(Oct 2003 –Apr 2004)
4chan was founded on October 1, 2003 by
moot, a 15-year-old from the DC++ hub
#raspberryheaven and Something Awful's ADTRW (Anime Death Tentacle Rape Whorehouse) forum. Built to be an English-language version of 2chan, moot copies 2chan's publicly available source code, Futaba, and manages to produce a meager translation. In a historic moment, he mistranslated "Nanashii", which stands for Nameless, to Anonymous. The site introduces the simple and free method of communication that Something Awful users have always dreamed of. It soon becomes wildly popular as a new home for banned ADTRW refugees and #RaspberryHeaven goons, who in turn spread word across the Internet. 4chan links quickly replace Futaba Channel and world2ch links on ADTRW and #raspberry_heaven, even reaching Futaba itself. This occurs at the same time when Richard "Lowtax" Kyanka (SomethingAwful's creator and admin) begins to crack down on several undesirables on SA, including furries, lolicon fans, and others, effectively creating a Soviet-style police state of extremely arbitrary rules which cost users their precious $10 bux. Thanks to that, 4chan quickly rose beyond the tired, old site.
Many users from Something Awful used 4chan to vent their frustration with the site. After years of being on sites like SA, GameFAQs and Newgrounds, which had a very restrictive moderation and userbases that put reputation above all, the nearly complete freedom of 4chan was a breath of fresh air. It led the young 4channers to post all manners of things, like ironically pretending to be 13 years old Otakus (Something that would get you banned on ADTRW, even if it was ironic). The most problematic content being lolicon and guro. By day one, /b/ was already filled to the brim with such. moot didn't like the idea of having forty years old pedophiles posting loli all over the site, so he quickly declared /b/ the "retard bin" and a temporal board. He created /l/ - lolikon and /g/ - guro to redirect them somewhere else. Those boards would later give him a lot of problems regarding hosting, which led them to end up on a separate site called not4chan, hosted by a friend of moot, ultimately disassociating from 4chan.
4chan drew many of its initial users from Raspberry Heaven and Something Awful's ADTRW board, and later from world2ch users. Early 4chan thus inherited a lot of Something Awful's humour and memes, like image macros and demotivational posters. The original 4chan staff and moderators were drawn from ADTRW. The spinning head title image is an Australian ADTRW member called Roobar. The "Dot net fo'shizzle!" title image is by ADTRW poster Rick_Feynman, who coined the term "ZOMG!" (Pronounced "Zoh my god!") in an ICQ conversation with fellow SA goon Hannibal; although they admit the term was used before then, it wasn't widely used until popularized by Something Awful and 4chan.
The cultural elements 4chan drew from SA and 2chan – Ironic silliness from ADTRW, aggressiveness from FYAD and absurd Japanese jokes from 2chan and world2ch would prove to be a very attractive mix to people bored with normal manners. During its first years 4chan would be defined as a place where people came to express themselves, to say things for which they would be ridiculed or shunned on if done in real life – Black comedy, silly attitudes and racist jokes solidified 4chan's reputation a place where people could be both silly and hostile, good and evil. The news of 4chan's founding fired up much of world2ch, who felt they were stealing their thunder. They quickly began to protest and make some petty attempts at raiding, but a personal visit from moot quickly calmed down the situation, ending it with some friendly advice from both sides. Thus endeth the first western chan war.