16 May 2010

Anonymous

At TED 2010, moot pointed out that anonymity was increasingly important in this big brother age we live in. Being anonymous certainly removes the responsibility of one's actions but it also has the lesser acknowledged effect of removing pride for one's actions. This lack of social restraints on opposite ends produces honesty, without the need to gain credit for your work nor the fear of being pilloried for it, a meme factory is born. 4chan dramatically reinstates art as a mirror of society but for the first time portraying global culture, uncensored. It may not always be pretty but the beauty is that it's real.

4chan is attracting increasing numbers of the elusive "unique visitors" because it offers something few other social sites do; accountless involvement - the ability to contribute without the need to provide any personal information. Posted threads also only live as long as their popularity holds out, so eventually everything is deleted. This feature encourages return visits to the site because people want to catch the moment before it disappears. For example; they want to be there when Sarah Palin's email hacker returns to post another politician's personal emails. These two factors create a niche situation and according to compete.com 4chan is snowballing. Without the use of any form of advertising, this popularity trend is purely by word of mouth.

4chan founder moot, aka Christopher Poole, aka Richard Goins was voted in at number 15 on Time's top 20 Builders and Titans list in 2009, despite the fact that hackers from 4chan placed him at number 1 on the Time top 100 online poll. It appears that moot is not going to let the niche anonymous social site opportunity pass him by and has invested $625k in a startup by the name of Canvas Networks. At the same time, four young entrepreneurs are also expressing their dissatisfaction with personal information consumption by starting the diaspora project. Diaspora is a decentralised, open source social network (in the making) and although it will likely still require a user account, it's decentralised nature means that no corporation has access to any personal info.

One way or another, we are moving into a more liberal and decentralised online social environment where the users are the pioneers and architects rather than the marketing stock.