(Much to the dismay of its millions of users, who tried in vain desperation to keep it a secret.)The key to 4chan’s popularity (and what distinguished it from its progenitor Something Awful) was the Japanese bulletin board Poole had adapted for English use.People had so much fun using it, threads became ephemeral, growing wildly within seconds, then disappearing minutes later, pushed out of the way and into oblivion by new threads and so forth 24/7. At the time, one of the few places you saw memes was there.The week before that, 4chan claimed (falsely) it had fabricated the so called Trump “Kompromat”. And how did a website about anime become the of the far right?And the week before that, in the wake of the fire at Ghost Ship, 4chan decided to make war on “liberal safe spaces” and DIY venues across the country. Mixed up with fascist movements, international intrigue, and Trump iconography? At the very beginning, 4chan met once a year in only one place in the world: Baltimore, Maryland at the anime convention, Otakon.
I also attended Otakon in the mid-aughts when 4chan met there, likewise to promote my webcomic.Perhaps the most appealing part for users was that you didn’t have to make an account. Now 4chan is often explained as being responsible for some early popular memes like “rickrolling”. The white Impact font with the black outlines, that was them (via S. Terms like “win” and “epic” and “fail” were all created or popularized on 4chan, used there for years before they became a ubiquitous part of the culture.The software displayed a default name for posters who didn’t sign up — which was everyone. The very method of how gifs and images are interspersed with dialogue in Slack or now i Message or wherever is deeply 4chanian.But around 2008 I realized I wanted to do a story on them.Their user base had grown exponentially and it was obvious they were about to explode into the mainstream.