit's golden age was around the 2008-2012is period. Before all the censorship and propaganda. In my opinion, censored environments bring out the worst kind of discourse. Look at social media of today.


> Anonymous environments bring out the best kind of discourse with the occasional annoyances.

So if I wanted to see this on 4chan, which board would you recommend I visit?


Just a reminder that during reddit's so-called "golden age", it was the largest hub for underage pornography on the internet.


That depends or your definition of pornography. AFAIK nothing on /r/jailbait was technically illegal.


>>That depends or your definition of pornography

Let’s not split hairs here. There is a reason we have a saying: “X is like porn; you know it when you see it.”


Different people know it when they see different things. Not too long ago showing ankles was considered basically porn.


That saying goes back to supreme court justice Potter Stewart and it's something a lot of people would disagree with as it posits a fake universal standard for things like offensiveness and obscenity.


Underage "softcore" pornography. It's still reprehensible and indefensible, and it was one of the largest nsfw subs at the time.


So would that title now go to Instagram or which site currently has the largest collection of underage girls in bikinis? How about TikTok or Youtube?


I honestly cannot continue a conversation where I have to defend the position that a subreddit devoted to sharing sexualized pictures of children is fucked up. This should be obvious and beyond debate.


I'm not arguing that sexualizing minors is good, I'm just saying that there is a massive difference between the sexual exploitation that goes into the production of actual child pornography and the posting of girls in bikinis. I hope you agree that the harm done isn't even on the same level. Using the same language for both is just not right.


Youtube used to be like this - now it is advertiser driven. It's a net negative for humanity.


How is Youtube a net negative for humanity? It generates value, it teaches skills, it provides entertainment, it provides careers, and youtube kids is keeping an entire generation of parents sane.


I think the parent comment is calling Advertising a net negative for humanity.


> youtube kids is keeping an entire generation of parents sane.

Can we hold off on considering this a positive until we see how exactly this generation of kids that think Google is a benevolent babysitter/genie grow up?

Parents have been parenting for millennia without handing off their kids's attention to a glorified advertising network.


To address the advertising situation, moot's successor spun off all of the worksafe boards into 4channel.org last November, which now has AdSense ads. Note that "worksafe" only applies to images; you still would not want your boss to be reading the text, which is as just as (almost entirely) unfiltered as it was before the split.


The purpose of the project was to find the founder free porn.

It succeeded.

Not all people are seeking strictly financial rewards.


All rewards need not be financial. Poole will be remembered forever and has used - and can continue to use - his fame for various benefits.


He tried to leverage his notoriety in another startup but apparently that wasn't enough.


It’s actually a good thing. Advertisers demand “family friendly” crap.

4chan is perfect as is.


Many celebrities and writers for very famous shows without a doubt ape a lot of their material from 4chan/somethingawful.

A bold claim, I know, but definitely appears that way.


It makes enough money to remain.


Seriously though, would you buy something advertised on 4chan? Besides, your motivation for doing something you believe in shouldn't be financial. And if your motivation is financial, why do you care?


I find the assumption that things that make people happy should generate income to be weird.


I think if the goal had been to make money, it wouldn't have had any impact.


This is a blast from the past! It inspired me to check out the 4chan article on Wikipedia, which I rewrote over 10 years ago (omg). It was a fun topic to research and to try and write formally about.

Very impressed to see it’s still at featured article status (the highest an article can go)! I got tired of WP not too long after writing that, so if any anyone reading this has helped maintain/improve it since - thanks, anon.

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=4chan


4chan was the best. It was meme culture before meme culture. In fact, I believe that's where the modern usage of the word comes from (ytmnd used "fad" for the same concept). I spent so much time on there 15 years ago when I first entered college.


'meme' was coined by Richard Dawkins in 'The Selfish Gene' in the 70's.


That's not what's being discussed here. We're talking about when the word 'meme' was repurposed to refer to "Internet trend".


But it is. Dawkins' meme was an idea that spreads person to person. So are the modern internet-spread image macro memes. The catching on and spreading is what makes it a meme and not just an image.

The confusion is that the latter meaning of "meme" has started drifting from "an image macro that spreads" to "an image macro".


I am aware of the origin of the word. I am distinguishing between the generic notion of a meme (which as you pointed out simply means "transmittable idea", which is an incredibly general concept) and the specific notion of an Internet Meme (and, as in OP, 'meme culture', which surely refers to Internet meme culture, and not the culture of transmittable ideas in general).

The later misuse of the word meme to refer only to image macros is also a separate shift.


Yes! I needed someone to confirm that people used to call it "fads" before memes.


Memes are older than that. Joshua Schacter has a site called memepool before starting del.icio.us.


Memetics is a general concept that date backs before the internet


>was ?


An HN comment the other day mentioned how most Americans, no matter how high reddit was up the Alexa rankings was, rejected knowing what the website was. I just feel like 4chan was much more influential in individuals' lives, no matter how large its userbase was at the peak; yet people reject it in the same exact manner...


Are you saying that 4chan was much more influential than reddit? Because I'm not sure that I'd buy that without some serious data.

4chan isn't small potatoes. It's reasonably big potatoes. But intuitively it isn't reddit scale potatoes.


4chan is to Reddit as Xerox PARC was to Apple. It's the baked potato to Reddit's buttery mashed potatoes. It takes a little more work to get what you want out of it, but sometimes that's part of the draw.


Does that make geocities Bell Labs?


With regards to internet culture, 4chan and SomethingAwful are definitely way more influential than reddit.


I was on SomethingAwful for years (2004? 2003? regdate). There was a period of time when that was true, but I'd definitely say it's no longer the case.


Yeah SA is definitely past its meme-making prime, but it was the beginning of so much that it holds a special place.


Maybe were, but not are.


You don't say that a scientist lacks influence based on his/her current papers, or even based on whether they're currently alive.

What we do now is based on SA, 4chan then. Reddit is the influence of those sites, it didn't eclipse them, it amplified them. The part of reddit that isn't SA and 4chan is pretty much Digg, which is why censorship of even the most horrific speech represents an existential threat to the company.


SA is definitely past its influential period, but to this day stuff that starts in 4chan ends up in national news.


I have the feeling reddit is more like reconstructive surgery than actually something totally new being born.


I think most memes originated on 4chan and spread to Reddit. That's probably what's meant by influential.


Not sure what you are trying to say, but I'm sure most people rejected knowing 4chan as well. It depends on where you are in life though, I guess in a college dorm people would speak more openly about it than in a large enterprise, with start-ups somewhere in between, depending on culture.


Seems like a waste to be a middle manager at Google, but maybe he just wants to be a normal dude.


> middle management at google

> normal

why am I even trying


Well you're kind of insulated from actually pushing anything interesting out from within Google. You've got shareholders and constant growth to deal with after all.

It's just that by contrast 4chan was this wildly weird often terrible thing. It was a cornerstone of the weird internet for some time. Google is not even remotely weird, if anything Google is responsible for making the internet _less_ weird.


> Seems like a waste to be a middle manager at Google

Ouch, harsh!


Does it strike anyone else as odd that a person who was so passionate about protecting people's privacy would end up joining Google - a company infamous for invading privacy?


I don't think Privacy and Anonymity are the same concept. moot was passionate about Anonymous "social networks" and did value the privacy of 4chan's users and staff but he wasn't a hardcore privacy absolutist like you may find elsewhere on the net. And maybe he joined Google hoping to change things from the inside? Who knows.


moot was a child who put up an imageboard to talk about cartoons and make jokes. Just because it was unusually successful due to an anonymity copied from the site he based it on doesn't make him the embodiment of privacy advocacy.


From the article:

> Though Poole did not immediately make special note of this, he would come to adopt a similar philosophy as the years went on, which included principles of anonymity that would also come to define 4chan. Poole believed that such anonymity would allow users to feel comfortable posting things that they might otherwise not, which in turn would foster creativity.

Sounds to me like he matured into a belief that allowing people to use the internet anonymously was very important.


The timeline is off re: his departure. He had already banned Gamergate discussion prior to Wu injecting herself into the story. There's also no mention of XOXO Fest which is where he actually made the decision to enact the ban and Sarkeesian was a keynote speaker. There are other inaccuracies but those are the big ones.


I'd love to have a beer with him someday. I wonder how he's doing now.


>Philosoraptor.jpg>

https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/philosoraptor/photos

>There is a prototypical technology postulated that can read auditory cortex and translate to synthetic speech,

E.G https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/ai-thought-to-speech...

there is another tech that involves stimulating otic organs with a laserbeam or phononbeam:

E.G. http://www.thelivingmoon.com/45jack_files/03files/Sonic_Proj...

so if every thing that every other person thought was available to be heard by any other person in a mutually anonymous manner, what would we have?

would it be like 4chan? is there something inherent about human nature, or about the medium itself that promotes the degradation of a hivemind situation to something so negatively primal as 4chan/b/ ?

we could conduct this experiment in reality very soon. would the physical consequences be any different, in the 4chan scenario there is a disconnect, victims are given some respite by simply logging off. How would this "evil_skullnet" differ when it is in place 24/7/364.25/ ?


/b/ was (never) good, not "negatively primal." The problem with /b/ is that it was conquered by a combined invasion of high schoolers and Stormfront posters, and everybody interesting left.

So, if in your hypothetical everyone was linked to this network and there was no way to leave I imagine it would be fine, generally reflecting how people usually talk to each other, but with maybe double the harassment because there would be no punishment for harassment i.e. there would still be Stormfront posters and high schoolers.


what im trying to bring out is not how every one talks to each other conscienciously, but what everyone thinks and doesnt say. I think /b/ was close to that, it started out good and became similar to "the lord of the flies". hypothetically if noone could leave, and every passing thought was instantly available for anyone else to experience, how might this pan out?


I looked up to him once, because I really liked 4chan, but what did he really do?

He copied 2ch to make 4chan and also raised some donation money to buy a bigger server when it grew in popularity.

He got lucky with 4chan but never turned any profit with it, which is kinda okay, I think.

But even after he got known for being a owner of a big site, all the opportunity that comes with he turned into basically nothing... it's like he didn't learn anything from creating 4chan... so much wasted potential


Not having "turned" it into anything may be his greatest achievement, and no little one either.


Why can’t something just be what it is? Does everything have to be a temporary stop along the way to something bigger?


He fostered a beloved website in and managed his power in a way that many cannot. A leader to be looked up to like none other for me.


Did he? As far as I know he wasn't really a pleasant leader, at least accoroding to the people working with him


Hey, he ended up way better off than Lowtax did.


Probably also better than WTSnacks :/


idk what would make you say that, but I'm doin' pretty okay!!


4chan lead me to Midnight Snacks in 2005 and if anything it's been more influential on me than 4chan itself. Thanks for exposing teenage me to artists like Boris, MONO, world's end girlfriend, Guitar Wolf, POLYSICS, The Gerogerigegege, satanicpornocultshop, Melt-Banana, etc. It really was the jumping off point that lead to my adult taste in music. It was a little embarrassing a few years ago at Y*'s apartment when someone mentioned Midnight Snacks and I blurted out how much I liked it not realizing the person sitting next to me was you (´・ᴗ・ ` )


It's so weird, I was just googling him yesterday after years of not ever thinking about him. It was interesting that he's gone to Google now.


There is an interesting book on the radicalization of 4chan titled "Kill all Normies"

It's not perfect, but it is a fun read.


Congrats on that 1997 palette and design. Does anyone know the name of that aesthetic?


Some people have called it brutalist web design[1]. Sites with minimalistic design whose functionality is transparent to the user. It is similar to how the brutalist architectural style doesn’t hide the underlying materials behind a facade (the word “brutalist” comes from the French translation of “raw concrete”), and emphasizes making the purpose of the building visible. Another good example would be craigslist.

[1] https://brutalist-web.design


Did he ever explain why he was banned from Something Awful? Surprised it never came up.

The Old Internet remembers.


I was very surprised to see no mention of Something Awful or Raspberry Heaven in this writeup.


Would be fun to see logs from RH back then.

[2003-10-14 02:51] <rizzou> hey moot - there's this cool website at http://www.4chan.net/ you should check it out. it's really looking like the next big thing, you know?


People try to over analyze the appeal of 4chan, but I really think it's quite simple:

https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19


Anonymity has its good points and bad points. In my imagination, there are people who can't speak truth to power, and anonymity gives them a place to do that. But in reality, what we get is 99% Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. Not sure how you can get one without the other.




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