‘4chan is kill’. How An Internet Dinosaur Was Brought Down

Internet Culture

A rift has appeared among the ranks of 4chan, with large quantities of users bidding the website farewell in favour of alternatives like 8chan.co. How could it be that the most infamous community found on the internet has started to break up? Over a decade has ruled the darker sides of the internet. What does this mean?

During the last few weeks, a lot of big and important things happened on the internet. GamerGate, The Fappening, and the death of 4chan. Is 4chan really dead? No, it isn’t, but it might as well be to most of their decennium-long users. Somehow, these three things are all interconnected. “But how?” you’d ask. Well, that is what I’m setting out to explain in this new post on internet culture. For reference on The Fappening, read my previous article on it. I will write an elaborate post on ‘GamerGate’ soon(-ish), so I will only glance over the topic in this post. I will not use extensive references in this post, but rest assured that most claims are based on truth as most (certainly on the nature of 4chan) are taken from my academic thesis. Disclaimer, sentences and words between quotes mean I’m taking either quotes, or are paraphrasing 4chan slang.

4chan started as an image based message board in 2003 by a young boy called Christopher Poole, a.k.a. ‘Moot’ (Mootykins to some). Its anonymous nature became home to some of the more reclusive and creative people on the internet. Many things we now love or loathe on the internet, started there. Ragecomics? Originated on 4chan. Image macros (sometimes wrongly called memes)? Also 4chan. Even the Anonymous-movement started on 4chan, when users got fed up with the censoring ways of Scientology-lawyers after they tried ripping down any mention of Tom Cruise’s Scientology-recruitement video. Anonymous aided websites like Gawker (remember that name) by overflowing Scientology centers world-wide with phone calls, DDoS’s, and eventually a real life protest march. This movement, and later similar ‘projects’ like Lulzsec, were so interesting and new to political movements, that I wrote my Bachelors thesis about the influence of such movements on the political participation of young people.

Meta-hipsters
‘Anonymous’ rise to infamy became such a mainstream event, that most reclusive ‘Channers’ turned their back to the ‘white knights’ of Anonymous before they even made headlines. Because that’s what 4chan is like: once something becomes popular and spreads to other sites like Reddit, they start to hate it. The same thing happened with ragecomics and image macro’s, and will happen probably to the next big thing (if 4chan is resurrected). Now don’t equate 4chan users with hipster, because if there’s anything they hate the most, it’s hipsters.

You probably understand the loaded sentence “I liked X before it was cool”. If I stretch this metaphor, 4chan would be the one to invent this sentence, to use it mockingly for people who think they ‘invented’ a hype. This sentence then gets spread around the boards of 4chan, and gets picked up by a casual visitor. He then takes it to another website, and prances around with this ‘new’ joke he found. The users on this other website quickly make it popular, but lack understanding of the original meaning of the sentence. 4chan users see this, and quickly start to loathe what their once original joke has become: a bleak representation of its intended target.

Let me use an even more abstract metaphor. Person A invents a new way to make pasta. He cooks this pasta to some of his friends. One of his friends, person B, thinks he knows the recipe, and cooks it for his parents, without telling it is Person A’s invention. Person B’s parents think it lacks a bit of X and Y, or perhaps subtract Z, and add it to the recipe. They talk about this amazing new way to make pasta invented by their son at their workplace, book club, or hell, even church. Then, when Person A goes home to his own parents for christmas dinner, and gets served his own pasta recipe. Only, it doesn’t even resemble his recipe, and neither did he receive credit for his work. Instead, Person A starts a crusade against this pasta. This is what 4chan regularly does.

Cesspool of Anonimity
One of the prime unique features is that 4chan users don’t have an identity on the board. It used to be one disorganized mess. Used to be, because a few years ago users reluctantly welcomed ID’s to the website. An ID is given to anyone writing in a certain thread, but resets when a user comments in another thread. Because of this, discussion became easier while the anonymous nature of the board was preserved. Before the introduction of ID’s, you would have to trust the one replying to your reply was indeed the guy you originally replied to. Before ID’s were introduced, users would identify themselves through images, but not in the way most people do on facebook. They’d post images from for instance a set of porn of the same girl. Or, alternatively, they’d draw a comic in their own style.

Another feature of 4chan is that threads that don’t enjoy active posts will get deleted. For instance, the /b/ (random) board on 4chan counts 10 pages, each giving room to 15 threads. If you add a comment to a thread, it gets ‘bumped’ to the top. Once there are 150 threads with newer comments than your thread, it gets deleted to preserve server bandwidth and storage. Most threads get little to no attention, and die a quick death struggling to even achieve more than three comments. In order to gain popularity, a thread has to be eye-catching. This urges people to be creative, both with their writing and their choice of picture. Captivating your audience has been taken to a whole new, and sometimes perverted, level. Greentext stories/copypasta sometimes take surprising plot-twists, and are more often than not completely fabricated, with surprise appearances of Loch Ness monsters, dancing dinosaurs, or pocket-escaping mom’s spaghetti.

The anonimity and level of competitiveness have also given way to some of men’s more candid political incorrectness. If the opening post (OP) is poorly written by the original poster (the OP), this most often results in a reply saying ‘OP is a fag’. The whitest of kids can be repeatedly called a ‘nigger’, or be encouraged to ‘an hero’ (kill yourself). Some media call 4chan a racist, hate-filled forum. I’m convinced they are just saying things they otherwise can’t say, trying to shed of the daily slurs of political correctness by using offensive words. Among some there might be a certain disdain for these minorities, though others might just try to adhere to 4chan’s unwritten etiquette.

Tits or GTFO
Another form of this etiquette is the rule ‘Tits or GTFO’. If a user on 4chan identifies his/herself as a girl, he or she has to post proof. There are multiple reasons for this, mainly stemming from the ‘Veil of Ignorance’ as coined by John Rawls. 4chan users are mainly males, ranging from age 15 to 30. This has become something of an archetype: every anon is a 20-something male. ‘Newfags’ are new users, while ‘Oldfags’ have been on the site for years. Newfags might be younger, while oldfags tend to be older than the archetype, since their continued activity on the board. The absense of (identified) girls or women has led to this archetype becoming genderless, since there isn’t a dichotomous gender divide.

When a woman identifies herself as such, she is thus asking for attention to the fact ‘she has tits’ from ‘basement-dwelling neckbeards’. The competitive nature of 4chan’s attention grabbing therefore means she has an unfair advantage, and has to either show those tits (both as proof and to humiliate) to her audience, or ‘get the fuck out’. It can be seen as 4chan’s way of slut-shaming. It can also be seen as a way of preserving the veil of ignorance, by keeping attention-whoring at bay.

The Rise of the Social Justice Warrior
So far, I’ve given you an extensive 1000-word essay on what 4chan really is (or at the very least, to an outside observer), setting the groundwork for an answer to the question posed in the title. Now, we’ll shortly shift our attention to another website, called Tumblr. This social media website entered service in 2007. It is a place where people post ‘microblogs’, short opinionated pieces aimed at certain topics. Early adopters found it a useful place to spread their fandom of certain things, ranging from Doctor Who to My Little Pony. Fan fiction and fan art were the main objects that were spread amongst users.

After a few years however, a new kind of user entered the fray. These people were mainly concerned with ‘unfairness’. Their main topic was social inequality of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), people of color (‘PoC’) and most of all, females. Instead of starting a constructive discussion on how to improve equality, these ‘modern feminists’ started a crusade against everything they deemed ‘oppressive’ – mainly white, straight men. These people were behind the Twitter fad ‘#KillAllMen‘, in which they called for the eradication of the male gender altogether as a final solution to all of their problems. To my Dutch readers: these so-called SJW’s are also largely responsible for the current uproar at our local ‘Sinterklaas’ festivities.

These people were dubbed ‘RadFem’ (Radical Feminists) or SJW’s (Social Justice Warriors), and are often ridiculed internet-wide, on 4chan, and also on Reddit where a whole subreddit is dedicated to the laughable actions of these Tumblrista’s. Due to their nature, 4chan and tumblr-users became mortal enemies. When, a few months ago, a group of SJW’s tried to raid 4chan, 4chan responded with the flooding of gore and porn on the most viewed topics of tumblr. The two communities have a very unhealthy relationship, much to the internet’s amusement.

Christopher Poole, a.k.a Moot
Another factor that has to be taken into account, is the founder of 4chan. When he founded 4chan almost 11 years ago, he was only a 16-year-old kid. He had no way of controlling the popularity of his creation, or the level of discourse. Many users of 4chan took his inability to act as a capable moderator as an endorsement of their behaviour. Or maybe he did endorse them. The fact remains that Moot had no way of controlling what was posted, nor had he a way of monetizing the huge popularity of 4chan.  To address the first issue, he enlisted the help of ‘janitors’ chosen from active 4chan users, mods that would regulate activity in his stead. To address the latter, he initiated a few things such as the now infamous ‘4chan pass’, giving users a way to bypass captcha when posting comments.

Instead of trying to reform 4chan into something more marketable and profitable, he built a new website. This project, named ‘Canvas’, was aimed at creative internet-users much like early Tumblr and 4chan adopters. The project never really took off, and earlier this year, Poole shut the website down.

Poole, now 26, is the owner and administrator of one of the largest and most infamous web forums of the world, but has virtually nothing to show for it. He has the name recognition, but not the money. He’s come at a point in life when he want’s to pick the fruits of his labor, but is unable to do so. His name is inexplicably bound to a website demonized by mainstream media: it is extremely hard to find an article published on 4chan that is of a positive nature. On top of that, like most teenagers do, he grew up. He found other interests in life, which seemingly clashed with 4chan’s anti-establishment nature.

How are these three factors connected? It’s time to connect the dots based on two events, namely GamerGate and The Fappening.

#GamerGate
About a month ago, in late August, some youtube videos started making rounds on 4chans /v/ (video games related) board and some Reddit pages, namely /r/videos, /r/gaming, /r/games, and /r/pcgaming. The subject of these video’s started out with an indie game developer called Zoë Quinn, who slept with multiple game ‘journalists’ and important people in the scene to get favourable mentions and reviews for her game, and improving her position in the scene. This initial video opened the floodgates as more and more information about the corruption in video games ‘journalism’. This did not only affect websites and indie developers, but also large publishers, game festivals, marketing agencies, and until then established and respected award shows. They all had friendly connections with each other, leading to conclusions that most consumers were being lied to by the media that was supposed to represent them.

Strangely enough, mentions of GamerGate on /v/ led to threads being deleted, and users who kept posting them being banned. Much the same happened on subreddits /r/gaming and /r/games. On /v/, the main argument against posting these videos revolved around inciting hate and promoting ‘doxxing’ (posting of personal information of individuals on the internet). A mod of /r/gaming openly reached out to Zoë Quinn on Twitter, offering to delete any mention of her from the subreddit, while an /r/games mod was allegedly booted for supporting the mob. This was especially strange behaviour of /v/ janitors, who, on other occasions, didn’t step in as much as they did.

The Fappening
The second event that happened was the Fappening (for more info on that, here’s my exposé). The media largely attacked 4chan for providing us with these leaked pictures. Reportedly, under pressure from lawyers, Moot changed policy on pictures from ‘The Fappening’, banning anyone who posted a picture from the collection.  This mainly affected the /b/ board, which up until then was an ‘anything goes’ board (except child pornography). This signals another break with how 4chan used to operate. Why? Was it pressure from lawyers?

No, the truth is much more dark. At least, when you are a devout visitor of 4chan. And this is why I, and many 4chan regulars, declared 4chan dead.

New Janitors, New Image
The above picture is not a joke. It is part of the large-scale rebranding of 4chan. An explanation of what has happened can be found here. I’ll give a short summary: as a result of 4chan’s raid of tumblr, a girl related to one of the owners of Gawker media tried to commit suicide. Moot wanted to stop the animosity between tumblr and 4chan, while most mods objected. Those that did object were booted from their duties and replaced by outsiders, aimed at ‘cleaning up’ 4chan. Among those new janitors are the same group of people implicated by #GamerGate, whose revelations also involved Gawker media-owned website Kotaku. Other new janitors are appointed from his new group of friends.

Moot is finally making moves to try to clean up 4chan, but 4chan doesn’t want to get clean. They love the way things are now, and openly oppose any changes to the way 4chan operates. The below picture accurately describes how most regulars feel right now.

People feel betrayed, and rightly so. The people they tried fighting for over a decade now have the power to delete their words from their beloved website. When this became public knowledge, people immediately started making posts planning to leave 4chan. Another website, resembling 4chan, has already been embraced by a large portion of the active user base: 8chan.co. In response, 4chan banned every mention of 8chan from their boards.

Users haven’t given up the fight. The old 4chan is dead. Will it continue to exist? Probably. Would it be as revered and creative as it was? Probably not. Moot is finally trying to cash in on 4chan. He’s trying to rebrand it as an edgy forum, but safe. To answer to how the biggest forum was brought down is answered. From the inside. 4chan became too mainstream to survive in its current form.

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  • “Other new janitors are appointed from his new group of friends.”
    With a pictures of moot with nullsleep(been on 4chan since ’04 I think) and ZUN, some girl and him going places and eating dinner.

    tl;dr moot has a life now and which means he’s betraying us all

    I also don’t get why it’s a big deal for moot to have attended a Sarkeesian conference. She does make good points about how women are represented in games, the only people I know IRL who would disagree on this are a few fedora-wielding mountain-dew guzzling faggots.

    I’m pretty sure that no matter what happens, 4chan-culture will always survive no matter what. 4chan goes down and the users migrate to other imageboards, a few weeks later life will go on for them as if nothing ever happened.

    • Good points, good comment. I’m not an active anon. Never was, probably never will be. I’m an observer. I might have made a few factual mistakes. However, nowhere did I state that it wasn’t Moot’s place to do what he did. Just than anon is opposed to it. Nor did I say Anita didn’t have a point (not that I do think that that is the case), I merely stated that she’s a mortal enemy of (a lot of anon’s on) /v/ because she milks a few hateful tweets to prove her point.

      I don’t claim to know everything, I just have a certain baseline of knowledge, and did a bit of research into the subject.

      • Sorry about being a bit aggressive in my previous comment, I guess I was partially venting the frustration from reading about all this drama. I otherwise didn’t really find any factual mistakes, it was an overall well-written article and you obviously did your research!

    • “I also don’t get why it’s a big deal for moot to have attended a Sarkeesian conference. She does make good points about how women are represented in games,”

      I hope none of you faggots actually believe this. Her bullshit has been debunked time and time again, and the only response that was ever received was censorship and cries about harassment and oppression.

      • I’d mostly agree but mildly disagree.

        1. Some points Anita made are valid and almost good

        BUT

        2. as you say, these valid points are needles in a huge haystack of cherry-picking and removing context (e.g. Watch_Dogs and the prostitute auction thing) and flat out lies (e.g. Hitman: “players are encouraged to kill the prostitutes”).

        • Haystack? She may well have some errors, but you’ve got to be pretty dense to not see that her main point that the representation of women in many games sucks, is spot on.

          • absolutely not. her ‘main point’ isn’t that women are misrepresented in video games, her ‘main point’ is that this misrepresentation reinforces misogyny and sexism in the mind of the gamers and then points to ‘harassment campaigns’ against women (but doesn’t acknowledge those against men) as evidence, as if every gamer should be lumped in with shithead 16 year olds who think its funny to harass and threaten the women in question.

            absolute bullshit

  • Don’t forget to plug 8chan.co! That’s where the other exiles are flooding. Coincidentally speaking of 8chan is also a banneble offense on halfchan now.

  • Another bit of 4chan history that I think is relevant to the article, is that in the early days of 4chan, in that 2003-2004 period, ‘the rest of the internet’ had a problem with webforums being overrun with power-tripping owners and moderators. (SomethingAwful’s Richard Kyanka for example– but certainly every Gaming, Anime, etc., site had its Inner Circle Who Must Be Sucked-Up Too). 4Chan back then had no problem with ‘mod sass’, and certainly a good chunk of its creativity was taking the piss out of Moot (..and the poor unfortunate who’s photos he swiped to represent himself). That all died when attention-whoring Mods like W.T.Snacks showed up, though.
    Now, it’s wholly bannable to criticize the running of 4chan. SA only wanted 10 bux. Moot demands $20.

  • As an important point infinitychan is now the international site of 2ch.net(they’re hosted on it). For those that don’t know 2ch is famous in Japan, pretty much anyone with a net connection there uses it, or has used it at some point. It was built on the premise that information should be free, and so it is. That means you’re going to find nationalistic, racism, asshattery posts to stuff on gundams, why the abe cabinet is a bunch of tools, and why FF Tactics is better than FFIV.

  • I don’t like your pasta metaphor. Here’s another way of writing that:

    Person A invents spaghetti. Person A has friends over and serves them the world’s first spaghetti dinner. One of the friends, Person B, enjoys the spaghetti so much he copies the pasta recipe. Later, Person B’s parents are in town so he decides to prepare some spaghetti without mentioning he copied it from Person A. Person B’s parents enjoy the spaghetti a lot and praise their son for being such a great cook. Person B’s parents then talk about this amazing spaghetti recipe at their workplace, book club, church, and every other place they go. Though, since Person B’s parents don’t know what a tomato is they mess up the recipe when telling everyone the round red thing their son used was an apple. Some time later Person A is over at his parents’ house for dinner when they serve him a new amazing meal they had just heard about. Person A is then served “spaghetti,” with apple sauce in it instead of tomato sauce.

  • >Now, we’ll shortly shift our attention to another website, called Tumblr.
    >Early adopters found it a useful place to spread their fandom of certain things, namely Doctor Who and My Little Pony.

    FTFY

  • Nice article. The entire saga reminds me of how the SomethingAwful forum also “died” in a much similar way. Lowtax replaced mods with “politically correct” mods who were at odds with all of the old creative SA goons and they eventually all left; leaving SA a shell of what it once was.

  • The information on GamerGate is wrong. Zoe Quinn didn’t sleep with multiple journalists to get favourable mentions, she got a relationship with one journalist who hasn’t written about her since.

    Also, this is the first time I’ve heard that Tumblr has anything to do with the Dutch Sinterklaas discussion. It’s mostly Dutch activists, journalists, writers, citizens and celebrities who are having that discussion.

  • There is a post going around Tumblr about 4chan threating Emma Watson with nude pictures of because of some speech about Equality…?

    I actually don’t get it, I would really like someone to explain if it’s related to all this, GG or just riot-calling farce?
    Because… I arrived to this article mostly because of said Tumblr post that I literally just saw an hour ago.

    • It’s a kneejerk reaction really. Emma Watson is going to give a speech on feminism at the UN. Those nude shots are a purple dragon most guys have been chasing ever since she hit 18. I don’t know if they even exist in the first place. They’re threatening Watson with the pictures because they equate her kind of feminism with the RadFem/Feminazi often found on tumblr.

      It’s a farce, really.

      Also, someone rolled 57000000 or something and declared Emma Watson dead. It’s the rule of the rolling game. I don’t think it is very serious.

    • There’s a screenshot doing the rounds right now that alleges that the threats against Emma Watson are mostly coming from a single server run by a PR company. The implication is that it’s a stunt to impersonate 4chan users and get the site shut down, launched by people hired by victims of the Fappening. No idea if it’s true or not.

  • It’s a shame internet users have lost the chance to see what free anonymous speech looks like. RIP 4chan; it was truly an amazing learning experience.

  • A literal example, rather than an analogy– /ck/’s ‘Mug Cakes’. A friend just wouldn’t believe me that the recipe was partly mine.. and then go accused of being responsible for the ‘pot brownie mug cake’ that later meme’d itself around the Net.

  • Just stumbled upon this article, and found one or the photos above funny: Andrea Castillo is a hardcore libertarian who is completely opposite to the SJWs, so her twitter post above is satirical, not serious. That being said, it’s easy to find SJWs who really do talk like that.

  • this is some pseudo intellectual fucking garbage right here you can’t even tell that radfem and sjw are separate fucking conflicting groups much less the fucking garbage you wrote on describing what 4chan is like. wasn’t the killallmen hashtag one of the ones /pol/ faked because i remember someone taking credit for that. the “sjw raid” was definitely a fucking faked thing by /b/ (or was it /pol/) to try to egg /b/ into raiding tumblr, this is pretty fucking well known, and even then it wasn’t the sjws who would’ve been naive to take part it was the superwholocks the sjws know 4chan better than that holy shit. or don’t you know the difference between these subcultures and are just talking out of your arse.

    dumbest of fucking all though is you fell hook line and absolute fucking sinker for the “mod of /d/” story which was the most made up garbage i’d ever seen. like there are no board specific mods (and that follow up of “i meant i modded /d/ mainly” was the worst fucking save i’ve ever seen and total garbage to anyone who’s familiar with the moderating software of chan boards and should’ve said “this is a big fake” to anyone who had any fucking brains), and the “mod of /d/” was claiming that the mods were being replaced by sjws on other chan boards and knowing mods on other chans i asked and they confirmed there’d been basically no changes in mods (and why would they when they’re not even related to 4chan and most of them hate 4chan and want 4chan to go the fuck away? they specified 7chan like 7chan fucking hates 4chan so much holy shit)

    but don’t you think a big time media person’s daughter killing themselves would end up with ANY kind of media attention at all? or does the gamergate hashtag have some new dumbarse justification for why they think that too that they pulled out of their fucking disgusting anuses

    do not write anything ever again

  • OP is a faggot who knows precisely fuck-all about 4chan and Internet culture at large. Privacy-invading raid culture and its defenders are the cancer that killed /b/. moot is a fine sir for brandishing the b&hammer against parasites who contributed nothing of value to the boards. GOODNIGHT SWEET PRINCE

  • “Person A invents a new way to make pasta. He cooks this pasta to some of his friends. One of his friends, person B, thinks he knows the recipe, and cooks it for his parents, without telling it is Person A’s invention. Person B’s parents think it lacks a bit of X and Y, or perhaps subtract Z, and add it to the recipe. They talk about this amazing new way to make pasta invented by their son at their workplace, book club, or hell, even church. Then, when Person A goes home to his own parents for christmas dinner, and gets served his own pasta recipe. Only, it doesn’t even resemble his recipe, and neither did he receive credit for his work. Instead, Person A starts a crusade against this pasta. This is what 4chan regularly does.”
    You forgot one crucial point.Channers are anonymous cowards so a more accurate comparaison would be Person A let his pasta recipe in a public place,dont take credit or register the pasta and whine like a baby when someone take the idea in the open
    Ergo channers are hipsters in denial that try to twist the meaning of words to avoid the reality

Please, tell me why I'm wrong.

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