What do getting Rickrolled and LOLcats have in common? They both began in an online forum known as 4chan. When Sarah Palin’s Yahoo account was hacked, the password was posted on 4chan. Anonymous, a group with connections to 4chan, started protests against Scientology in 100 cities around the world while holding signs and wearing Guy Fawkes masks. And there are countless other instances of 4chan’s influence on our culture and society.
Christopher Poole, also known as “moot”, started the website 4chan after being inspired by 2chan, a Japanese online forum. He was 15 at the time. He soon had to create some sort of rule system for the site (which he says no one really abides by). It’s frequented by thousands of visitors, and according to The Guardian, 4chan is “lunatic, juvenile… brilliant, ridiculous and alarming.”
Since then, Poole has spoken at Yale and MIT. He was also voted #1 on TIME’s Most Influential People of 2009 with help from 4chan users. They apparently hacked the system to put him at the top of the list (via online voting ballot) and then made the first letters of each name on the list spell out “marblecake”, a 4chan inside joke.
If you do end up visiting the site, make sure to check out /b/, the infamous random forum. It’s the most popular section of the site, and a breeding ground for creativity. Although admittedly, Gawker.com joked that “reading /b/ will melt your brain.” Disclaimer: Before you visit 4chan, be aware that it’s not a very “appropriate” website. Basically, their attempts (if any) at eliminating pornography have failed miserably.
Below is the only video I’ve found of Poole speaking at the TED conference (he presented Thursday) thus far. He describes 4chan and its impact, and then comments on the fact that people are moving away from anonymity toward a more “permanent identity”, which is not always a good thing.