We are becoming obsessed with online privacy whilst at the same time fussing continuously over our Facebook profiles and Twitter followers. Social networking has been a major part of the internet since the early days of IRC and online anonymity was always an accepted standard.
It was only with the launch ofMySpace and Facebook that the concept of broadcasting our real life personas globally became personalised, but more than a handful of people seem to have a need for an online alter ego. Anonymity is in demand again and 4chan offers it in abundance but its successor (canv.as) may just turn out to be the full package everyone has been waiting for.
4chan.org has been growing in popularity since inception in 2003 but the corporate world prefers to ignore this delinquent attraction. It is basically an imageboard covering a number of topics but with the added feature of anonymous posting.
It’s the source of – or at very least the catalyst of – the majority of the internet’s memes, but more importantly it’s the hub of an anonymous legion that will stop at nothing to, for example, end Scientology or unleash their wrath on those who drown puppies. That is until they get bored and move on.
With the exception of a redesigned landing page, 4chan has remained mostly unchanged since it began. The content turnover for 4chan is extremely high and the older web technologies currently in use are hindering its potential, but to change it would cause major uproar within the community.
The “Hive Mind” as it’s known, consists mostly of 15 to 25 year-olds with broad interests including art, photography, animé and computers. The anonymity gives people the freedom to explore all kinds of taboos, but a lesser acknowledged effect is the absence of pride or the need for acceptance.
The freedom invites a large amount of illegal content as well, ranging from simple piracy to explicit gore. However, the lack of social restraints creates a degree of honesty that is refreshingly rare on the web today and it is attracting more than just the rough edges of society. Without any marketing strategy whatsoever the increase in 4chan’s popularity is purely due to word of mouth.
4chan founder Christopher “moot” Poole was voted in at number 15 on Time’s Top 20 Builders and Titans list in 2009 although 4chan hackers managed to place him at number 1 on Time’s top 100 online poll (with a touch of extra mischief).
There are rumours that the name Christopher Poole acts as his real-life firewall and is actually not his real name. I’ve heard that R.G. are his initials, if you happen to know whether this is true and what R.G. actually stands for drop us a comment below. The 23-year old has now started a company by the name of Canvas Networks and is actively working on a project that can only be speculated upon at this point.
He’s garnered capital from a number of big name investors including Kenneth Lerer, Ron Conway, Joshua Schachter and Marc Andreessen.
As was the case with 4chan, canv.as will likely be an online social environment with anonymity as the defining feature, as it is the highest possible form of privacy. Users are demanding a more private yet liberal online social environment and canv.as is gearing up to fill that gap. We are moving to a situation where the users will be the innovators and architects of the internet, rather than just the marketing stock.