- This article is about the type of web-based bulletin board script known as an imageboard. For articles on Western imageboard culture, see 4chan, Anonymous, memes, etc.
An imageboard is a form of web-based bulletin board designed around the posting and sharing of images. Imageboards were originally conceived in the late 1990s on the Japanese web, where they are generally referred to as gazou keijiban (画像掲示板; image bulletin board). Due to the creation of 4chan in October 2003 and the large userbase and cultural influence the website amassed, the imageboard format expanded far beyond Japan and became a worldwide phenomenon.
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- Between 1994–1996, the big shift away from private online service providers (OSPs) such as CompuServe (known in Japan as NIFTY-Serve) towards the Internet and the World Wide Web occurred. Web-based bulletin boards were a relatively new concept at this time, and thus were fairly primitive and barebones.
- On October 21st, 1995, Matt Wright published the free web-based bulletin board script WWWBoard. It would quickly become one of the most popular bulletin board scripts around the globe, and would remain so for a couple of years. Thanks to the creation of a Japanese-specific version, WWWBoard was very popular in Japan.
WWWBoard displayed posts and follow-up posts (replies) in a threaded format similar to traditional Usenet/Netnews newsreaders. No registration was required to post, and users could enter any name they wished.
- On May 2nd, 1996, Rescue released the initial version of MiniBBS, which was another free bulletin board script. It was something of a combination of WWWBoard and the web chat format; rather than display posts as their titles and showing them in a threaded format, posts were instead displayed in full and in chronological order.
Unlike WWWBoard, not all posts were displayed at once—the board would be paginated to show around 40 posts at a time, and the pages could be flicked through by using the navigation buttons at the bottom of the page. MiniBBS did not support images, but a link to an image could be included by using the URL field.
MiniBBS quickly became the de facto bulletin board script in Japan, and remained popular until some time around the millennium. It did not see much use in the West; instead, the Ultimate Bulletin Board (UBB) software package released around the same time as MiniBBS became the standard bulletin board software, and would kickstart the Internet forum era.
- At some point during 1996–1997, people created modified versions of MiniBBS that could display hotlinked images that were hosted on other sites, and these became what could be described as an early form of imageboard.
It was common practice for users of these bulletin boards to create their own sites using free web services (such as Tripod), upload their images to their site, and then hotlink their images in their posts for others to view. Licentious Notice Board (LNB)—the first iteration of which was opened by fujinami (藤波) in August 1997—was a notable example of a site that used this method, although there were many others.
Birth of the imageboard script
- On May 29th, 1997, Tokuho CGI staff took an upload script they had previously created and combined it with WWWBoard to create the File Upload script. It essentially worked the same way as WWWBoard, only with the ability to upload an image to the bulletin board's server when posting, and have the image appear inside the post when it is viewed.
- On January 24th, 1998, Toru of Tokuho CGI released version 0.9 of their free imageboard script imgboard. At its core, it was basically a MiniBBS-like script that allowed users to attach image files to their posts, which would then be uploaded to the bulletin board's servers and displayed to the left of the post body. The name imgboard—which would later be adopted by other similar scripts—is what lead to the format being described as imageboards.
- On February 2nd, 1998, Terra of the site TryTheHomePage released version 98.2 of MultiBBS (also known as multi2), which is the first known float type bulletin board script. It is a MiniBBS-like script that displays each thread (along with their replies) inside of a box, visually separating threads from other threads. There was no bump/age function, so threads were simply displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent posts at the top), and replies were also displayed in reverse chronological order.
Some time later that year, Terra would create resBBS which was similar to MultiBBS, but displayed replies in regular chronological order.
- On August 10th, 1998, Tokuho CGI created an English version of imgboard and put it online, making it technically the oldest known English-language imageboard. As of May 2022, the board is still online, making it technically the longest-running English-language imageboard as well. However, posting via the post form no longer works.
- On September 6th, 1998, Terra's resBBS script was adopted by Amezou—a precursor site to 2channel which had taken in many Ayashii World refugees just three days earlier. Amezou—and by extension, 2channel—would popularize the thread float type bulletin board format over the next couple of years.
- dunno, lol ¯\(º_o)/¯
- On June 24th, 2000, KENT of KENT-WEB created Clip Board—a "MiniBBS + file uploader"-style script that allowed not just images to be attached, but many different file types.
- In October 2000, the first version of ToR's GazouBBS was completed and uploaded to their site, Let's PHP!. It was basically the same concept as imgboard (MiniBBS + file uploader + image display), but written in PHP instead of Perl. It had a primitive reply feature, but there was no reply threading—all it did was quote the post in question and add Re:[post subject] as the subject, similar to the modified versions of MiniBBS used by Ayashii World bulletin boards.
- By February 2001, KENT-WEB had released Joyful Note, a script similar to Clip Board but with a resBBS-style reply function.
- On March 5th, 2001, the initial version of the Upppu! (あっぷっぷ！; as in upload) imageboard script was released by Tacky of Tacky's Room. It displayed threads in a table format, and clicking on a thread title would switch to the reply screen. On the reply screen, the image would be displayed at the top, followed by the OP, followed by the existing replies, and then the reply form at the bottom.
- By at least August 2001, version 1.22 R6 of imgboard had been released. This version implemented a reply function, and replies were displayed inside boxes inside the thread beneath the opening post (OP). Replying to a thread required clicking a link to the right of the OP's post number to enter reply mode, and—much like 2ch and Amezou—this would also display the thread (and only that thread) in its entirety. This disctinctive look and functionality would later be popularized by Futaba Channel in Japan and 4chan in the West, and has stuck with imageboards all the way to the present day.
Futaba Channel is born
- On August 30th, 2001, Futaba☆Channel (ふたば☆ちゃんねる) (also known as Futaba (ふたば)) was created to act as a refuge for 2ch users while their site was experiencing severe performance issues. For the first several months of the site's existance, it only served 2channel-style bulletin boards, not imageboards.
- At some point between December 2001–February 2002, Futaba launched its first imageboard, simply titled Gazou (画像; Image). Like most other imageboards up to this point, it used the imgboard script.
- By April 2002, Futaba had three instances of imgboard in operation: Nijigen gazou-ban (二次元画像板; 2D imageboard), Guro gazou-ban (グロ画像板; Grotesque imageboard), and Sanjigen gazou-ban (三次元画像板; 3D imageboard).
- By July 2002, Futaba had replaced the imgboard script on all three of its imageboards with a modified version of GazouBBS. This modified version had an imgboard-like reply function, a feature not found in the stock GazouBBS script.
- Between October 2002—December 2002, Futaba added many more imageboards, and also introduced thumbnails. Images were now displayed as thumbnails on the board index and in reply mode, and they would have to be clicked to be seen in their original size.
- On December 23rd, 2002, Futaba Channel made their modified version of GazouBBS public. It was named imgboard.php, and on the script download page they stated some of the features that had been added:
Original Japanese: スレッド、age/sage、2chトリップ、ID、サムネイル、htmlキャッシュ表示、proxyポートスキャン、など
English translation: Threads, age/sage, 2ch trip, IDs, thumbnails, HTML cache display, proxy port scanning, etc.
Imageboards reach the West
- On March 3rd, 2003, an English-language 2ch-like site world2ch was created by a Japanese user who went by the online handle RIR6. It did not host any imageboards at this point, but an English-translated version of the 0ch BBS script was used for the bulletin boards.
- On June 1st, 2003, RIR6 hosts two imageboard instances on world2ch using an English-translated version of Futaba's imgboard.php script.
- [NEEDS MOAR RESEARCH] On May 19th, 2003, SQ Web Programming Team released version 4.00 of the PhotoBBS imageboard script. It had already been in development and in use since 1999, but now it was freely available. The board index displayed a table of threads without images, and inside the threads were the image(s) in full and a list of all the replies. Multiple images could be attached when making a thread. The script was primarily used by sites dedicated to sharing self-produced amateur porn pics.
- On October 1st, 2003, the English-language imageboard site 4chan was launched by an American fan of Futaba Channel who went by the online handle moot. moot had initially created an English-translated version of GazouBBS with the help of others, but it was quickly swapped out for a translated version of Futaba's imgboard.php once he realized that it was available.
- On October 15th, 2003, Futaba Channel renamed their imgboard.php script to futaba.php.
- On December 22nd, 2003, the initial version of the Futallaby script—a translated and modified version of futaba.php— is released on 1chan.net, an imageboard site centered around the topic of trains. This would go on to become a prominent script in the West and the basis of many future imageboard scripts.
- On January 3rd, 2004, an updated version of Futallaby is released that is rewritten by terra (not to be confused with the Japanese Terra) to use valid XHTML and CSS. The burichan style is added, as used on terra's Burichan imageboard site, which describes itself as "Gay 4chan". An adaption of this style would be added to 4chan later in the year.
- On April 21st, 2004, another modified version of futaba.php is created called Siokara (しおから), which contains many additional features; animated GIF thumbnails, automatic URL linking, a forced sage function, and more.
- At some point prior June 5th, 2004, a modified version of futaba.php named moeren (萌え連) is published on the Moeren site. It has a white and blue appearance, and has a unique feature where users can vote on the images posted to the board. Images that receive a certain number of "(・∀・)ﾓｴﾀ!!" votes get permanently added to the Moe count dendou gallery (萌えカウント殿堂ギャラリー; Moe-count hall of fame gallery).
In Japan, the format's popularity peaked during the 2000s, while in the West it peaked during the late 2000s and early 2010s. Over the course of the 2010s, the popularity of the format decreased significantly due to the rise of social networking sites (SNS) and other services that supported the convenient hosting and sharing of media files. Due to this, many formerly active imageboard sites have been discontinued or have lost many of their former users.
In Japan, most imageboards are primarily used for sharing images—usually pr0nz and other erotic materials, but everything from anime to cat pictures are common too. Generally speaking, Japanese imageboard users appear to treat imageboards as places to share images rather than to hold lengthy discussions or debates—social interactions between the users are usually kept to a minimum, though to what extent varies from site to site.
On English-language imageboards, discussions and user interactions typically take an equal or higher priority to the posting of images. This difference in usage is possibly due to real-life cultural differences between Japanese and English-speakers, but it may also be due to imageboards in the West being known more for the anonymity they provide rather than their ability to share images. In the West, most bulletin boards require some form of registration and username, so the anonymity provided by imageboards is a novelty. In Japan, registration-less bulletin boards are the norm, so anonymity is not a "selling point" of imageboards.
- In the West, users use quotelinks to convey which post they're responding to, and they quote portions of the text body if they wish to respond to a specific portion. In Japan, quotelinking was never a feature on imageboards, so imageboard users typically quote the text body, image filename, or post number in order to convey what they're responding to. Futaba Channel has a function that displays the original post in a little window when hovering over a quote.
- In the West, "imageboard" usually refers to the website as a whole rather than to the site's imageboards themselves. In Japan, individual boards are typically referred to as being gazou keijiban, and the website that hosts the imageboards is just called a site.
Notable imageboard sites
Heyuri & friends
- Futaba☆Channel (ふたば☆ちゃんねる) (English navigator)
- Momizou (もみぞう) (English navigator)
- Momicha (もみちゃ) (English navigator)
- Meiwa Suisan (明和水産)
- Furoya no Entotsu (風呂屋の煙突)
- Licentious Haritsuke-ban@9ravens (Licentious磔板＠9ravens)
- Garanger (ガレンジャー)