Both Time and the Wall Street Journal have run articles in the past 24 hours about 4chan, the dirty little secret site that spawns many a Web fad — LOLcats and rickrolling among them. But you don't want to start surfing 4chan yourself. It's full of sophomoric poor-taste-on-purpose posts like the above image. Moreover, posts on 4chan rarely live more than an hour. They're automatically pulled once their comment threads go idle, rather than archived. Let the kids filter it for you. Anything really good on 4chan will turn up on your screen from somewhere else.
Excerpted from Time:
You may not realize it, but 4chan has probably touched your life. Possibly inappropriately. 4chan is unusual in several ways. It's extremely large and active; it gets 8.5 million page views a day and 3.3 million visitors a month. Since moot started it in 2003, those visitors have put up 145 million posts. By some metrics, 4chan is the fourth largest bulletin board on the Net.
4chan is also very profane. A phrase from Star Wars comes to mind: It's a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Spammers don't even bother to spam 4chan; Google started searching it only six months ago. But it is the wellspring from which a lot of Internet culture, and hence popular culture, bubbles. In his way, moot is one of the most powerful people on the Web.
After appearing on the site, "LOLcats," humorous images of cats with loud text beneath them in a fake language called "LOLspeak", stormed the Web last year. (For example, instead of saying "hello," the cats would say "oh hai.") Another phrase "So I herd u like mudkips," a reference to a sea creature from the popular animated show "Pokémon," spawned thousands of tribute videos on YouTube. 4chan.org began as a simple message board with pictures and text. It was started by Christopher Poole in his Long Island bedroom in 2003 when he was 15 years old. Since then it has grown to more than 3 million monthly users, according to Mr. Poole.
One of the site's most popular memes is an online bait-and-switch known as the "Rick Roll."