4chan, the anonymous image board that symbolizes everything weird and wild on the English-language internet, now belongs to the man from Japan who inspired it.
Today, Christopher "moot" Poole announced that he had sold 4chan to Hiroyuki Nishimura, the Japanese man who created 2channel, Japan's most popular online community and the original inspiration for Poole's site. In a blog post on 4chan, Poole made clear the debt 4chan owes to Nishimura's site:
"Hiroyuki is a pioneer in the world of anonymous communities, and can be thought of as the great-grandfather of 4chan. His creation of 2channel in 1999 sparked an era of anonymous-centric web culture in Japan that led to the creation of Futaba Channel, the site that inspired 4chan. None of us would be using 4chan today—or potentially any anonymous image board—if it weren't for him."
According to the post, Poole and Nishimura have been friends since 2011.
Chan culture started as an exchange between America and Japan. According to a New York Times profile from 2004, "In 1998 [Nishimura] studied for a year at the University of Central Arkansas and, influenced by America's Internet culture, created Channel 2." Subsequently, 4chan helped introduce the visual language of Japanese anime and manga into the broader internet.
That makes Nishimura's leadership of the sometimes controversial site fitting. So too does his work defending free speech, including hate speech, on the anonymous site. Anonymous board owners from Poole to Fredrick Brennan (the owner of 8chan, where the online harassment movement GamerGate gained strength) have claimed that their sites are bastions for free speech on an increasingly regulated internet.
Wrote Poole in the blog post today, "There is nobody more qualified than Hiroyuki to lead 4chan, and I can't think of a person better suited for the task."