Reddit is a thriving online community which often surfaces memes as well as questionable content.Christopher Poole, a.k.a. Moot, founded 4chan, the mother of all memes-and-controversy boards, and has a startup to promote, called Canvas, which is basically “4chan with its pants on.”
So Moot went on Reddit and started a thread to let the community interview him.
You can read the whole thread but we’ve decided to take the best bits, and edit them into an easier to read Q&A format.
Reddit: How old were you when you invented 4chan?
Moot: I was 15 years old when I founded 4chan.
Reddit: How did 4chan get started?
Moot: On the day it was founded, 4chan was posted to the anime sub-forum of [huge forum] Something Awful and so many of the first users from from there, but the site itself is 100% based on a Japanese site called Futaba Channel, or 2chan.net.
Futaba Channel is in turn based on 2channel, which is a huge text BBS that’s inspired a lot of the anonymous and otaku culture in Japan.
I had the opportunity to meet 2channel’s founder, Hiroyuki Nishimura at SXSW Interactive this year, and it was a real treat.
Reddit: What made 4chan so popular?
Moot: The community. 4chan’s culture is unique and spreads and draws people in like no other. It’s also important to realise that 4chan wasn’t some overnight success, and there was never “hockey stick”-like growth. Its growth has been entirely organic (we’ve never advertised, past posting it on day one to IRC and a forum), and has been a slow steady build over seven and a half years.
Reddit: How have you gotten away with hosting a site that consistently has child pornography posted on it? Have there been serious attempts to shut it down? How is the site monitored – do you forward illegal material and IP info to the FBI?
Moot: 4chan gets almost one million posts per day, hundreds of thousands of which are images. As with any large [user-generated content] site a very, very small percentage of these posts end up being contraband or questionable content. We have a team of volunteers who do an excellent job removing prohibited content, including [child pornography], which is then automatically reported to the National centre for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline.
NCMEC acts as a clearing house and forwards reports to the appropriate law enforcement. This is how all major ISPs and online service providers do it.
Reddit: Has anyone gotten arrested for posting illegal content?
Moot: Yes. Anyone who posts illegal content on 4chan is an idiot.
Do you ever feel bad about all the peoples lives who have been ruined due to the ruthless antics of the people on /b/?
Moot: Yes, it’s extremely unfortunate and regrettable.
Reddit: Have you become 100 per cent immune to the horrors of the internet over the years?
Moot: Not entirely, but there isn’t much that fazes me at this point.
Reddit: How many people does 4chan employ?
Moot: None. It’s just me, a volunteer part-time developer, and a handful of volunteer moderators and janitors. The volunteers all do an incredible job, and don’t get nearly enough credit for their hard work. Hats off to them!
Reddit: What do you think, 10 years from now, the lasting cultural legacy of 4chan will be?
Moot: That it shaped ‘Net and [real life] culture in a way that few other communities/websites have.
Reddit: What aspects of 4chan do you wish people knew more about?
Moot: [That infamous troll-board /b/ isn’t the same thing as 4chan] but also that the “15 year old hacker nerd” stereotype isn’t very accurate. People often confuse the entire 4chan community with /b/. We have ~50 boards, all with their own amazing sub-communities and cultures. And tons of normal, functional people use the site. Our (first!) meetup at Barcade a few months ago was proof of that—everyone who showed up was extremely sociable, nice, and we all had a great time.
Reddit: Has anyone ever recognised you on the street?
Moot: Yes, it happens regularly, depending on where I walk. Areas with lots of college students/young people can be a minefield, so I tend to avoid them.
Next: Everything about his latest startup Canvas and the future of online identity →
Reddit: Can you explain Canvas to us. What is it for and what makes it different?
Moot: Canvas is a place to share and play with images. We’re trying to reimagine forums in a world where everyone has a fast, modern browser.
Where are we now? The site is a fast paced collaborative image editing community. Post a fun picture and within minutes there will be multiple remixes of it. Sticker the ones you like. The frontpage works a lot like Reddit but with stickers for upvotes.
Where are we going? More realtime. Much more discussion. More image editing features. More types of content on the site. Better ways for groups to share and have conversations together.
What we’ve launched so far represents just a kernel of the long-term vision we have for the site, and we’re extremely excited to grow the community and explore what’s in store!
Something that’s central to Canvas is the idea of “play.” We love media and the idea that nothing is set in stone any more—and not just text—but photo, video, and audio is all interactive, malleable, and participatory. Think 4chan, YouTube, and SoundCloud.
Reddit user FractalIP added this, which hits the nail on the head: I think the best description I’ve heard is “4chan with pants on”, which is pretty much spot on. It’s very similar to 4chan at it’s core, but it has a few things which set it apart, such as a much, much better design, the ability to tag (“sticker”) posts and a built-in image editor. Quite an awesome place, I must say. Oh, and monocles. S—loads of monocles.
Reddit: Do you think the forum medium is on its way out?
Moot: I think you’ll see some radical changes in the future. The medium just can’t hold, since it hasn’t changed for decades. Canvas is our attempt to re-imagine them, starting with a focus on media-sharing.
Reddit: On Facebook and whether anonimity is on its way out:
Moot: I want the public to understand the importance of having the option to contribute anonymously. At SXSW, I focused on anonymous authenticity, and the creativity that anonymity allows for. The ability to fail quietly without having that failure associated with your name/identity allows for more experimentation and limit pushing. People also contribute in a totally raw, unfiltered way, that I’d argue is more authentic than real-ID.
That said, there are times where you do want to know who that other person is, and where real-ID is preferable. A good example is news websites and YouTube, where the comment quality is often terrible.
So to sum it up: There isn’t one way of doing anything. I’m not saying everywhere online should be anonymous, nor do I think everywhere should use read-ID. I just want options! And for people to understand how valuable anonymity can be, and why it’s worth protecting.
Facebook does social really well, but continues to fail at community.
Reddit: Would you fight Mark Zuckerberg to the death?
Moot: I’ve met Mark a couple times, and we’ve messaged before. Every interaction has been positive. I don’t agree with everything Facebook does or his stance on identity, but he’s a nice and extremely smart guy who believes in what he’s doing.
- REVEALED: Inside 4chan Founder Moot’s Secretive Startup Canvas →
- THE SEEDY SIDE OF REDDIT: Porn, Racism And Nazi Memorabilia →
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