Michael S. Bernstein et al., “4chan and /b/:An Analysis of Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Community”, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, 2011.
Abstract: We present two studies of online ephemerality and anonymity based on the popular discussion board /b/ at 4chan.org: a website with over 7 million users that plays an influential role in Internet culture. Although re- searchers and practitioners often assume that user iden- tity and data permanence are central tools in the design of online communities, we explore how /b/ succeeds de- spite being almost entirely anonymous and extremely ephemeral. We begin by describing /b/ and performing a content analysis that suggests the community is dom- inated by playful exchanges of images and links. Our first study uses a large dataset of more than five million posts to quantify ephemerality in /b/. We find that most threads spend just five seconds on the first page and less than five minutes on the site before expiring. Our sec- ond study is an analysis of identity signals on 4chan, finding that over 90% of posts are made by fully anony- mous users, with other identity signals adopted and dis- carded at will. We describe alternative mechanisms that /b/ participants use to establish status and frame their interactions. Read more