Image swap

From Bibliotheca Anonoma
Image swap in the same thread. In the thread order, the first post has its image overwritten by the second's.

Image swap refers to the rare event when a post's attached image is erroneously replaced by the attached image of an unrelated post. Sometimes only the thumbnail is swapped, other times a "full swap" swaps the true, expanded images entirely. Sometimes there is no swap, one simply overwrites the other. Image swaps seem to happen when images are processed at the same time in the eyes of 4chan's servers.

4chan servers currently index images by a 16-digit UNIX timestamp[1] which has the precision of a microsecond, as of July 17, 2022. For a short instance the timestamp was measured in nanoseconds. Image collisions are currently very uncommon. Prior to this, 4chan used 13-digit timestamps at millisecond precision, and collisions were not too hard given you roll the dice enough times. In 2021, image swaps were not too infrequent on boards like /pol/, /v/ and /vg/, which peaked at 150 posts per minute on a daily basis.[2]

The rarity of the phenomenon makes it hard to study. Conclusions shouldn't be drawn from archives, as they often do their own processing, which may change the nature of the image swap, or may even fix it.

Theoretically, an image swap can happen not just with two images but three, four, five... Although I couldn't find any instances of a triple swap or quadruple (but I didn't search either). Of course the already minuscule chance of two images colliding at the same exact millisecond exponentially diminishes with each increment. But it shouldn't be impossible.

Image swap across two /mlp/ and /tv/ posts, to the amusement of /tv/ posters. 2013. It's unknown if crossboard image swaps are still possible in 2023. Servers now probably separate the file path to images by board so at least, images are no longer conflated like this.

Further reading[edit]

  • Instances of image swaps are often reported at the time's respective general thread for meta discussion (if it is alive): [1]


  1. Visible in the URL of any image