4chan Chronicle/Project Chanology
(2008 – 2009)
In January 2008, a video of Tom Cruise dramatically expounding the tenets of his religion on a Scientology training video was censored on Youtube by the Church of Scientology. A raid thread was immediately posted on 4chan's /b/ detailing aspects of the Church of Scientology that Anonymous disagreed with. Having both a moral and hilarious cause on their hands, /b/tards began a massive raid against the Church of Scientology website using DDoS and site floods. The raid came to be known as Project Chanology and the attacks on Scientology began to attract mainstream attention. This resulted in a surge of new users who upon hearing that a group calling itself Anonymous was attacking the Church of Scientology decided it was time to fight the good fight and join in. On January 28, Mark Bunker made a video congratulating Anonymous on its fight against Scientology but suggested to them it would be more efficient to stage actual IRL protests. Later known as the Wise Beard Man, he would come to be the only man on the history of the Internet who actually managed to control the chaotic monster that was /b/. Dozens of /b/tards gathered at one of the offices of the Church of Scientology, donning Guy Fawkes masks, not inspired by the historical character, but rather by the then immensely popular Epic Fail Guy, a /b/ OC – allegedly - created by tripfag Weaver (of RubyQuest, /b/porn and cutebold fame) whose main stitch was to fail at everything and have long eyebrows, he donned a Guy Fawkes Mask that quickly became one of /b/’s most iconic memes. This mass of black-clothed, masked individuals sporting a strange mix of anti-Scientology slogans and 4chan memes, including a chant declaring “longcat is looong!” and a rickroll boom box. The whole event was captured by the Newscasts. The mass media coverage of the protests brought forth another massive wave of new users to 4chan, even dwarfing the growth achieved during the newfag summer. It is regarded by many to be the time 4chan hit rock bottom, the time when they began to lose control of the direction they were heading to.
As time went on, the initial enthusiasm for the raid wore off, and participants of Project Chanology realized that 4chan was not the best place for organized assault. There was a moral conflict between the “new Anonymous” – whose introduction to imageboards began with Chanology – users who came from mainly liberal and democrat backgrounds, completely unaccustomed and unprepared to the hostility of the Internet, and the old Anonymous, more specifically the /i/nsurgents. The former put their cause of action as the possibility of using the Internet for doing good, protesting the intention of others to raid lolcows and people who did not entirely deserve it whilst the latter still held the old values of doing it for the lulz and dubbed anyone who would try to get in their way a moralfag. These people temporarily left 4chan for separate sites, like 711chan, various IRC channels and Why We Protest. The split established Anonymous as a powerful force for hacktivism independent of 4chan. Though still regarded by the mainstream as the Internet Hate Machine, Anonymous is shown in a better light for the first time.
This period was probably the closest 4chan had ever been to being shut down permanently. An economic crisis meant that moot could not pay the server bills and was in debt. There were rumors claiming that 4chan was in debt to a total of $20,000 which was later confirmed in a newspost in 2012. Moot allowed pornographic ads to be displayed on the site, something he absolutely hates, in a desperate move to alleviate the costs of maintaining 4chan. He grew increasingly disconnected with the site and sometimes spouted some lines that implied that he hated 4chan, or at least /b/, during those times.
By the end of 2008, Project Chanology has long faded with only a few stalwart holdouts and the majority of Anonymous re-assimilates into 4chan within a few months.
It is generally claimed by the majority of 4chan’s population, regardless of year or board of origin, that 2008 was the worst year 4chan ever went through. The sheer size of /b/ made it collapse under its own weight on various occasions. Most memes of the era failed to take off, all raids were uncoordinated at best and a complete failure at worst. Everyone on the board was either complaining about Chanology, demanding that /b/tards get their act together and do something or blaming everyone else for being the cancer that was killing /b/. The state of the site even affected the moderation – The mods, mostly composed of the old guard from 2004 and 2005, were in a serious state of apathy, uncaring about trying to solve the problems of most boards, limiting themselves to deleting illegal content and actively rejecting any and all content created from /b/ and other boards. It has been known that janitors could be fired for something as trivial as using a meme that the mods did not like on the janitor IRC. Moot was in serious debt, something he did not reveal until 2010. This could explain the reason he stopped making newsposts and his presence on the site diminished greatly. Boards would be created and be completely forgotten by the mods, like /x/ and /sp/. At the same time /b/ took on a habit of committing interboard raids, things only got worse with the constant crashes from /b/’s server as /b/tards looked for other boards to flock to, creating an impromptu raid. This began to affect the quality of other boards, especially /v/, which would begin a downward spiral into off-topic posting and underage b& overpopulation.