Being Seen Without Being Known, And Christopher Poole

Christopher Poole

"The world is changing so quickly, it's hard to get anything right for long."

- Christopher Poole

With people going to the web for information, more people want to share things and express their thoughts. But not everyone wants to be known.

Going anonymous is one big gift when it comes to sharing something on the web. And this sparks the idea for Christopher Poole to create a board where people can post anonymously. With the most recent posts appearing above the rest, the board ensures that everyone can be seen.

Modeled on Japanese imageboard, 4chan was originally meant for users posting pictures and discussing manga, as well as anime. But due to its anonymous nature, the site quickly gained traction and became popular.

The site then expanded by featuring more boards dedicated to a wide variety of topics, further creating internet subculture and activism groups.

Many people may find posts on 4chan offensive with a lot of obscenity, racial insults and pretty much anything disgusting. Nevertheless, the site has millions of users and has been responsible for influencing many web culture and many strange memes that have propagated on the internet. After all, people are always looking for shocking and entertaining things.

Poole as its founder, is recognized as yet another tech mogul.

Early Life

Christopher Poole was born in 1988, and was known as "Moo".

It was on a summer break that Poole discovered a Japanese animation. Interested by it, Poole started watching a lot of anime and follow many online forums. This was when he found an imageboard forum called 2chan, which was nothing he ever saw before.

This inspired him. Poole was astonished by the speed the contents were added to the popular Japanese Futaba Channel. "Even back then you could sit and hit refresh on your browser and continue to see new content."

Since the source code for 2chan was publicly available, "I took it and translated it from Japanese to English using tools online, and I threw it up on the web and sent it out to 20 people," Poole said.

This was when "Moo" becomes "moot," a name he was later known in 4chan.

4chan, The Anonymous Board

In his bedroom in 2003, Christopher Poole launched 4chan. At the time, he was 15 years old student in New York City.

His intention for 4chan, was to be an American counterpart of 2chan, where people can discuss manga and anime. At first, he took some anime-related images to populate his board. And when launching the site, Poole encouraged users of the Something Awful subforum who happened to be dissatisfied with the forum, to discuss anime on his website.

During 4chan's earliest days, it had only two boards: /a/ – Anime/General and /b/ – Anime/Random.

The boards on 4chan were pretty quiet at first, as it only had few contributing people. They shared anime, random, cute, hentai, and yaoi boards. After a being offline for quite a while in 2004, 4chan returned fully online months later and added some non-anime related boards, such as the weapons, automobile, and video games boards. These were followed by sports board, the fashion board and the Japan/General ("Otaku culture").

Quickly this escalated the number of contributors.

2 years later when Poole was 17, a Japanese online toy store approached him and offered $15,000 to buy the site. "I told them I wasn’t interested in selling, so they bumped the price up to $45,000." Poole declined the offer as his focus was all about developing the site to become bigger.

4chan Affects And Influence

With the internet growing, becoming anonymous is like a gift for being seen without being known. And this anonymous community and culture have often provoked media attention, especially since 4chan users have managed to create some of the highest-profile collective actions in the history of the internet.

For example, users together were able to launch DDoS attacks and turned websites down; making a swastika unicode character a top trending on Google as 4chan users have managed to query the symbol as Google search term in the U.S.; the private Yahoo! Mail account of Sarah Palin, Republican vice presidential candidate in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, was hacked by a 4chan user, in which started investigations by the FBI and Secret Service; plummeting Apple's stock price after a user put a hoax story using CNN's user-generated news site; bombarding YouTube with pornographic videos because YouTube deleted music and making users failed to meet the minimum age requirement; 4chan users in attacking the website of the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America in retaliation against a Bollywood filming industry in plotting a cyberattack against The Pirate Bay; making pranks directed at singer Justin Bieber; hijacking internet destinations to cause images of Rick Astley to appear in place of their content; the attack to a UK law firm because of its association with anti-piracy client; and several others.

4chan has also been linked with threats violence and the invasion of privacy.

For example, 4chan users were able to create a threat involving dirty bombs at stadium, creating a rumor about a shooting about to happen, making the police to dispatch and catch someone, to realize that it was all a 4chan prank.

The site had also hosted pornographic images of children, in which several people were caught after downloading them.

In 2014, 4chan was also linked with celebrity photo leaks, also known as "fappening". It started when a large number of private photographs taken by celebrities were posted on 4chan due to a hacked user passwords at Apple's iCloud. And at the same year, 4chan was involved in the Gamergate controversy.

4chan is also linked with the creation of the Anonymous meme and Project Chanology.

Leaving 4chan

Even at its peak, 4chan didn't have any employees. It was Poole and him only. While it did have a part-time developer in Georgia, and some volunteers for moderators, but 4chan was never a company with revenue goal and paycheck.

What Poole did, was only making the site break even. For living, he took some other jobs.

On January 21, 2015, he stepped down as the site's administrator, saying that the stress of managing a site full of controversies as the reason for his departure.

4chan wasn't originally meant to be what it is. But the nature of people and the internet, and the state of being anonymous made it a popular place for sharing and creating collective actions to do things imaginable.

On September 21, 2015, Poole announced that Hiroyuki Nishimura, a Japanese internet entrepreneur, had purchased 4chan from him. Nishimura is not only known as the great grandfather of image boards, as he is also a supporter of anonymity.

"I’ve always been inspired by his work,” said Poole.

Because the two share the same management style, Poole in leaving 4chan didn't affect how 4chan operates.

Without disclosing the terms of the acquisition, Poole fled the controversies. Since then, "I’ve basically been in a more relaxed state of being for the last year. I really needed time off to get my bearings and get excited about stuff again," Poole said.

It was on January 31, 2011, that Poole created Canvas Networks. The website was about sharing and remixing media, and received funds from investors. The venture didn't last long as it closed in 2014, not long before Poole's departure from 4chan.

Poole - Canvas

Personal Life

Christopher Poole is regarded as one of IT entrepreneur who has a considerable name in the highly-competitive industry. But he tends to avoid spotlight and kept his personal life to himself.

"My personal private life is very separate from my internet life ... There's a firewall in between."

He was said to live with his mother until adulthood. But by keeping most of the things in life to himself, even his mother didn't know that he was the founder and administrator of 4chan, one of the most popular site on the web.

"I didn’t want my parents to know about 4chan at first because of the adult content," Poole said. "By the time I was 18, and could talk about it, the site had become notorious for its exploits and the adult content on there."

As a "meme factory," 4chan is known by many names, and so is Poole. Previously he was known only as "moot", and Poole's name was only revealed on July 9, 2008, in The Wall Street Journal. Even when Poole's name was announced, some didn't even think that "Poole" was really his name. The Washington Post even said that "Christopher Poole" could be "a big hoax."

"Yes, I was 'Moot' online, Chris in school and with my family, and I used other real names with people I met online and told them my name was Robert."

Poole attended Virginia Commonwealth University for a few semesters before dropping out.