4chan founder: Zuckerberg is “totally wrong” about online identity

Christopher Poole, the founder of controversial online image board 4chan, outlined his vision for Web-based community today at the South by Southwest Interactive conference — and yes, his ideas are in pretty sharp contrast to those of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg has spent a lot of time talking about his stance on identity and privacy, especially recently, as Facebook has taken more criticism for its various privacy policies. (To get the flavor of his remarks, check out VentureBeat’s post about Zuckerberg’s privacy stance from last May, as well as David Kirkpatrick’s book The Facebook Effect.) He’s been pretty aggressive ins advocating that users should have a single identity that’s consistent they are online, because that encourages them to be more authentic (and also means they can carry their social connections with them to any site).

Poole, who is also known under his 4chan username “moot”, said, “I think that’s totally wrong.” He’s had plenty of opportunity to observe the pluses and minuses of anonymity in action, since 4chan is well-known for its anonymous user base. (In fact, the activist hacker group that emerged from 4chan is known as Anonymous.)

Poole argued that anonymity allows users to reveal themselves in a “completely unvarnished, unfiltered, raw way.” One of the things that’s lost when you carry the same identity everywhere is “the innocence of youth.” (“Innocence” isn’t the first word that would come to mind when I think of 4chan, but okay, I’ll go with him here.) In other words, when everyone knows everything you’ve done online, you’re a lot more worried about screwing up, and you’re less willing to experiment. Poole compared this to being a kid, moving to a new neighborhood, and having the opportunity to start over. On the Internet, if you’re not anonymous, you don’t get that opportunity.

“The cost of failure is really high when you’re contributing as yourself,” Poole said.

In the case of 4chan, users feel a lot more comfortable trying to create funny images that can become memes, because content that doesn’t catch on disappears quickly, and they’re not weighed down by their failures. Poole said another benefit to 4chan’s anonymity, one that makes it very different from most other online communities, is that content becomes more important than the creator. Rather than prioritizing the most valued and experienced users, 4chan allows anyone to access the site and post something that could take off.

At the same time, it seems Poole’s attitude towards privacy has evolved. He’s working on a new community site called Canv.as, which actually integrates with Facebook Connect, although users can still post anonymously. Poole said the fact that “you know that we know” the user’s real identity, even if other users can’t see it, discourages people from indulging in the most obnoxious behavior.

The “Wild West” approach, while important for 4chan’s popularity, has had an effect on Poole’s ability to turn the site into a real business. Very few brands are willing to run their ads alongside content that’s so unpredictable and potentially offensive, he acknowledged.

Update: Online video star and fellow SXSW keynote speaker Felicia Day agrees.


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  1. [...] 4chan founder: Zuckerberg is “totally wrong” about online identity | VentureBeat – Christopher Poole, the founder of controversial online image board 4chan, outlined his vision for Web-based community today at the South by Southwest Interactive conference — and yes, his ideas are in pretty sharp contrast to those of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. [...]

  2. [...] Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg be wrong about user privacy? 4Chan founder Christopher Poole thinks so. [...]

  3. [...] – alles verfolgt werden kann. Auch wenn Mark Zuckerberg und 4chan Gründer Christopher Poole darüber deba- ttiert haben, ob die Privatsphäre tot sei oder nicht, müsste man eigentlich anders den- [...]

  4. [...] Ano passado li alguma coisa sobre o conceito de identidade na pós modernidade e isso me fez entender melhor certas coisas e aceitar o fato de que podemos, sim, ser muitos e isso não é de todo insano. Quando surgiu o Google Plus, vi um vídeo do Epipheo que falava sobre a diferença básica entre o G+ e o Facebook, e o conceito de círculos, que em certa medida, relaciona-se com o conceito de identidade, uma vez que no G+ podemos compartilhar conteúdo de acordo com cada grupo diferente (família, amigos de infância, amigos de universidade, colegas de trabalho, entre outros grupos). Ou seja, pra cada grupo diferente, assumimos um tipo de identidade diferente. No entanto, é bom lembrar, que o Google vetou, se não me engano, a criação de contas fakes no G+: os usuários foram obrigados a colocar seu nome verdadeiro, caso quisessem ter uma conta por lá. O que não é também exatamente muito diferente do que o Zuckerberg pensa, aliás. [...]

  5. [...] The private/public debate is fascinating, and one in which students can actively engage. For example, while Mark Zuckerberg has asserted that sharing or “public” is the new social norm, 4chan founder Christopher Poole argues that anonymity allows users to reveal themselves in a “completely unvarnished, unfiltered, raw way&#822…. [...]

  6. [...] Пула, более известного как moot (создатель форума 4chan), In other words, when everyone knows everything you’ve done online, you’re a lot more worried about screwing [...]

  7. [...] anonymous profiles that aren’t based on their real offline name and identity. It’s a highly controversial position, one that rejects the Internet’s tradition as an open forum encouraging free anonymous [...]

  8. [...] there are numerous examples of “trolls” and deception, we have also seen groups like Anonymous come from these areas to positively contribute through the veil of anonymity. It does allow [...]

  9. [...] Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg be wrong about user privacy? 4Chan founder Christopher Poole thinks so. [...]

  10. [...] Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg be wrong about user privacy? 4Chan founder Christopher Poole thinks so. [...]

  11. […] 4chan founder: Mark Zuckerberg is “totally wrong” about online identity | VentureBeat […]

  12. […] Mientras el discurso de Zuckerberg es crear un mundo virtual más conectado, el de Poole es crear uno donde seamos libres, sin identidad o al menos con la opción de mantenernos anónimos. Y tiene un buen punto… […]