4chan, the short form of 4 Channel, is an online image board based on the Japanese Anime image board 2chan. Aside from a nefarious reputation, relatively lax restrictions on speech, and a penchant for rapid content creation, 4chan is most notable for the default anonymous user experience. Users do not register or use a screen name or other identifier, and board culture strongly discourages users who would seek to do otherwise. 4chan also utilizes a moderation and janitorial staff that at least attempts to make the various boards follow the rules, although board culture sometimes takes precedence over global rules. In egregious or flagrantly illegal cases, users can and will be banned for a period of time, or the proper authorities may be contacted.


Created by Christopher Poole, also known as moot among the 4chan population, the site has since deviated from the original format and has expanded considerably. Originally, only two boards existed, /a/ for “anime”, and /b/ for “random”, or everything else. 4chan is currently composed of 69 boards defined by subject matter. 4chan's history is a long and sordid affair, tracked along an exponentially increasing curve of horrifying to awesome. For instance, circa 2009, 4chan's antics included voting Christopher Poole into the Time Top 100 People of the Year[1]. Since 2009, 4chan's high water mark is somewhere between electing Donald Trump, and playing capture the flag with Shia LaBeouf while driving the already unstable actor into ever increasing heights of insanity and despair[2].


In 2015, Christopher Poole sold 4chan to Hiroyuki Nishimura, the founder of 2chan.

Culture and User Experience

4chan's anonymous nature and rapid pace have inculcated a distinct and unique culture. Generally, the adopted principle used to justify anonymity is that content must be judged on it's relative virtue, rather than receiving a signal boost vis-a-vis association with a particular name. Beyond anonymity as an arbiter of value, the 69 boards of 4chan have their own subcultures, some of which are immediately apparent, some of which take time to notice or understand. A common piece of advice given to users who do not understand a particular part of board culture is "lurk moar", meaning that the user should refrain from posting and observe how the board actually works before they participate again. Anonymity in Chan culture lends itself to a certain level of vulgarity and brutality that is, essentially, unparalleled elsewhere online. Therefore, 4chan is not a place for the sensitive or the faint of heart or the morally righteous, but it might be more accurate to say 4chan is where the squeamish become desensitized.




4chan currently has 69 boards divided by subject. Many of the boards, such as /po/, papercraft and origami, are niche boards with a very slow pace. Some of the faster and more popular boards include:

Board Name Summary Thumbnail
/b/ random "The stories and information posted here are artistic works of fiction and falsehood. Only a fool would take anything posted here as fact." Anything goes, content is not restricted to any topic and rules generally do not apply or are mostly ignored, except illegal content.
/pol/ politically incorrect Board for the discussion of politics and current events. Users are identified by small flags next to their name, indicating the country of origin for the user's IP address. Particularly infamous for post-ironic Nazis that may or may not ironically or unironically worship an ancient Egyptian chaos god.
/v/ video games Generally, video games and video game culture. Most notable for being a safe harbor for refugees from /b/ back when /b/ would periodically set itself on fire with controversy and unwanted drama. Not notable for anything else.
/fit/ health and fitness Strength training, fitness related lamentations, and physique exhibitionism.
/int/ international Board for cross cultural trolling. Users are identified by small flags next to their name, indicating the country of origin for the user's IP address.
/mu/ music Pretentious song signalling and flagrant garage band promotion. People who actually like vaporwave.
/k/ weapons Doomsday preppers, wannabe soldiers, and some Soviet holdovers.


Front Page of /k/ Replying to a thread

The images above demonstrate the user interface when browsing and posting on 4chan.

The first image shows the front page of /k/, with two threads visible and one thread hidden. Threads can be shown or hidden using the blue "-" and "+" icons next to the first post of each thread displayed. Each post in a thread is indicated by a series of numbers, assigned numerically in the order in which they are posted. Post numbers and the culture surrounding them will be explained further in the implications section. While 4chan is an image board, not all posts must include an image. The first post of every thread, however, must include an image. It is not uncommon on boards like /wg/ - wallpapers general, for entire threads to grow entirely out of image posts, but some other boards like /sci/ and /pol/ are much more discussion oriented, and as such posts will more commonly include longer bodies of text.

If a stuck thread is present, it will always appear on page one, at position one, with threads ordered thereafter based off which was replied to most recently. A thread that is replied to will automatically move to the first, non-stickied slot, and as traffic moves so to will the thread. Without replies, and with other threads receiving replies, a thread will eventually move down the roster until it reaches the bottom, after which it is locked and sent to the board's archives, if the board has an archive. Archives work the same way normal board pages work, only threads in the archive can not be replied to, and threads at the bottom of the archive stack will eventually be pushed out and deleted forever.

In order to reply to a particular post, the user clicks on the post number they wish to respond to, which brings up the reply window. The reply window contains a space for a name, should the user choose to forgo anonymity, a subject line, a text box, an option to select a file to post, and the post button. Most users, 4chan pass owners being the only exception, will have to complete a reCAPTCHA puzzle in order to reply. CAPTCHA was incorporated after a very long, drawn out spam war on /b/ that consumed the entire website several times. Like most of 4chan's insane history, it isn't worth repeating.


Aside from the subculture the website fosters, 4chan permits users to customize their own interface, exclude boards that they deem unappealing or boring from a user's home page, leave comments of any size, expand, reduce and expand images for the user’s pleasure and use, and create lengthy and enduring threads of digital conversation.

Navigation & Settings

Users customize their 4chan interface by using the navigation and settings menu, found at the top right of the page. This menu is divided into several categories based on their relationship to one another. The full menu is displayed to the right.

Quotes & Replying


Quotes and replying options allow the user to select whether quoted posts are previewed when mousing over post links, and whether backlinks are displayed to see the total replies to a particular post. Users may also choose to have quotes inlined, a quick reply option vis-à-vis clicking on a post number, a persistent quick reply window and a legacy CAPTCHA option. By default, quote preview, backlinks, and quick reply are selected.


User chooses how posts and threads are updated. By default, posts are appended to the bottom of a thread without refreshing, and threads display an image and reply count. Users may also select for default auto-updates, a thread watcher window, auto-scroll to see new posts, sound notifications for replies and to pin the thread watcher window to their page.

Filtering & Post Hiding

Allows the user to filter threads. By default, clicking on the minus button the user can hide a thread, and users can also choose to hide thread stubs that they have already hidden.


Users choose how the site is navigated. By default, thread expansion is selected, but users may also choose to use a persistent drop-down navigation bar, with two ancillary options. Users may also customize the list of boards on their navigation bar, select for infinite scrolling, move the page list to the top of the page, select navigation arrows and enable keyboard shortcuts.

Images & Media

Regulates the user’s media options. By default, image expansion and embedded YouTube links are selected, but users may also choose to fit expanded images to screen, cursor image hovering, remove image spoilers, unmute WebM audio, hidden thumbnails and SoundCloud embedding.


Allows URLs in posts to be linked, custom CSS rules, colored user IDs (on boards that use IDs), long post wrapping, threads aligned to the center, dates and time converted to the users timezone, and an HTTPS option for 4chan URLs.

Mobile Access

When it comes to mobile access, the 4chan theme and layout remains relatively the same. The introductory statement, category box, stat box, rules hyperlink, legality hyperlink, and company contact link follow the same order as they appear when access from a desktop device. However, for mobile, all the content is in one column, so all of 4chan’s pages run very long. Although, subjectively, the one column format allows a user to follow a thread very easily, visibly the site appears cluttered and perhaps repulsive to certain users who do not want to scroll through a lengthy tread of comments to find an interesting image. The location of the settings to adjust a user’s filters stayed in the same location, one must notice it at the top of the screen and select it. The settings, home, and board tab follow the user no matter how far they scroll down in a thread.

Font, Tabs, and Images

A positive feature of 4chan on a mobile is that the tabs surrounding interactions with thread are more pronounced and enlarged for finger accuracy. In addition, the font of text is bigger—or at least appears bigger than the text of the desktop format. For the most part, the sizes of images adjust accordingly to the sizes of screen’s to avoid unnecessary eye strain on the user’s behalf, but not all images grow to a desirable size, some remain small. Issue of image size has more to do with the creation of the original image than the website, but it should be noted that 4chan does not manipulate content for accessibility.

Content Control

Aside from the settings and all the features that come with them, 4chan on mobile also has the feature to control the maturity of visible content on the home page in the filter tab. When pressed, the tab will inquire whether a user is certain that they would like to proceed with not safe for work content, once they click, the 4chan page will upload again but with only adult content showing. When browsing through all types of content, the links to all boards will appear differently. Instead of having all the boards represented in a list lined up along the top of the page, the mobile version of 4chan collects all categories of interest and places them into one tab that when clicked will unfurl a list of all subjects in alphabetical order. In addition to everything that the site already does when accessed through a desktop, mobile only requires a user to hold over an image or video to receive the option to instantly download it, no though of memory space or storage location required.

Interface Implications

There are a number of implications regarding user behavior and site culture that arise from the 4chan interface, some immediately apparent to new users, some less obvious. The tentative anonymity, ease of use, fast pace, and general freedom of speech and content have broadly inculcated a culture among 4chan users that trends towards total irreverence and rapid content generation. It is said that a substantial portion of all internet memes originate on 4chan, and are later disseminated elsewhere and modified by other internet communities [3]. Idealistically, the relative anonymity creates an incentive for judging content based on it's own merit rather than boosting content by association with a particular name or brand, outside the broad 4chan brand. To paraphrase a famous, ancient, and very stale /b/ copypasta, the genius of 4chan is that you do not know who is posting, and the anonymous posters could be anyone up to and including your mom. The veil of anonymity none the less protected content from association with a particular name, and things - ideally - are judged on a less subjective or emotional basis. In practical terms, however true this may appear to be, the anonymous nature of 4chan also, to paraphrase another famous adage, causes 4chan users to essentially experience the joy of scouring through a seemingly endless sea of garbage content in order to find diamonds.


One aspect of 4chan culture that is practically omnipresent across every board is a sort of fetish for post numbers. Posts with repeating digits, or digits in numerical order are treated as particularly worthy, notable, or humorous by virtue of said posts post number. This has been, practically speaking, an aspect of 4chan culture from the beginning of 4chan, and has since evolved. One wild and noteworthy form of 4chan’s focus on numerology is the “kek” meme. 4chan users, ironically or perhaps unironically, claim that in the lead up to the 2016 election users on 4chan’s /pol/ reawakened an ancient Egyptian chaos god, and now communicate with said god through repeating post digits. Allegedly, posts that the Egyptian god of chaos approves of are granted repeating digits. While certainly a number of humorous screengrabs seem to illustrate this, it is important to remember two things:

4chan is wrapped in so many layers of irony that no one should ever, under any circumstances, assume that 4chan content is in any way shape or form an accurate reflection of reality.

4chan users claim to have a higher autism rate per capita than the general population.

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