2channel, the Voice of a Quiet People | Sunday Observer

2channel, the Voice of a Quiet People

s the most popular English speaking internet forum website ever, 4chan is synonymous with the phrase ‘message board’ and is what most of the world thinks of when bringing up that subject. With around eight hundred thousand posts made daily, it is certainly deserving of that respect. However, many tend to disregard its progenitors, the websites that popularized, developed and proved the Bulletin Board System. 2channel or 2ch and more recently renamed as 5channel, Japan’s most popular online community and its direct descendant, Futaba Channel or 2Chan, 2channel’s image board variant which served as 4chan’s direct inspiration.

Brought to life in March 1999, by Japanese College student Hiroyuki Nishimura, 2channel was created with the intention of finding out what would happen if there was an anonymous space for people to post their opinions online and in a culture like Japan, where one’s feelings are taught to be restrained and kept private, it gave them the perfect chance to let loose. As a result, its popularity was such that at its peak, it ranked 153rd on the global ranking by order of internet traffic while at the same time 4chan lagged behind at 617th and even now receives 2.5 million daily posts compared to 4chan’s 700,000.

Overtime, 2channel’s sheer impact on Japanese culture is unmistakable, even being compared to traditional mass media like TV, radio and magazines. It had more influence on Japanese popular opinion than its Prime Minister, Emperor and the media combined. With the usual spaces complaining about teachers, discussing anime and sharing software, but when motivated can even support charities like when a thousand paper cranes burned up at the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Memorial, a single post on 2channel resulted in 830,000 folded paper cranes in days.

One recorded incident in 2001 occurred when Time Magazine announced Masashi Tashiro, a well-known Japanese comedian as a nominee for Person of the Year. In an event that was soon dubbed the Tashiro Festival or Tashiro Matsuri, 2channel hackers developed a multitude of scripts to hack the voting system to vote repeatedly and one such script, named the ‘Super Tashiro Cannon’ was powerful enough to crash Time’s servers. With their efforts, Masashi Tashiro shot to number one position, temporarily beating out even the likes of then president George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden.

However, Time Magazine took notice of the irregularities and Masashi Tashiro, a man who was infamous for his controversial behaviour that continues even to this day, was quickly removed from the running.

Of course, as a vitriolic anarchical message board with no rules and complete anonymity, there are plenty of negatives that come with it, such as the Neomugicha or Neo Barley Tea incident in the year 2000 where a 17 year old user of the same name posted the intent to hijack a bus, which posters would ignore as a standard violent threat of a frustrated poster letting out steam and seeking attention. Neomugicha would go on to make good on his threat, stabbing a passenger to death and injuring two more. This incident incited the police to investigate 2channel’s posts more thoroughly and many more arrests were made over the following months. A similar trend of post monitor would occur when major advertising company Dentsu would track what users would talk about to see what was popular among the masses.

Its worldwide impact is difficult to measure but undeniable nonetheless, with popular memes like the Reaction Guys or Gaijin 4Koma as it was initially called and the ‘Yaranaika?’ meme being popularized on the message boards of 2channel.

After a period of uncertainty in 2001 which led some to believe the site to be shutting down, several online forums popped up as a refuge for 2channel users. The most popular of these, Futaba Channel or 2Chan took the primarily text based message board formula that 2channel had started and introduced the feature of posting images, creating the image board equivalent to 2channel.

Despite the similarity and improved features, none of these spin off forums ever gained as much traction as 2channel, which refused to die and all but killed any chance of Futaba channel’s success by also introducing the online thumbnail feature which allowed for image posting. Futaba channel persisted but soon continued to die as any success they might’ve had, like the ‘Yaranaika?’ meme, would soon be stolen and reposted on 2channel, becoming infinitely more popular and killing any motivation Futaba Channel users might’ve had left. Ultimately, the most they could say they did was directly inspire a far more successful forum in 4chan, which used its script to create a US based international image board site.