What is Multichan?

Multichan is a federated, tag-based textboard server. It is public domain software available here: 796f/multichan 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 http://bbs.4x13.net .

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 years.

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.

Textboard software

Defining characteristics of textboard software can best be understood by comparing them with ``typical" forums.

Textboards:

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, alt.tv.talkshows.daytime is more specific than alt.tv.talkshows which is more specific than alt.tv.

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 tags available.

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 is.

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.

Influences

The influences upon multichan are numerous:
last updated 2020-12-27