2ch Chronicle/The Third Channel
Futaba Channel (ja: ふたば☆ちゃんねる) is the mother of Anonymous Imageboard Culture. 4chan translated and improved it's Futallaby webscripts, and inherited much of Futaba's 2004 memes and culture.
However, it's history and folklife are not well understood by the general public, or even 4chan users. Even internet users in Japan might have a hard time recognizing it. Unlike 2channel, Futaba Channel did not achieve similar mainstream exposure or media coverage. It's audience is narrower, underground, and otaku than 2channel.
But Futaba Channel's innovations were novel back in 2001. For one, images could be posted as the topic of discussion. In an era when 30GB hard drives were standard, it was unprecedented to be able to post a photo of delicious food to talk about... (or on the NSFW boards, post a photo of some DFC).
A second key aspect of an imageboard is that it was ephemeral. Unlike textboards such as 2ch, where threads stuck around for years, space restrictions required image threads to be pruned weekly, or even daily.
In his Final Q&A, Moot states that ephemerality was not a weakness, but the key to 4chan's success. In the waterfall of content, great memes would be reposted again or screencapped, just like salmon swimming against river rapids. Less compelling content would fall into the void and be forgotten.
And of course, ephemerality was conducive to incredible stories (true and false), as well as /b/'s infamous raids against other sites, where the thread would disappear within a couple of hours.
The Imageboard would revolutionize anonymous discussion forever.
- 1 What is Futaba Channel?
- 2 Origins
- 3 The Nijiura Boards
- 4 Legacy
- 5 Relationship with 2channel and Futaba Channel
- 6 International
- 7 Sources
What is Futaba Channel?
Futaba Channel is the world’s first anonymous imageboard website, created in 2001. It’s more narrowly focused on otaku and underground topics than 2channel.
The site consists of 60 imageboards and 40 textboards with topics ranging from "advice to junk food, ramen, and gore". There are boards for sports like baseball, soccer. There’s a mahjong board, one for animals and one for plant life. There are cooking boards for pictures of food, and dedicated boards for candy and ramen. Video games? There’s a board for games and a board for MMORPGs called Net Games. There’s even a board for politics, economics, advice, and most recently a board for the recent Tohoku Earthquake and for nuclear power issues.
The board is powered by the open-source Futallaby script. Futallaby is "considered a bastard child of the GazouBBS script” An irreverent guide to the many boards of Futaba Channel by Ordinary K !3GqYIJ3Obs
In the beginning, the Futallaby script only allowed one image to be posted on a thread. Later on, Moot and Team4chan translated and wrangled with the Futallaby script, giving users the ability to post image replies (critical for image dumping... especially on NSFW threads).
The major difference that Futaba channel has over 2channel is that content is ephemeral. Ephemerality means that content is ongoing and never persistent. In layman’s terms it means that it will eventually disappear. Depending on the size of the community and thus it’s posting rate, threads can last from anywhere from ten minutes to several hours.
This contrasts with threads on 2channel, where threads can anywhere from hours to days when people actively post in them. And when the thread gets automatically locked when reached 1000 replies, the threads are permanently archived.
Another way of enforcing ephemerality is that threads depending on the time length get pruned automatically. This is shown at the end of the OP message “Thread marked for deletion (old)”. This indicates that the thread has already reached it’s time frame. With content always appearing and disappearing, people make a habit of saving content they already created or want. This essentially creates memes out of simple pictures.
Unlike the administrator of 2channel, who is well known in the domestic and international media. No one in Futaba Channel knows how the site is maintained, nor how moderators of Futaba Channel are selected. The administrator of Futaba Channel remains unknown, in reflection of the underground nature of the site. Popular fanart depictions show the Futaba's administrator, "Kanrinin-san", as a fujoshi (female otaku).
Around 2007-2008, The server administrator made it possible for users to delete their own posts and threads via the del link. In addition, the system also allowed boards to be added and deleted. Threads and posts can be reported for indecent images, personal information, harassment, spam, and slander.
Futaba Channel was set up during 2001's August Crisis, when 2channel was about to shut down due to overwhelming server load. As a result of media coverage, 2channel had gained mainstream appeal far beyond what it's servers were equipped to handle. 2ch users developed two solutions to the August Crisis:
- On the UNIX textboard, a group of volunteer 2ch programmers worked together tirelessly to improve 2channel's poorly designed Perl scripts. Crowdsourcing was a new idea at the time, and it was difficult for users to believe that any amateur coder could take on 2ch's infamous Perl spaghetti code.
- But miraculously, these volunteers did succeed, significantly reducing memory usage. And 2ch would live for another decade.
- In the wake of the collapse of Ayashii World and Amezou, users felt that creating a new website was simply an aspect of life. Another group of 2channelers set up a new textboard as 2ch's successor. The admin made a url called “2chan.net” in order to establish a connection to the 2channel url “2ch.net”.
- However, 2channel didn't die, thanks to the valiant efforts of the UNIX board. Most 2ch refugees flowed back into their homeboards as a result.
"2chan.net", the website now known as Futaba Channel, had to establish a purpose for it's continued existence. As a result, the admin decided to experiment with a new image upload feature. On 2channel and other textboards, in order to post a picture, you have to post a link to an off-site host. Now with Futaba channel, you can simply upload any image in jpg, png, or gif format and have others view it. This sparked a revolution in the way anonymous forums operated.
The Nijiura Boards
The heart of the Futaba channel are the Nijiura boards. The original /b/ board created (known as /b/) was about illustrations, and screenshots of popular anime and scans from manga series, and general discussion about anime and manga. The first nijiura board (which is mistakenly known as /b/ in the Western World) was initially created to separate anime and manga discussion and from captured images and fan created manga.
Eventually the doujin discussion and captured images eventually turned into all sorts of random things about anime and otaku culture. Gag pictures, memes, photoshopped images and all sorts of stuff which gave birth to many net characters and in culture which made the Nijiura boards. The popularity of the /b/ boards gave rise to four additional boards, and then three more boards were created. Some of them have forced anonymity, some have option of anonymity. But the Nijiura boards have their own culture which spawned multiple gag images and net characters. Many of them were bridge memes between Futaba and 4chan.
The word Nijiura is a combination of two phrases: “Two dimensions” and “Flip side”. The full word for Nijiura in Japanese is “Nijigen ura”. The word Nijiura combines Niji and ura. The Two dimensions part of the board is reference to anime- and manga-related artwork and materials (Nijiura wiki), than the three-dimensions of film, television, and photography. The flipside means it’s an alternative board to the original two-dimensional board.
Inside the Nijirua boards reside the "Toshiaki": the users themselves. Most of the work on the Nijiura boards is created by them where they anonymously create, modify, and suggest ideas. Ideas can include gag pictures, to full blown characters. Due to the high posting rate only anything that “strikes a note with a significant number of people stays, while ideas that fail to attract support disappear” (ibid). With the basic requirement to remain popular with the Toshiaki, there are no true guidelines.
The Nijiura boards have become a symbol of Futaba channel. There are seven nijiura boards in all of Futaba: img, dat, may, jun, nov, dec, and cgi. Each nijiura subdomain has a difference in culture and content, and they have their own original characters and mascots. In particular, the may nijiura subdomain is often used to test various functions thus they call that subdomain of nijiura the experimental board. The may server is also considered more friendly to foreigners who are able to post on Futaba and new futaba channers than the other Nijiura boards.
Nijiura Boards - At a Glance
- Img – The first ninjiura board and the “largest creative force” of the five, as most content in created there. Forced anonyminity. No image replies
- Dat – Forced anonymity. No image replies.
- May – Public nijiura board. Experimental board. More friendly to new comers than the rest. Less porn and more focused on real world stuff
- Jun – Public ninjiura board. The porn board. More focused on hentai and loli content. (http://tanasinn.info/wiki/Nijiura)
- Nov – Unknown, hidden
- Dec – latest nijiura board. Not much information about it, except that it’s public.
- Cgi – unknown, hidden
- Toshiaki – the /b/tard of Futaba
The /b/ boards are different from the regular imageboards of futaba because their default anonymous name is not “Nameless” but “Toshiaki”. The default name was changed in April 12, 2003 “honor” of the lifeless spammer/crapflooder Toshiaki.
It’s unknown how the /b/ boards got changed to that default name but to our knowledge and from our YS Historian IshiharaYar, here is our theory:
Futaba Channel has always been plagued by crapflooding (another way of saying spam) since its inception. Despite blocking foreigner IPs from Futaba, it doesn’t prevent domestic crapflooding. Most spammers do their spamming anonymously without using a name. What made Toshiaki different was that one he did it in /b/, a place where you are expected to remain anonymous as much as possible.
So what that spammer did and he adopted the name of Toshiaki. Using that handle he constantly spammed threads on /b/ with the usual crap flooding. But for some reason or another people of /b/ thought it was funny that he adopted a username to begin with. Eventually other futaba channers adopted the same name because it was funny. The toshiaki crapfests ironically brought the community
together because Toshiaki was unique to /b/. The admin thought the same thing, and decided to change the default name of the /b/ boards to Toshiaki.
Further research revealed that not that the original Toshiaki not only crapflooded, he shitposted on Futaba’s /b/. He was a “particularly insistent user” who shitposted on various threads in a satirical, trollish manner. (Secchan Nijiura Wiki) Eventually, the /b/ users of Futaba adopted the name and begun copying his style of posting. With so many of them posting under the name, the admin changed the default name of the Nijiura boards to Toshiaki.
However for a brief period from July 15, 2004 to May 25, 2005 the administrator briefly removed the default names in changes of the script. Later img and dat /b/ were the only ones that have that change and the name field was removed entirely. Those boards are the forced anonymous boards, where there is no true name,「」,“representing an empty quotation, much like ""”. (ibid) The other Nijirua boards still use the Toshiaki name though.
Depending on the situation, the word Toshiaki can be said in a number of ways. It can be often shortened to Toshiaki. This tradition expanded for “who take a name for themselves” in the Nijiura boards, by ending their usernames in “-aki”, like Me-tan as in the creator of ME-tan . (ibid)This tradition is continued in other contexts in Futaba Channel as well, such as the yuri board (Yuriaki), the img and dat boards as kakkou or kakkou-aki, and female Nijiura channers (Joshiaki). Even when in meetups outside of Futaba Channel, they refer to themselves as Toshiaki.
Toshiaki is also depicted as a character called “ore”, a character born from a self-portrait festival on the Nijirua boards. The original image is a scary depiction of Toshiaki that was actually drawn from a user named “scary Toshiaki” drew him as a self-portrait (ibid) Ore is a more scary and more depraved version of the character and there are different versions of the style of the style of character. Even in colored art work, he’s often drawn in grayscale.
Rules of the Nijirua Boards
According to Shii there are some unwritten rules of /b/. These are two primary ones.
- Hantoshi-rom A Japanese saying that means: "You must only read this board for six month. In plain English this means before you post crap like a newbie, you must lurk for at least six months, before posting. After six months, you will be able to post decent stuff like any other toshiaki. Another variant of this is Kuuki Yome or “read the air or feel the atmosphere”.
- In slang terms, it means “don’t be stupid”.
- Stay as anonymous as possible. Futaba Channel is an anonymous imageboard, names or individuality is quite unnecessary unless you have to. "One toshiaki is just as good as (or as much of a loser) as another".
Life on Futaba Channel
In a 2011 blog post by Ganota, a seasoned user described his experience on Futaba Channel compared to 4chan::
4chan is good, I think. Of course, they are rude and ruthless. They enjoy throwing dirty words. They post erotic and grotesque pictures everywhere. But to me, it is no problem. I'm used to this kind of childish behaviors from 2chan experiences. And I think they are less problematic. Compared to 2chan, their hatred seems [more] disorganized.
In 2chan, they attacks [are] mainly [against] weak people, especially Koreans or Chinese in Japan, integrated people, womans, and anyone who has weakness. They insult them, and no one stands up for these minorities because it is useless to fight against anonymous. They can be someone and no one at the same time.
But in 4chan, seems different. They throw dirty words each other. they call everyone as fag. Homo or straight, man or women are not the point. They call homo as homo fag, straight as straight fag. They call white as pig, black as nigger. They insult EVERYONE. So, there is weird equality. It is better that dispute is everywhere than insults focus on only minorities.
Well known memes and gag images
The Nijirua boards have produced well known memes, net characters, and gag images that many 4channers don’t notice. You might recognize some of them as bridge memes, memes that cross over from one chan to another.
- OS-tans - The OS-tans are a series of cute, moe net characters based primarily on the Windows series of operating systems. Depicted as women and related as sisters of varying ages, they represent each windows operating system by height, age, and by breast size. The first OS-tan, Me-tan, was created at August 6, 2003. Me-tan was depicted as fickle, troublesome girl in a maid suit complete with green hair with an idiot strand.
- Some Toshiaki artists included a setting where Toshiaki owns a PC. With that comic strip then a group of women which they personify every operating system he owns. The first OS-tans were from the Windows operating system. Then the Mac OS line was created, and then other software lines were created. There’s also a male counterpart to the OS-tan’s called OS-kuns.
- Ninjura Maids - A collection of maid characters that serve Toshiaki. Most of the creation of the maids involves puns based on their personalities. There are a total of 15 maids as of 2013.
- Meido-san - The first maid developed in the series. An apathetic maid that finds everything to be a bother.
- Kudoi-san - The maid who speaks a lot and keeps rambling on.
- Modoi - The maid that is angry and impatient at everything.
- Nemui - A tired maid who’s always drowsy and carries a pillow.
- Yakui-san - One of the maids that crossed over to our side as a bridge net character. Yakui is a maid who is addicted to drugs and pharmaceuticals. She’s one of the primary mascots of 420-chan along with TCC-chan. Despite the fact that she’s addicted to drugs, she’s actually adorable.
- Gaijin 4koma (Bridge). A 4panel comic which has mutated into many variations. The 4koma usually interpose boredom and excitement images with good and bad images. The action images used a image of 4 attendees at E3 “responding to news of a Zelda video game” (Futaba Channel – Everything Shii Knows). The images have also been used as models for anime characters, video game characters, and even Touhou characters drawn in the same poses.
- Yaranaika - Is a phrase meaning “Shall we do it”. The phrase is a double entendre suggesting anal sex. It was used in a homosexual erotic comic book "Kuso Miso Technique" (Shit Soup Techniuqe). The original manga was discovered by Ayashii worlders in 2002, but faded away. In 2003, Futaba Channers rediscovered the manga years later and endlessly parodied it. It triggered a “Yamajun boom" of interest in Junichi Yamakawa's work, not only in Futaba, but also in 2channel.
- BIKECAT - A cat that sit’s in the basket of a bike. Often times the cat is depicted in the streets of Nagoya Japan. His endearingly grumpy personality makes him even cuter. But not only his personality makes him even cuter, it’s interpreted as a quality of a leader or even a god.
- It’s pictures were crossed over to iichan’s /b/ board and WTFux.org cat imageboard. BIKECAT pictures can be seen at Soviet Russia’s Meow board.
There are other memes and catchphrases that originated on Futaba Channel. Such as MIYOCO, Mageres, Mr.Munday, Musashi GUN-DO, a Master is OUT, Longcat, Nevada-tan, Moetron, the Waha character, and the Kimoi girls. They are listed on the Tanashin wiki, and Shii’s everything knows wiki as well.
The Net Runner Incident
Netrunner was a magazine about computers and computer technology. They were famous for publishing illegal information like hacking irresponsibly. The magazine introduced an imageboard browsing software named Berry in one issue. That issue was responsible for creating a surge of traffic to Futaba as well as many inexperienced people who know nothing about the atmosphere of the site. But that wasn’t the thing that angered them.
Around 2003, the magazine decided to copy Futaba characters and sold merchandise based on the characters at the dismay of many Toshiaki. So much a deep enmity is sown, that many Futaba Channers made a campaign against Netrunner and its readers. Futaba Channers created various images basically telling Netrunner reads that they are not welcome to Futaba. More specifically“禁ネトラン厨” ,“No NetRunners allowed”. This type of image can be seen in every fan site of Futaba’s Culture.
Netrunner magazine eventually went out of existence in 2009.
Other Futaba Channel Boards
Like 4chan, Futaba Channel has a slew of SFW and NSFW boards, and have developed a posting style not unlike their English-language compatriots.
Because of the cultural affinity between Futaba Channel and 4chan, many users have conducted cultural exchanges between the two boards.
- The origin of the Chaika Face
- What do Futaba Channel users care most about in their computers?
- Futaba Channel loves Americans.
- /g/ explores 2chan
- /g/ discovers a Wireless DB-9 Adapter
The futaba script since its open source allows many Japanese to build similar styled imageboards. Thus you have a whole set of Japanese imageboards, many of them are unknown to the English speaking community and has yet to be studied and documented by the Western World. There is even one imageboard, which is secret which is dedicated to preservation of the creativity of the Toshiaki of Nijiura.
Relationship with 2channel and Futaba Channel
Futaba Channel originally became a refuge for 2channelers when it was threated with closure due to the ever expanding server use. After the end of the crisis, most of the 2channelers returned to their homeland. But a few stuck around, since images created a whole host of possibilites (and pr0n) that anyone could just grab and post, in contrast with esoteric 2ch's Shift_JIS art.
As a result, despite a common ancestor with contemporary 2channel, Futaba's userbase developed its own image-based folklife... Not unlike 4chan. And thus, the culture of 2channel and NicoNicoDouga can be as foreign to Futaba users as Tumblr and YouTube comments are to 4chan.
People who are not living in areas with Japanese IPs are allowed to view Futaba Channel. However, they are not allowed to post due to several incidents from crapflooding/spam and DDoS attacks from foreigners (particularly from the Republic of South Korea and the People’s Republic of China). This was one reason why Moot created 4chan, for Westerners to have their own Futaba-inspired imageboard. Essentially an English version of Futaba, without the language barrier that Japanese imposed.
The birth of Futaba Channel and 4chan created a whole world of imageboards, not just in Japan, but in the rest of the World at large. By providing the seed for 4chan’s culture and structure, Futaba's design engendered the culture and structure of modern Imageboard Culture. Without Futaba Channel, 4chan, and the rest of the imageboard community (as we know it)... would not exist.
- Futalog - Futaba Archive - Archiving a segment of Futaba's threads since 2012.