- What is Multichan?
- Textboard software
- Tags' superiority to ``boards"
- Why Federation is the future
What is Multichan?
Multichan is a federated, tag-based textboard server.
It is public domain software available here:
meaning you can download the software, modify it any way you want,
and share it or run it however you wish. You can view a live version
of multichan at http://0chan.vip or
The name is a reference to 2channel, the ``second channel" of a
popular anonymous textboard in Japan. Amezou was an early
anonymous messageboard website. People could use their computers to
share ideas or communicate completely independently of their offline
identity. This resulted in Amezou becoming very popular; 2channel was
meant to help support Amezou when it ran out of bandwidth or otherwise
went offline. It grew to become the largest web bulliten board for many
Multichan extends on this idea of a plurality of servers by employing
federation, where all servers back each other up. A Multichan server
will faithfully copy discussions and responses from other Multichan
servers which are in its friends list. In this way, the community can
be understood as simply messages from users, while various websites
offer different views of this community based on the personal biases
of server operators. A server can offer either a very open
view of the community, or a more limited one; this experiment will
yield interesting results.
,--- 0chan.vip , bbs.4x13.net , etc
v v--- Web browser, app, etc
Server <--> Client
Clients can create a discussion topic, reply to a discussion, view a
discussion, or get a list of discussions. Discussions can be assigned a
tag. A list of tags, or a list of threads under a tag, or a list of
threads from multiple tags can be viewed.
Servers share discussions with each other, too. So, what does this all
mean? Discussions can be held in a server-agnostic fashion. The
server-agnostic nature of a discussion means that unpopular moderation
decisions will possibly punish a server by reducing its userbase;
in time, servers with the least amount of moderation will become the
most popular, followed by ones that filter out just spam and trolling,
followed by ones that restrict the tag list / heavily filter new threads
and responses, etc.
Defining characteristics of textboard software can best be understood by
comparing them with ``typical" forums.
- Do not require registration.
Most web messageboards require, at the very least, a username,
email address, and a password in order to make posts. A downside
of this is that registration is generally annoying, and it can
constrain a user's freedom to share thoughts because account-based
systems lead to the development of personas. The value inherent to
a position can be overlooked when the reputation of the speaker is
necessarily attached. Binding messages to their poster's identity
can also lead people to play games where personas are pitted against
each other or become the focus of discussion themselves, which does
not generally enhance conversations. Finally, registration can be a
security risk -- emails or passwords can be leaked, or usernames
can become the object of cyber-stalking.
- Focus on text, rather than images or video.
If the purpose of a messageboard can be stated simply, it is to
provide a space for conversations to take place. Sometimes,
embedding images can clarify a message. At other times, they are
used to stop dialog or provide no value to the conversation,
especially in the form of memes. In some mediums (such as Facebook,
Twitter) recycled images and video substitute discussion entirely.
There is little incentive to post time-wasting / irrelevant media
in a text-only forum. Indeed, better software exists for social
media sharing -- Danbooru, Pleroma, etc.
- Sort conversations by active participation.
For websites that focus on breaking news or new multimedia,
recent activity is not a good sort metric. But for general
discussion-based websites, it does fine. Novelty is not the
defining quality of most discussion topics; indeed, a conversation
should be able to continue for days, weeks, or months, if it
continues to be relevant to people.
- Do not have expiration dates for discussion topics.
In line with the previous point, conversations on textboards
generally take place over days, weeks, or even years. This is in
contrast especially with imageboards (on 4chan, conversations
generally do not persist for over 24 hours) but also Reddit,
Facebook, or even Twitter, where the focus is on discussions
started recently, generally within the last week.
- Bore boring people.
Because textboards are generally adverse to low-effort
contributions (especially media recycling) and encourage
anonymity, there is little incentive for boring people to stick
around a textboard.
- Are easy to setup and modify.
The majority of textboard software rejects the use of SQL servers,
favoring flatfile databases. Because the read and write operations
on the data is simple, and the data itself is simple, extending or
altering basic functions becomes very easy. All that's historically
been needed to run a textboard is a domain name and CGI-capable
server. Multichan simplifies the installation process further by
including its own webserver, which makes setup as simple as
downloading the software and then running the included script.
Tags' superiority to ``boards"
For over 20 years, 2ch (and in turn 4chan, 8chan, etc) have depended on
the concept of a board to organize threads. These are based on the idea
of a newsgroup, which is over 35 years old (stemming from USENET). 2ch's
system of boards essentially categorize every conversation under a single
label, such as breaking news, psychology, soft drinks, childcare, Trump,
sumo, etc etc. The shift from newsgroups to boards is a downside in that
USENET groups offer a clear hierarchy: eg,
is more specific than
alt.tv.talkshows which is more specific
2ch tried to address the limitation of a ``board" (directory of
conversations) by simply creating as many boards as possible. There are
several hundred 2ch boards in existence today. Essentially running
hundreds of isolated websites for one community is not pragmatic for
administration; for readers and commenters, it's only ideal if the user
is interested in a limited number of topics.
When one or more topics apply to a conversation, there are two simple
remedies on single-board software websites. One is cross-posting: the
same conversation is copied to (ex) 3 or 4 places, then 3 or 4 different
conversations are taking place based on the same topic message. The
second is multi-board browsing (ex) multiple boards have their
conversations pooled together into one meta-board. This is problematic
because it still leads to duplicate threads as a result of cross-posting
(repeating the same thread in multiple boards to make it visible to more
people) The only real solution to actually implement tagging, which
means that the same exact conversations exist in multiple places. This
best serves the purpose of a board or directory in the first place:
narrowing the global index of conversations based on a theme.
2ch and 4chan, unlike 8chan, never added the ability to make new boards,
or to view multiple boards at the same time. Multichan goes a step
further than 8chan by eliminating boards while making a vast number of
Why Federation is the future
Let's look at imageboard directories.
This one (allchans.org) lists about 30 imageboard servers, each of
which hosts 10-50 boards on average.
iichan was the first board that tried to address the problem of multiple
boards: different site owners volunteered to run some boards, and all
sites would link to each other. This decreased thread duplication
somewhat, and made the idea of an inter-site index easy to use.
Lynxchan/Vichan are starting to address the problem in a sophisticated
way by sorting links to other boards by info like ``posts per hour",
users, and last activity.
NNTPchan realized that sharing threads between servers solves one
problem of imageboards: the same board exists in many places, but each
board only exists in one; this fractures the userbase. With NNTPchan,
the more servers that exist, the stronger and more unified the network
Archive boards and ghost boards, such as
warosu.org add more nuance to how text and imageboards on one site
respond to those on others. Warosu (fuuka) not only creates a 1:1
duplication of certain 4chan conversations; it also provides its own
commenting system for its users to make replies on 4chan conversations
from Warosu's servers; the creation of Warosu was primarily a response
to 4chan's overzealous post-removing philosophy. Warosu makes all
comments available, while users decide for themselves what they want to
see. This is the archive board. The ghost board is the comments from
Warosu users themselves, which 4chan never sees.
Once meta-board and meta-site browsing is common, along with board
archival, federation becomes the next obvious step. While overboards,
webrings, and archives try to promote equality between servers and
boards, proper federation goes a step further by eliminating the
difference. Federation links and archives boards by acknowledging
that remote archives will receive comments that may be relevant to the
original discussion at hand.
The influences upon multichan are numerous:
- 2channel -- the original anonymous
- 1chan.us -- uses tags, rather than
boards, to organize threads.
Wiki -- the creator of the wiki came to believe federation
could solve the problems of users and administrators alike by
overcoming the limitations imposed by any single server / central
- nntpchan --
decentralized (federated) imageboard software. Formerly known as
- lynxchan --
popular way to allow user managed board creation; also,
frequently has options to view an ``overboard" (threads from all
boards), view a combination of boards, and view a ``webring"
(board index including foreign boards and their stats from
last updated 2020-12-27