4chan is an image-based bulletin board, founded in 2003 by a 15-year-old from New York. It has grown to become one of the most controversial and influential websites on the Internet. It is often described as “the underbelly of the web”.
At first glance, 4chan can seem chaotic and disorganised, with countless images posted simultaneously across dozens of boards. But it’s organised according to several core principles. Firstly, each board is completely anonymous: no registering or logging in required to join any conversation or post any content. Secondly, everything is anonymous: no longer are there restrictions on content due to moderation or author identity. As such, much of the site’s culture revolves around surreal humour and trolling – most users prefer not to be taken seriously. Thirdly, it’s quick and easy to upload images and discussions; the goal is communication rather than presentation. Fourthly, 4chan encourages creativity among its users: original artwork shares space with memes and artworks adapted from existing work.
For those who want more than just instantly ephemeral conversations – 4chan users have been known to organise meetings offline – there are discussion threads that remain active for months or even years at a time. Within each thread “bumping” (responding so as to keep it alive) occurs so that conversations don’t fizzle out too quickly – enabling subcultures like lingerie/ cosplay fanboys/girls, weeaboos (anime fans), Bronies (My Little Pony fans), gamers and hackers to form around certain topics and images for extended periods of time.
The main attraction for many on 4chan is the sense of freedom it allows its users – offering unimaginable opportunities for communication free from censorship or regulation beyond what the user decides on their own terms. And while much of this freedom goes hand in hand with sensationalism or debasement ignored by almost all other forms of communication; 4chan invariably produces moments of enlightened discussion probing social taboos alongside unrestrained displays of creativity showing a vibrant culture benefitting us all via an unexpected source!
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