world2ch was really a world of its own. It is the only place I know of where Japanese otaku were constantly and substantively talking with Americans. These otaku came from 2ch, the Japanese mega-BBS. world2ch was an attempt at recreating 2ch in English, and among 2chers it was well-known, but it never really took off. Thanks to its steady stream of free porn 4chan quickly overtook world2ch and eventually became notorious among Japanese otaku as well.
As of November 2022, the world2ch.net domain belongs to someone under the name Angeleno.
RIR6 (◆RIR6uHX9bE) created this site on 3 March 2003 (however the earliest post I can find is 8 March; I'm probably not looking hard enough and there are other catches to this date, see below). We called him RIR6, but his real name is Taichirou Kosugi and I assume he's still alive and living in Tokyo. He was a sixteen year-old high-school student at the time (according to all rumors and perhaps his own personal statements). For whatever reason, the name RIR7 also appears regularly in regards to the few brief histories of world2ch.
I'm still seeking a motivation for his creation of the site. I may have to do some translating.
At first, the site didn't even have a domain which is a source of much confusion. It was hosted here (long dead, don't bother) and after about 26 April 2003, it was right and proper at world2ch.net. Very little western attention was paid until after April 2003, so I'm guessing this is right. There's a lovely moon language thread here that seems to be the development of the site from their side of the Pacific. To put it in some context, cool.ne.jp was a "free" hosting site kind of like geocities and "newswatch" was RIR6's username.
That thread above is actually pretty great now that I've taken the time to read through it some more. In it we get the translation effort including debate over Anonymous vs. No Name vs. Nameless. They also settle on some of the more famous choices such as "Please wait for a while until it changes a screen." Hah, and even they are a bit baffled by golgomois.
I am still a bit unclear about whether or not there was a move to another hosting company. RIR6 talked of "getting a server", but then again a lot of things were talked about. It did at some point move to xrea.com which is just another free web hosting company. I'm sure they had hosting plans, but I don't think it was on a dedicated server. It didn't really need one and besides that was expensive back in the day.
I'd bet that the World2ch Historical Society already has more content in term of overall number of words than world2ch ever had (which really speaks more of me than of w2ch). Discussions were always lean, let's put it that way and very rarely serious. It has the same problem 4-ch has today: too may awkward fucks standing around unwilling to put forward a topic. You'd think with years of being jerks behind the veil of semi-anonymous Internet, we could have done better. At the time though, most English-speakers were using sleek user-centric forums. If you want to, I guess you'd say the 2-ch model is content-centric. Americans want glory, not content... I don't really recall any great threads aside from Golgomois and the 4chan drama. I found myself responding to stuff just out of sympathy. There were good topics, but no one willing to talk. Another problem it had were the numerous unused boards (and the fact that they had cryptic half-Japanese names didn't help).
Besides, it was just too difficult to translate the culture and striving to be 2ch only drove more people away. No one wanted to experiment with creating text art when vbulletin just adds a smiley for you, for instance m(.
As for things that people might actually remember, the http://tanasinn.info/wiki/Kopipe:Yoshinoya thing was kind of funny. It was sort of like the Japanese version of BENTO BOX (look it up; do you expect me to do everything?). I'd claim credit for other things, but nearly everything else was copied over from 2chan. Suzuran, in particular came directly over with no stop in between.
My take on it, from the SA thread somewhere in w2ch...
I make a hobby and occasionally a living by being a digital archaeologist. I recover data that was otherwise lost. This whole 2ch business is more of digital anthropology. It's like I was wandering in some jungle of network cabling and there in the middle of it found a strange and totally alien tribe whose culture I can't begin to comprehend. That's why I'm here. Well, actually, here is more like the tourist version of 2ch. It's like a tacky roadside attraction complete with aluminum teepees where those passing through can just sort of fake living in the culture they've only seen at a distance...
The importance of w2ch is that this is the first place where many of the early users got their feet wet. Concepts such as "sage", "age", "janitor", "trip code", and many others were effectively unheard of before this little site was open to us in the West. There were hints of the culture before, particularly of the amazing AA coming out of the site and clearly all the content from 2chan, but participation wasn't allowed. It was a spectator sport without w2ch.
The image board
The image board was working on 1 June 2003. JUNE, bitches. I can't believe RIR6 got talked into it. Oh wait, he would do nearly anything we asked him too no matter how bad of an idea. Poor guy. I'm surprised we couldn't talk him into hosting a bittorrent tracker and a collection of passworded rar files.
There were two image boards, one for general usage and one for guro. If you really need to know this for your own specific OCD, the theme was the pinkish on tan that 2chan has. There were no themes and themes are blasphemy.
So anyway we were THE FIRST IMAGE BOARD EVAR ANYWHERE SUCK IT MOOT.
As compared to shit you see on /b/ every day, the guro board was quite tame. People were still freaking out over the whole lotus seed thing. Those pictures do make you a little itchy, but they don't quite kill your soul. Much like 2chan's guro boards, the main content was drawn anime-style guro rather than actual pictures of Chinese motorcycle accidents.
Here is some information that has long been lost from the Internet and would be gone forever if I hadn't reposted it... to me, this kind of seems like I am publicizing the private treasures of a lucky few people's minds that ought to be left to obscure books hidden in the corners of libraries... but don't worry, there's a lot more forgotten annals of the Internet (and even of world2ch) that will probably never be published. Without further ado, here were some of world2ch's biggest personalities!
- RIR7, the owner of world2ch, did not know English too well. While he did good work such as translating some of the humorous Anonymous names from 2ch (he translated nanashi as "nameless"), a lot of what he did was very silly. He installed an early imageboard, making one of the first translations of Futaba. In early 2004 he started fiddling with the "reply" field on the text boards, making world2ch extremely difficult to use. Since he didn't prune posts on the imageboard it filled up with guro and his hosting account was terminated, meaning the end of world2ch.
- Menchi was an utter loser who started out by making banners for world2ch and promoting it on anime forums, but eventually he mainly wanted to rant against Something Awful and their "unfair" $10 charge for entry. When 4chan came out he wanted to attack that too. At some point in October 2003 he realized that he was being stupid and the people at SA were far more mature than him, and he got really embarrassed. He decided to dissociate his posts from his old nickname and invent a fake identity--a teenage girl who liked cats and Flash movies. For one reason or another the facade was eventually dropped but he kept using the name. That name can now be revealed: it is Shii. Shii (Menchi) is a 4-ch.net admin and his website is at http://shii.org/ . Until this article was written nobody figured out they were the same person. Mission accomplished!
- 0037 was a mysterious English-speaking individual who seemed to know a whole lot about the Internet world, but didn't say very much. After world2ch shut down he appeared infrequently on 4chan and perhaps even once on 4-ch but then disappeared. (update: 0037 is alive and well!)
- Golgolmois was an amazing Japanese racist who came to world2ch to tell the United States to remove "all their base" from Okinawa. His best thread is still extant in the Internet Archive. It's not clear to me what happened to him; it seems like he may have been arrested for trying to break into the base, or maybe that was a joke played by other world2ch users. In any case, you can still visit his website including his famous ASCII art of an anime girl with ahoge holding up a gun.
- (;-;) (pronounced shikushiku, or as he translated it keepweep) was a guy whose life seemed to consist primarily of expressing his love for the 2ch ASCII art she-cat named Shii, constructing profiles on websites, and making short, pointless Flash movies. Although this might seem kind of sad, he came off as a very happy and friendly person and most of world2ch liked him. His website is still up at http://weepjp.com/ .
- lolocaust is a current 4-ch.net user. He likes 2ch memes and stuff. He hasn't changed much since 2003.
- Lemur was a pretty normal person who didn't have a tripcode. I didn't keep in touch with him and I don't know what happened to him.
- CAVEMAN WAS ORIGINAL GIMMICK OF WORLD2CH. CAVEMAN ENJOY POUNDING HEAD WITH KEYBOARD. CAVEMAN NOT SURE WHETHER CAVEMAN WAS ONE PERSON OR MULTIPLE PEOPLE. CAVEMAN POST ON 4CHAN AND 4-CH FOR A WHILE THEN DISAPPEARED.
Lest there be any confusion, it is important to note that moot had nothing to do with world2ch. He posted there on 2-3 October 2003 and only in response to the shitstorm caused by the foundation of 4chan.
Some memorable lines from world2ch
These are some gibberish "catchphrases" from world2ch. Only I remember these and they had no impact on Internet culture, but this is an encyclopedia of what I know so screw all y'all.
- It is regretful and it opens.
- * originally "開けてしまった"
- It is the severe internet here.
- * originally "ひどいインターネット" ("The Internet is terrible")
- * versions you can find on Google: "Is completely it the severe Internet here?" "This is the severe internet! Funky dancemen! People wonderful at dope in the world!"
- hey,hybrid american.
- i don't your future and killing soon!
- * wonderful line of golgomois
- destroy all US base in okinawa home / destroy all US naval base in okinawa home
- * the exact phrasing can no longer be remembered.
- You is a big fool man. Hahahaha.
- * Explained here
FanimeCon 2003 delegation
I attended this con. Yeah it's lame, I know. I do specificaly remember that at least two people formed a sort of delegation that went there as well. Wait a minute, does that mean I've verified a total userbase of at least five people? This may be some kind of record...
They had had little homemade mona hats with the URL stitched on the back, didn't they? I doubt they accomplished much, given the end result.
That happened June 20-22, 2003. Just for future reference.
The end of world2ch
At some point RIR6 broke the hell out of the script (best guess: Feb of 2004). Prior to this, signs of wear started to show through. In particular, double posts were routine (and can still be seen in the wayback machine). Eventually, you could only see the first discussion in any given subject. It went downhill from there and quickly became entirely unusable to the point you could no longer reply without a great deal of effort (I recall I could make it work if I saved and edited the page on my side to fix the mistake; not even worth the effort by that point). It was never repaired or reverted. If I had to venture a guess, I'd assume that RIR6 had to go back to school and forgot about us and his site.
Most of the users had jumped ship by this point anyway, including myself. The image boards continued to work and with no moderation were quickly filled full of disgusting/illegal things. In addition, the image boards also had no upward post limit, so not only was it full of terrible things, it was full of A LOT of them. At a certain point, I had stopped checking on these as they were completely out of control. The hosting company most likely found out about it and pulled the plug. Few people noticed.
It was gone from the servers by late May of 2004. The last hint of RIR6's involvement in world2ch appears to be 1 May 2004 in This archived thread, post 179. In any extant online conversation at all: 7 May 2004 here.
It was succeeded early on by world4ch which merged with 4chan and later by the slightly more accurate (sparsely populated, kind of sad) 4-ch.
According to Shii post: [27 August 2004:
World2ch died a slow and painful death. First RIR7 outlawed Japanese text for no apparent reason, then he inexplicably only let people enable it when they used the email "aa", which was the worst of both worlds. Next, as the mighty sum of what was no doubt weeks of work, he introduced an entirely useless "language" drop-down menu next to each reply that made the boards confusing and decreased their popularity. Then he somehow broke the script so that nothing seemed to happen when you hit "Reply"-- I'm not sure how he managed to do that, but that's what happened-- which led to a huge drop in posting, and a lot of double and triple-posts by confused users. Finally, he screwed up the CGI script in some way that he couldn't fix at all; apparently he doesn't like to test out scripts before he uploads them to his website, or even make backups after he hacks together some useless feature. He shut down the boards temporarily and said he was going to fix it, but instead he stopped paying for the server and world2ch was gone forever.
As for why it failed aside from the technical difficulties, that's a bit more complex. RIR6 had sole control over the site and no one else was allowed to help. As a high school student, he certainly didn't have the time to do it alone and certainly not at the hours that his users in the USA/Europe were operating. In addition to that, he had entirely different notions of what the site should be and was confused by the things his foreign users got up to. Clearly, he wanted to discuss serious things (for a high school student) like the news and politics. We, on the other hand, wanted to make shift-JIS dicks and insult one another... It's clear to see why he lost interest in us.
That brings us to the philosophical reasons why it failed on a spiritual level or whatever. As I've brought up before, the 2ch system was completely alien to the West. It was difficult to accept except among those that were already in the know. Basically it was abandoned because it grew unusable, but it was never helped by the users themselves. All-in-all, 4chan killed it more than anything. 4chan brought the format without the hassle of the previous cultural overhead and in the end succeeded where w2ch failed (except for all that money it lost and continues to lose). It was a community that was alive and it was not burdened with forced alien memes. It developed its own domestic culture with only the slightest remnants of the past. Those text boards that followed it did much the same in their own way.
If there is a major legacy, it's that the format (and how to fully exploit it) is now widely recognized and understood in the West. People know that they don't have to register, they don't have to provide an e-mail address, and they can say what they like when presented with the familiar reply form.
Did this actually happen?
I could swear that one of the users of world2ch more or less hijacked the site (with good intentions) and rewrote the help pages and stuff (and obviously suggested increased security). Actually, it had to be easy to hijack because I recall stealing the scripts directly from the site due to permissions being fucked up (I wish to hell I still had them).
According to the moon language thread mentioned in Background above, it seems that world2ch was advertised on Something Awful. Really??
There's some information that has been archived for reference purposes here: world2ch-archive.
After world2ch's death, the domain became the target of cybersquatting for several years. In November 2022, the domain fell under the ownership of one "Angeleno", who subsequently posted proof of their ownership on Heyuri and asked users what they should do with it. An user going by "jr" asked if they could revive the site, and more anons agreed on such eventually making "Angeleno" decide to revive the website based on the original concept. It's not an 1:1 clone of world2ch, but it still follows the same premise. If you want more information on this, read the article on the revival.