PROTIP: Press 'i' to view the image gallery, 'v' to view the video gallery, or 'r' to view a random entry.
4chan (site domain: 4chan.org) is the most popular English-language imageboard community with over 700,000 posts per day made by roughly seven million daily visitors. The site consists of 56 topical imageboards that are sectioned into six major categories: Japanese Culture, Interests, Creative, Adult Content and Miscellaneous and Others.
In the early stage of 4chan, the imageboards consisted of /a/ (anime), /b/ (random), /c/ (cute), /h/ (hentai) and /y/ (yaoi manga) boards. In 2004, 4chan went offline for several months before returning with a number of non-anime related boards including /k/ (weapons), /o/ (automobile) and /v/ (video games) boards. In 2008, the /jp/ board (Japan/General) was launched for Japanese culture topics not suitable under the /a/ (anime/manga) board, which was later renamed to Otaku Culture."
Among the most popular imageboards are /v/ (videogames), /co/ (comics), /a/ (anime & manga) and /b/ (random) boards. Users generally submit image posts anonymously and as a result, the default username “Anonymous” has become closely associated with 4chan-related activism and subcultures.
/b/ (random) board
4chan’s /b/ (random) board is by far the most popular imageboard which accounts for nearly 30% of site traffic. Similar to the Japanese imageboard Futaba Channel’s Nijiura board, /b/ is most notorious for its “no rule” policy with exceptions on certain illegal content such as child pornography and discussions of raids, as well as visitors of minor age. However, administrators of /b/ board may be also subject to the “no rule” policy from time to time.
4chan moderators are known for utilizing witty word-filters to censor terms or expressions that have become overused by general consensus of the imageboard community. The word-filters were mainly implemented in /b/ (random) board to curb cliches and forceful user behaviors, with the most notable example being the substitution of Duckroll for Rickroll, but they were later applied across other imageboards like /v/ (video games) and /k/ (weapons). In March 2007, all word filters were deactivated by the administrators but a few have been brought back for periods of times since then.
Each post on an imageboard is assigned a numeric sequence. Because of the high traffic volume and post rate of the site, certain post numbers became known as GET and were sought after by users as part of a forum game they played. A “GET” occurs when a post’s number ends in a special number, such as 12345678, 22222222, or every millionth post.
Since its launch in October 2003, 4chan’s community has grown into one of the most influential memetic hubsites in the Western hemisphere and the /b/ (random) board in particular has been frequently cited as the site of origin for some of the most well-known Internet memes that emerged in the 2000s. Some of the most notable internet memes and memeplexes that sprung from 4chan includes: Advice Animals, Rage Comics, Pedobear, Xzibit’s Yo Dawg, Rickrolling, Rules of the Internet, Exploitables, My Little Pony fandom, Copypasta and Creepypasta among many others.
4chan has been also credited with discovering online personalities, most notably Chocolate Rain, Allison Harvard, Boxxy and Jessi Slaughter, as well as re-popularizing forgotten mainstream celebrities like Rick Astley and Eduard Khil. Typically, the making of an Internet star begins with a 4chan poster urging others to swarm the target destination to increase its ranking and profile.
The website has been also cited in the news media as the birthplace of Anonymous, the online collective of hackers and activists who have gained public notoriety for its cyber-attacks on a wide range of religious, corporate and governmental institutions.
Due to 4chan’s anonymous nature and “no rules” policy in /b/ board, swapping of child pornography (CP) among some users increasingly became a concern within the community at large. In countering the influx of illegal content, some 4chan members began using a cartoon mascot of a bear to signal that illegal pornographic content has been posted by another user. Originally featured in a Japanese construction safety sign, the mascot was dubbed “Pedobear” and has since gained an iconic status across other parts of the Internet. Because of its situational usage, Pedobear has been also falsely equated to a pedophiliac bear or celebration of child pornography.
In 2005, threads featuring image macros of adorable cats known as LOLcats began to circulate on a number of 4chan imageboards. The eccentric craze around pictures of cats became a regular presence with the popularization of “Caturday,” a weekly event that involves posting pictures of cats relevant to each week’s theme on saturdays.
MIT Research Paper on 4chan & /b/
In May 2011, a group of scholars at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Southampton published a research paper titled “4chan and /b/: An Analysis of Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Community” analyzing various environmental factors and user behaviors of the Anonymous community, particularly in the notorious /b/ board.
Based on a dataset compiled over a span of two weeks (576,096 posts in 482,559 threads), the paper provides statistical insights on the average pace of site activities and common user habits like frequent archiving of /b/ content or practice of unicode (tri-force) as a status indicator or an “alternative credibility mechanism.” It also attributes the ephemeral nature of 4chan activities as a potential motivator for repeated user participation:
“One may think users would see no point to contributing if their actions will be removed within minutes. However, if /b/ users want to keep a thread from expiring within minutes, they need to keep conversation active. This ‘bump’ practice, combined with a norm of quick replies, may encourage community members to contribute content. This hypothesis was derived from our observations, and will need to be tested more rigorously.”
- The median life of a thread is just 3.9 minutes.The fastest thread to expire was gone in 28 seconds (i.e., a thread with no responses during a very high activity period); the longest-lived lasted 6.2 hours (i.e., a thread with frequent new posts to bump it).
- The median thread spends just 5 seconds on the first page over its entire lifetime..The fastest thread was pushed off the first page in less than one second (actually, 58 of them shared this dubious honor), and the most prominent thread spent 37 minutes on the first page cumulatively over its lifetime.
- Threads last the longest between 9am and 10am EST and expire fastest between 5pm and 7pm EST. High activity is sustained until 3 am or 4 am EST.
- The result suggests that, despite the not infrequent references to European and British users (e.g. “eurofags” and “britfags”), the demographics of /b/ are primarily North Americans that use the website after business or school hours.
On November 13th, 2011, the official 4chan Twitter account announced that the site had been taken down by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.
The following day, the technology blog Thinq_ published an article about the attack and mentioned a rumor circulating on 4chan that the DDoS was being carried out by LulzSec.
A number of posts on the site allege that hacking group Lulzsec is responsible, but there’s nothing to back that up on of the group’s Twitter accounts or related news sites.
On November 15th, the Internet services company Netcraft published a blog article about the attack and moot announced on the official 4chan status page revealed that the site was still down due to a DDoS “consisting of a UDP flood on port 80.”
As of 2012, 4chan ranks anywhere in the range of 300 to 600 most visited U.S. websites according to Quantcast. The boards drawing the largest amount of traffic are /b/ (Random), /v/ (Video games), /a/ (Anime and Manga), and /s/ (Explicit Images). On August 3rd, 2012, 4chan announced its new milestone of one billionth post on the site, though its content or recorded evidence still remains at large.
Search queries for 4chan have increased steadily over the years that 4chan has been operational.