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2channel, also known as Ni-channel or 2ch, is one of the main sites of Nanashi World, which is something like 4chan to Anonymous. It spawned the Futaba Channel, which led to 4chan. Despite it being meant for Japanese people, it's founder built 2channel in Arkansas and it's servers are located in California. It is considered the largest board in the world with over 600 boards, each with thousands of threads. Since it is a text board, it has created famous Shift-JIS art which can be seen on 4chan from time to time.
Many of 2channel's characteristics can be seen in its "offsprings". Such as the anonymous posting, saging and aging, tripcodes, >>1-style post references, and being filled with every kind of hate speech known to mankind.
Supposedly, 2channel is purely anonymous: not only is there no requirement to post with a name (which is what most people think of), there is no web server log, and IP addresses are only recorded for the first post in a thread.
FIVE POINT FOUR MILLION
So... you probably know that Japan has an enormous, terrifying otaku population. Where do they hang out on the Internet?
Well, they just happen to be on the largest text BBS on the internet.
2channel is huge. According to the [http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/09/international/asia/09toky.html New York Times article] ([http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=11049 mirror]), it has 5.4 million active users every month.
Since you can post on 2channel anonymously and there's no fear to lurk, that implies about a million active users. Something Awful has 43,000 registered users, but I'm betting the active number is smaller than that. Let's call it 20,000. So, if you were to take SA, including SpokkerJones and GameQuoter and MrVacBob and all its posts and boards and Goldmined threads, and then next to it you would place an entirely new SA, with a whole new cast of characters-- those would be the legs, see-- and then stack another SA on top of those two, and stick two SAs on the left and right of the third one for arms, and then finally fit an SA onto the top of the whole thing for a head, that would be one convulted Voltron, but more importantly, it would be one-tenth of the size of 2channel.
By the way, Big-Boards does seem to have a [http://www.big-boards.com/submit/ submission page] in case you know of large BBSes that aren't on their list.
If a news item is popular on SA, it gets about 7 pages of posts in one day. If a news item is popular on 2channel, it gets 10,000 posts in one day.
How does that even work?!
How does it stay afloat without donations? [We don't actually know the answer to this question, but probably advertising.]
Or maybe you mean, how does an anonymous message board work better than one you have to register for? Well, rather than taking the New York Times' quite silly and useless word for it, I'll quote Hiroyuki.
If there is a user ID attached to a user, a discussion tends to become a criticizing game. On the other hand, under the anonymous system, even though your opinion/information is criticized, you don't know with whom to be upset. Also with a user ID, those who participate in the site for a long time tend to have authority, and it becomes difficult for a user to disagree with them. Under a perfectly anonymous system, "it's boring", you can say, if it is actually boring. All information is treated equally; only an accurate argument will work.
I can think of some forums that would benefit from this system already. Like... all of them?
2channel, from what I've heard, is so big that people hardly ever browse the forums there. Instead, they bookmark their favorites, and people who post mainly in one forum don't know much about the people from the other forum. But as one big BBS, they are bound together with a unique culture.
More Info: 2ch History
2channel drama is fifty times larger than your piddling American forum drama. The most famous example-- in Japan, that is, because the story never made it to the United States-- is the Neomugicha incident. At this point I am going to quote from a Wikipedia entry, but that's okay because I wrote that Wikipedia entry.
The Neomugicha incident put the Japanese bulletin board 2ch in the front of national news. An hour after posting a cryptic thread in a thread on 2ch with the name "Neomugicha" ("Neo-Barley Tea"), a 17-year-old boy hijacked a bus in Fukuoka, Japan, stabbing one passenger to death.
The hijacker was believed to be lying by other 2ch posters, so the incident came as a shock. In any case, it made 2ch more popular for the controversy.
Later, a poster named "Neouuroncha" ("Neo-Oolong Tea") attempted to imitate Neomugicha by plotting to blow up the Odakyu railway in Japan on 2ch, but after the Neomugicha incident, the Japanese police were keeping a close eye on 2ch, so he was identified and arrested before his plan could be carried out.
From syberpunk.com, which is the source of my Hiroyuki quote, here's some more famous 2ch incidents:
- Forcing Toshiba Corp. to apologize in July 1999 after a man used the bulletin board to reveal that his complaints about a faulty VCR were greeted with obscenities from the electronics giant's service staff;
- Eliciting a shame-filled explanation from the boss of music powerhouse Avex after superstar diva Ayumi Hamasaki complained that a group of disabled people given front row, center seats to one of her concerts were "sickening."
- Inspiring hundreds of people to get out and clean up notoriously dirty Shonan beach just hours before the Fuji TV planned an identical campaign to protest the network's shoddy coverage of World Cup soccer games. Network executives arrived at the beach expecting to film hundreds of people picking up trash on the seashore, but were instead greeted by a pristine beach and raspberries from the hundreds of 2 Channel fans who had cleaned it.
- Encouraging busloads of schoolchildren to pay their respects at Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan's war dead are enshrined, on the anniversary of the end of World War II. War-talk among the young is not widely encouraged in Japan.
- Prompting a 1,000 Burger Eat Off when McDonalds started selling hamburgers for 59 yen apiece. About 40 2 Channel users turned up at a Tokyo outlet of the giant food chain and proceeded to chomp their way through some 400 burgers in a few hours. True to form for 2 Channel users, participants celebrated the occasion by taking a snapshot -- with everybody facing away from the camera!
Additionally, 2ch was a major feature of the anime Nurse Witch Komugi-chan. [Of course, now there are a bunch of other mainstream anime and Densha Otoko too.]
Notable meta-events (2007)
Something Awful was having major server issues throughout 2001. In August 2001, 2channel experienced similar overflow problems due partially to the Neomugicha incident. The servers were in danger of crashing. Luckily, some expert programmers on the 2ch UNIX board reduced the server load of 2channel's Perl scripts by 90% and saved the servers. I know about this because they made a Flash movie about their heroism and spammed it on world2ch. Hiroyuki also hired a new administrator named FOX, who is still sysadmin today and is one of 2ch's notorious personalities.
Densha Otoko, or Train Man, is the name of a very popular book which tells the true story of a 2channeler, who is very much like us, who falls in love with a girl who he saved from a drunk on a train. The media somehow got a hold onto the story and a book, TV drama, and movie were made. The 2channelers gave the guy advice on everything and even changed his life for the better. Here's the translated thread.
In 2001, a bunch of 2channel hackers flooded Time Magazine's "Person of the Year" with votes for Masashi Tashiro, a former television personality with a few charges on his criminal record -- notably, videotaping up someone's skirt, peeping in a bath-house. The immense number of requests eventually crashed Time's servers, but they did manage to get Tashiro into the #1 position briefly. It perhaps inspired 4chan users to do the same for moot 7 years later...