2channel was once Japan's primary anonymous discussion website, and it had an deep effect on not just the culture of Japan, but the very way its society functioned. It was an ancestor of 4chan (via a descendant, Futaba Channel).
Creating a true history textbook is incredibly pertinent, in the aftermath of the 2013 credit card/personal info leak, as well as the 嫌儲 (Anti-Matome Blog Movement) and Jim Watkins' 2014 repossession of the 2ch.net domain.
These three consecutive events severely damaged confidence in the administration, the continuity of its culture, and most of all, its userbase. 2channel is now a shadow of its former self.
And that's a shame. Once, a vibrant civilization roamed these hallowed halls. Now their achievements lie in ruins. So let us discover the storied history of this site, such that we do not repeat the mistakes of our predecessors.
Unfortunately, gathering reliable primary sources from 2ch is extremely difficult, because of three major issues:
- The Language Barrier. Almost all primary sources are written in Japanese, naturally. High quality translations have to be made before we can even begin to understand the issue.
- Deep Bias - In the aftermath of the Anti-Matome Blog Movement, many historical sources could be heavily biased towards one side. This was a dirty war built on slander, shaming, and historical revisionism. This doesn't mean that they are completely wrong, but many people just don't have the full picture. So be careful about the sources you choose.
- Lack of Information - 2ch has archives, but they seem to be difficult to access (from a English speaker's perspective). The only other permanent record of information are the Matome Blogs, (which are unreliable for obvious reasons... also, many of them have shut down).
Please take this into account while putting together this wikibook. But most of all, don't be afraid to sniff out the truth. History is important... because it codifies the missteps, the common experiences, and the achievements that shows the path mankind has taken to it's present state.
- The Second Channel: 2ch - Jkid's research paper on the history of 2channel. Needs updating to account for history after 2010.
- Japanese Wikipedia - 2channel History Timeline - The definitive chronological timeline of major events on 2channel.
- 2ch History Timeline - We need to translate at least some major parts of the timeline into English.
- 2ch Stories - Famous stories that were posted right onto 2channel, such as Densha Otoko.
- 2ch Depictions - Japanese Media/Shows/Literature/Anime that involves 2channel and gives some glimpse into its culture.
- 2ch Flash - Flash culture gives a unique insight into what 2channel was like and how it saw itself, in an exciting and live manner.
Primer for English-Language Internet Users
2channel can be difficult to make sense of for an English-language speaker. Here are some tips:
- For a while, 2channel was the definition of the Japanese Internet. Everyone used 2channel, and it's boards inspired a camaderie, subcultures, and circles that had amazing outputs of Internet Folklife.
- 2channel was the center for gossip for journalists and a haven for trolling. It held various boards catering to anything from otaku culture or everyday life.
- 2channel is a place where pseudoanonymous tripcode users are commonplace and societally accepted. Anonymous users are assigned an ID hashed from their location info.
- 2channel is not the imageboard Futaba Channel (2chan.net). Futaba Channel was designed as a unique twist that added images, and it's code was later used to make 4chan. Threads are text-only on 2channel and threads do not seem to get pruned...
2channel is meant to be an anonymous website, with threads only accessible with a paid subscription (initially, anyway). Some of the threads survive only in their equivalent of screencaps: Summary Sites.
- Thread Archives - Full verbatim thread archives of the websites hosted by third parties. These probably need to be saved to the Internet Archive, as they are fragile.
- Summary Sites - In the absence of full textboard thread archives, Summary Sites have popped up
- English Summary Sites - Because of 2ch's paramount importance to anime discussion, many English-language summary sites (such as Sankaku Complex and aya.shii.org) have been built to present the latest rumors from 2ch.
- Shift_JIS Art - These pictures built with variable-length text are truly masterpieces of artistry, using elaborate styling and shading techniques to turn Kanji and kana into artwork. Unfortunately, much like Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, it is a dying art as few Japanese people believe them to be of any worth, and the intangible traditions and skills that are key to producing them have not been widely passed down.
199X: Ayashii World
One of the first Japanese-language anonymous textboards emerges, in the form of Ayashii World. It was revolutionary, thrilling, and uncontrollable, forming a culture that would have strong parallels with 4chan of 2006-2008. Later on, after a user made death threats against the site owner, he shut down the site and never came back.
Hiroyuki founds 2channel, which quickly emerges as the successor to Ayashii World, after the rise and fall of many predecessors. Since its servers were located in the United States, this granted the website far greater immunity to Japanese legal action than its predecessors, and was the key to its longevity.
And it wasn't long before 2channel became not only the largest Japanese-language anonymous forum; but the definition of the Japanese Internet.
2004: UNIX Crisis
In 2004, 2channel was at threat of shutdown due to poorly coded Perl server code that caused serious lag.
At the 11th hour, legions of programmers from the UNIX board volunteered to help refactor the codebase, which tremendously reduced memory usage.
Their story is recorded in the UNIX Flash.
2009: Packet Monsters
Hiroyuki officially transfers ownership of 2channel to a Singaporean holding company known as "Packet Monsters", perhaps to introduce limited legal liability to the site. He still remains administrator, but under the covers.
This move sets in motion a trifecta of scandals that will haunt Hiroyuki and 2channel for the next few years.
- 8ch.net/newspaper/ - Manga detailing the scandal - Disclaimer: This manga was translated to English by a member of the Anti-Matome Blog Movement, introducing significant historical bias for their side. Since the author was unable to write a list of his Japanese-language sources, we are currently unable to verify these claims.
2012-2013: Lawsuit City
Due to "bystander" laws that dictate a website that fails to regulate its community to be an accessory to a crime, on December 20, 2012, Hiroyuki was charged for "promoting the sale of narcotics".
On August 24, 2013, in a tax audit by the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau has pointed out that approximately 100 million yen of income was received from Packet Monsters, and Hiroyuki was reported to have been required to pay about 30 million yen in additional taxes.
By the end of all these legal actions, Hiroyuki was apparently saddled with US $5 million in fines.
2013: Credit Card Info Leak
On August 26, 2013, personal information (including credit card data) was leaked from 2channel Viewer, their premium membership service. This led to the embarassing deanonymization of various individuals, as well as exposing them to identity theft. The crisis rocked the Japanese Internet, and many major celebrities, bloggers, and typical normal users had their scandalous post history uncovered.
This crippling security breach unleashed waves of lawsuits against 2channel, a loss of confidence in the treasured anonymity of the website, a mass exodus, and led to the following crisis.
嫌儲 (Anti-Matome Blog Movement)
One of 2ch's most controversial community developments in recent years has been the ブログ (Matome Blog), aka アフィ (Affiliate Blog). These blogs were originally volunteer efforts meant to summarize the weekly threads of 2ch for the general population.
Unfortunately, like all good things, these blogs became deeply corrupted when view-count advertising money came into the picture, as they could easily grab eyeballs by sensationalizing 2ch posts and slandering otaku culture. Eventually, the most successful blogs resorted to underhanded tactics, such as making false 2ch threads in a textbook case of yellow journalism, or exploiting the power of viral marketing to gain more cash.
To get an understanding of what they mean, one of the few English-language Matome Blogs is the infamous Sankaku Complex. (Though they seem to be posting less about 2ch these days, which may indicate a serious population decline on the website.)
The problem was escalated to an unacceptable extent after the 2013 Credit Card Leaks, which ruined lives by revealing the identities and posting history of many anonymous tripcodes: real or fake. As a result, 2ch users began organizing the 嫌儲 (Anti-Matome Blog Movement), igniting a divisive conflict of corruption, abuse of power, and public shaming against both sides that literally tore 2ch apart.
2014: 2ch.net Domain Repossession
On February 19, 2014, Jim Watkins, from the San Francisco-based N.T. Technology web hosting service, repossessed the 2ch.net domain and all servers, claiming that the "previous administration" failed to pay the bills (perhaps after getting showered with lawsuits), and announcing that he himself would take over as the new admin.
Hiroyuki expressed regret on the decision, but did not pursue charges or make appeals. However, he did scrape the entire 2ch.net website and its massive thread archives to build a new website, 2ch.sc. This would have been fine, had Hiroyuki not done it in a way that sucked up much of Jim Watkin's bandwidth and cost Jim lots of money.
- Japan Times - Who holds the deeds to gossip bulletin board 2channel?
- Hiroyuki Scrapes 2ch.net into 2ch.sc
The 2ch Diaspora
2channel has been split into two separate and slowly diverging communities: Jim Watkin's 2ch.net, and Hiroyuki's 2ch.sc.
However, the community has long since left the site and searched for better places. The diaspora can be roughly divided into two groups: One branch that tries to preserve the traditions of 2ch's pseudoanonymous discussions, and one that has dispensed with the concept entirely and moved on to Twitter and other conventional Japanese Social Networks.
- 2ch.net - Still maintained by Jim Watkins of N.T. Technology and 2ch.net. All text thread archives are still stored here. A few stalwart individuals have returned to the ruins of 2channel, and scrape together what they can to form a few discussions. (In October 2017, 2ch.net was renamed to 5ch.net).
- 2ch.sc - Hiroyuki's mirror of 2ch.net. It seems that few people actually post here, since it is kept up-to-date with 2ch.net anyway.
- Textboarders - A branch of the 2ch diaspora descending from the Anti-Matome Blog Movement. They keep 2ch traditions alive in textboard style communities, some with significantly improved infrastructure.
- 8ch.net - Hotwheels, the admin of 8ch.net (an anonymous imageboard where users can make their own boards) has partnered with Jim Watkins of 2ch.net to provide a space for anonymous textboard discussion.
- Reddit /newsokur/ - "Reddit is the heaven." Reddit is the closest analogue to 2channel in the English-language community, but with one clear improvement: it has nested threads, and the OPs can share links or self-posts. Since users can make their own boards, and moderators are not appointed by Reddit staff, it has become a vibrant center of pseudoanonymous discussion for 2ch refugees.
- Socialites Many users have dispensed with the idea of anonymity entirely, and have moved to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter for their discussion needs.
- Twitter - SNS services are standard fare in other countries, so why not Japan? Those who come here, however, have assimilated into a run-of-the-mill internet culture that differs little from the rest of the Internet.
- LINE (messaging application)
- Source: Reddit /newsokur/
2015: Hiroyuki Appointed as Admin of 4chan
On September 21, 2015, Hiroyuki Nishimura was announced by moot as 4chan's next admin. A Q&A session on 4chan's /qa/ was hosted on September 22, 2015 at 8:00PM EST. This caused some drama over his controversial legacy on 2channel. He testified to his legacy in the quote on the right.
Note that further research and cross examination will be necessary. But at the very least, after so many people have spoken in his place, Hiroyuki was finally able to speak for himself.
Prehistory (Before 1999)
Stage I: (1999-2005)
- Yotsuba Society Research Papers - Written by JKid, the founder of the Yotsuba Society.
- Syberpunk - 2channel - The ultimate source of all English-languages references to Early 2ch History.
- List of Oolong Rabbit Articles - A list of articles about the Oolong rabbit.
Stage II: (2005-2009)
Stage III: (2009-2014)
- Japanese Wikipedia - 2ch.net
- Japanese Wikipedia - 2ch.sc - Hiroyuki's new replacement site.
- Japanese Wikipedia - 嫌儲 (Kenmou) - Anti-Matome Blog Movement
- Flash Archives
- Nicovideo Wiki - 偽2ch騒動