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The Future Of The Internet Is 4chan Gold
Way way back in 2007, the website Digg posted a roundup of funny 4chan posts and sent a boatload of traffic towards 4chan. The post was called “The Top 100 Funny Pics From 4chan NSFW” and, probably thankfully, it’s no longer online. As Know Your Meme documented, though, the then-owner of 4chan, Christoper “Moot” Poole decided to prank the hordes of visiting Digg users by redoing 4chan’s design to look as “web 2.0” as possible. I was on the site when this happened. For a day 4chan looked like every other mid-00s social platform, complete with bright vector graphic buttons and the rest. Unfortunately, I can’t find any screenshots of it, but I remember it being very funny and also a chaotic mess, as most things on 4chan were back then. That said, I was a 17-year-old edgelord, so who knows how actually funny it was.
One meme, though, from the Digg prank survived — 4chan Gold. For years afterwards, instead of posting a real image, a user would post this instead:
The joke was that there were paywalled images on 4chan that you could only access if you gave 4chan your credit card information. Users went so far to even mock up payment portals, hoping to steal people’s credit card info.
The joke has persisted over the years. Almost every internet community has mocked up a variation of this. Tumblr users tried it. And about 10 years ago, rumors of a Facebook Gold account caused a mini-panic among users. Perhaps an early sign that the platform had a problem separating satire from truth?
Jokes about 4chan Gold blew up again when Reddit announced Reddit Gold in 2010. It felt like Moot’s joke about the hypercapitalist world of web 2.0 had suddenly become very real. But the world is a lot different now than it was in 2010. 4chan deserves a lot of blame for a lot things, but perhaps its greatest sin was promoting the idea that the internet was somehow not real life and thus what happened there didn’t actually matter. Monetization features are lot less of a whacky idea in 2021, where websites, and specifically social platforms like Reddit are some of the largest businesses in existence with employees and shareholders and the rest.
I was thinking about 4chan Gold this morning when I came across this tweet from the always excellent Jane Manchun Wong. If you don’t follow her, you absolutely should. Her speciality is identifying features from major apps months before they hit the market. She’s been following the rollout of Twitter’s subscription service, “Twitter Blue”.
Based off what Twitter has said publicly about this service and Wong’s tweets about it, Twitter Blue actually looks a lot like Reddit’s paid features — a more customized experience, with some comfort-of-life upgrades. I do think it’s ironic that a service called Twitter Blue will let you change the app’s color scheme. But what’s also interesting is that Twitter Blue will be rolling out alongside paywalled tweets and a tip jar.
Twitter continues to add stratified features without ever addressing its extremely hierarchal and obsessive user base. It’s been a real the have-blue-checks versus the have-nots situation for years, which has resulted in an increasingly toxic culture of power users who basically roam the app harassing people. And I imagine Twitter Blue subscriptions, tip jars, and Super Follow paywalls will only add to this. Twitter has already functioned like a clout casino for many years — anything you write could make you an overnight celebrity or literally ruin your life — but now that clout casino will involve a lot of actual money flying around. And we know that tech companies very rarely make their digital playing fields more equal. So I imagine the site will only become more toxic.
Which is funny because that was actually the exact impetus behind the 4chan Gold prank. It was a way for power users to dupe normies and get some sense of value from the weird amount of knowledge they had about one specific website. The main shift between 2007 and 2021, I suppose, is that tech companies, after a lot of trial and error, have now figured out how to get those users to spend money to express that same kind of smugness.
A Good Tweet
Amazon Deletes A Tweet
On Wednesday, the Amazon News Twitter account released a video about their new “mental well-being” spaces for employees. The tweet included a video that explained that employees in Amazon warehouses could “focus on their mental wellbeing” by stepping inside of an “AmaZen” kiosk. Amazon + zen, get it? Anyways, the overwhelming reaction to Amazon’s new employee crying closets were to compare them to Futurama’s suicide booth.
The dunking on the Amazon News’ tweet got so bad they finally just had to delete it. It turns out that people on Twitter were not exactly excited about Amazon rolling out panic attack port-a-potties at work sites where employees report regularly having to pee in bottles to meet quotas. I guess people just aren’t interested in escaping to the depression shed when they get tired of ignoring their dead coworkers’ body on the warehouse floor. The tweet did not say if using the employees using the corporate scream room would still be tracked by their Amazon-patented efficiency tracker wristbands.
I will say that when I tweeted about Amazon’s employee breakdown cube many of my followers said that it seemed like a good place to jerk off. So, you know, maybe Twitter just wasn’t the place to share this new innovation in managing the crumbling mental health of your overworked, underpaid, and union-intimidated workforce.
Harambe Lives On As An NFT
I received a press release about this and I felt like it might be interesting to some Garbage Day readers! In honor of the five-year anniversary of Harambe’s death — which is a VERY weird thing to commemorate — the photographer behind the main Harambe image, Jeff McCurry, is auctioning it off as an NFT. It’s currently listed on NFT trading site Foundation.
My initial feeling about meme NFTs was deep despair. Not sure I’m completely all-in on them now, but after interviewing Ben Lashes, the meme manager who has been responsible for most of the recent ones, my thoughts have evolved a bit. Lashes said he sees NFTs as a way for the oftentimes anonymous people behind memes to get a bit of ownership back after having their content impact culture.
Harambe though is a bit different than, say, Disaster Girl. We’re talking a gorilla that was shot while it was trying to maul a kid who had wandered into its enclosure. It’s a weird vibe to say the least. In fact, back in 2016, I tweeted a stray thought about the Harambe meme that I think has only become more true with time: memes that can’t be co-opted by brands, and thus rendered uncool, spiral out of control. Think of it like brands being the wolves preying on memes peacefully grazing in the user-generated forest of the internet. Harambe was a good example of this, deemed too dark and weird of an internet joke to become a Denny’s tweet or whatever, it grew even stranger and toxic until it was weaponized by far-right internet users to carryout oftentimes racist harassment. Perhaps an NFT is a good way to finally squash it.
Either way, if the idea of classic internet content becoming tangled up in the crypto world makes you feel uncomfortable, I’d recommend making your peace with it because it’s only going to get weirder from here. For instance, here’s something I learned about it this week courtesy of Potch in the Garbage Day Discord.
Rusty Foster, when I interviewed him a few weeks ago, said that sometimes he waits until I write about something in Garbage Day because he just doesn’t want to deal with it. I am happy to say the opposite is true for me this week. I absolutely did not want to cover the Eve Bartlow/Fartlow thing, but Rusty jumped on that grenade for me yesterday, so if you want a good round-up of The Discourse, I highly recommend heading over to Today In Tabs.
The TL;DR here is that a Scottish writer named Eve Bartlow (who I honestly had never heard of before this), who identifies as a Zionist, wrote a piece in Tablet Mag titled, “The Social Media Pogrom”. The piece details how people on Twitter call her Eve Fartlow sometimes. She compares this to a pogrom and links it to a wider pushback right now against Zionists on social media. Anyways, the piece was dunked on summarily and, instead of being the brave defense against the haters that Bartlow seems to have imagined it as, it had an opposite effect:
An Incredible Trampoline Video
Absolutely love to see it. Just guys being dudes. What’s better than that?
A Twitter Mystery Solved
A few weeks ago, I wrote about UK newspaper the Telegraph’s weird obsession with generational warfare stories. They have posted endlessly about things like “cheugy” and the phrase “OK boomer”. This would probably just be a weird editorial quirk except for the fact that the Telegraph is being aggressively promoted by Twitter’s trending topics and Moments. To the point where users are actively begging Twitter to stop.
The Telegraph did it again last week, when one of their stories about “geriatric millennials” was splashed all over Twitter. The tweet has a truly incredible ratio. As of this morning, it has over 2,000 quote tweets. People, it seems, are fed up.
When I initially wrote about the Telegraph’s bizarrely aggressive Twitter domination, I had assumed it was some kind of deal where the paper was paying for promoted tweets or something. Well, according to three different sources who have reached out to me in the last week, that is not the case. Instead, it seems like there is just someone working on Twitter’s Moments team who really really likes the Telegraph and won’t stop tormenting users with their content?
If you’re interested in digging further into all of this, I did a podcast episode on it this week. We explored how “geriatric millennials” became A Thing and why it’s largely just weird viral nonsense.
Let’s Talk About The Hockey Documentary
If you saw people screaming about a hockey documentary on Twitter yesterday, allow me to explain. First, if you want to experience the magic that is watching the first couple minutes of this video without any prior knowledge of what might happen, click here.
Ok, so, here’s what’s going on. On Thursday, Twitter user @VoltySquirrel tweeted out a link to this video and wrote, “I cannot stress enough just how much you need to stop whatever it is you are doing and watch the opening titles of this documentary. I promise you're not ready for what's coming.”
And they were right! I audibly screamed when I saw it. You see, The Nagano Tapes is a documentary about how Czech Republic hockey team won gold at the 1998 Olympics. The documentary came out in 2018 and the intro to it will be immediately familiar for anyone who has ever seen the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion before because it uses the same theme song and the footage is literally cut in the exact same way as the opening credits. Only, instead of being about giant robots, The Nagano Tapes features clips about the fall of the Soviet Union. It’s an unmistakeable homage.
And, as Garbage Day reader Erika showed me, the filmmaker behind the film, Ondřej Hudeček, tweeted yesterday about the credits going viral. “It took me 3 years, but I finally made Anime Twitter go nuts,” he wrote.
The Daily Dot’s Gavia Baker-Whitelaw asked Hudeček on Twitter why he chose to do it and he said he was always a fan of Evangelion.
“I saw an opportunity to do what I've wanted to do for a long time and just took it. I suppose the producers thought I was crazy at first, but they quickly fell in love with the idea, licensed the music and here we are,” he replied.
Welcome To Beyblade TikTok
This actually blew my mind and I never even played Beyblades.
P.S. here’s the Delaware post.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***