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In before X, often abbreviated as “in b4,” is an expression commonly used on discussion forums and imageboards to forecast an anticipated response or a predictable outcome within a given thread.
The phrasal template “In before X” is derived from its earlier form of expression “in before the lock,” which was widely used on 4chan and other imageboards to leave a marking in a thread that is soon to be cycled out without being archived or removed by the admin.
in before lock: What posters on a message boards will sometimes say in response to a thread/topic that will eventually be locked/closed.
Inb4: An abbreviation used on messageboards like /b/ in anticipation of a certain image, event, or meme occuring.
The earliest archived mention of “in b4” can be found in a 4chan thread posted on March 31st, 2007, although its usage most likely predates this.
The Encyclopedia Dramatica article on “in b4” was created months later on August 3rd, 2007. The article also specified the proper usage of the expression as the following:
In before X can only be used as the first reply to a thread or comment, and only if that thread or comment is bait: that is, there is a near 100% chance that someone else will reply to the OP using a particular meme, flame, or solution. Saying “in before X”, where X is the anticipated response in question (or a variation thereof), under any other circumstances is wrong.
According to the article, “in b4” comments are generally used to brag that the user was able to access the thread before anyone else, similar to the usage of “First” comments on YouTube. In addition, “in b4” comments often serve as a bait provoking others to respond with the said predictable behaviors, regardless of the commenter’s original intent.
While the knowledge of the term “in b4” was initially limited to users on 4chan, the expression gradually became adopted by other online communities and message boards with high traffic volumes like YouTube and Reddit as early as in 2008. Some of the most common iterations of “In b4” include:
- In b4 Togepi: I am sure that any second now, a picture of Togepi will be posted to this thread.
- In b4 404: Perhaps one of the most common iterations, this expression is heavily used on 4chan to indicate that one was able to retrieve the content within a thread before it became expired or removed by the moderator.
- In b4 b&: Read as “in before ban,” this iteration implies that a forum user participating in a given thread is about to get banned by the admin due to malicious behaviors or violation of the rules.
- In b4 v&: Read as “in before [party] van,” this one jokingly implies that participants in a given thread are viewing inappropriate content or partaking in an illegal activity and may be subject to house raids by the FBI.