A Facebook for 4chan -- welcome to Canvas, the antisocial network

4chan founder Chris Poole tries to stick it to Mark Zuckerberg with a new, anonymous online community called Canvas

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In other words, Poole and his cohorts are finally hoping to cash in. This is what happens when you wake up one morning, realize you're sick of living with roommates, and need to make more money so that you can get a place of your own.

In an interview with the New York Times' Nick Bilton last March, Moot calls Canvas a "reboot" of 4chan. He also had this to say about the value of online anonymity:

I get a lot of e-mail messages from people who say thanks for giving them a place to vent, an outlet to say what they can't say in real life with friends and work colleagues -- things that they know are wrong, but they still want to say. Is it right? No, of course not. People say some disgusting, vile things. But just because we are hosting it doesn't mean we agree with it. I don't support what they are saying; I just support that there is a site like that to say that.

I've been writing a lot about online identity vs. anonymity lately (I seem to be doing it again), and I can appreciate Poole's point. Still, I'm not buying the "anonymity = authenticity" trope. I have a hard time considering someone "authentic" when they post drive-by slander under a made-up name. Authenticity derives from identity, IMHO. The cost of failure should be high -- that's the whole point.

If you need to vent about your boss or your friends or whomever online, that's fine, but if you plan to turn vile and disgusting, leave their names out of it. Unfortunately there's no simple way to enforce that, so too many people use the relative anonymity of the Net as a barrier to hide behind.

I'm curious to see how Canvas pans out. But I suspect Poole will not be able to have it both ways: to create a community site where people are given free reign to roam anonymously, yet not have it turn into a cesspool where the rudest forms of communication drown out everything else.

Under what circumstances is anonymity acceptable to you? Post your thoughts below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "A Facebook for 4chan -- welcome to Canvas, the antisocial network," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Track the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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