"But I don't want to go among weeaboos," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all weeaboo here. I'm weeaboo. You're weeaboo."
"How do you know I'm weeaboo?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
Imageboards are online forums that exist expressly for the purpose of posting images or discussions. They usually have a variety of sub-boards, each with its own focus. Unlike most forums, imageboards don't archive threads, so if nobody posts in one for a while, it will eventually be deleted.
The imageboard as it's usually thought of today began in Japan. Futaba Channel, a spin-off of the popular text-based discussion board 2channelnote (2ch) made when the latter was in danger of being shut down, is probably the best-known. Imageboards that take after Futaba Channel are sometimes described by the blanket term "wakaba style", wakaba referring to the software the board uses. These imageboards traditionally allow anonymous posting and have a self-enforcing theme and standard that hopefully keeps it from collapsing.
The best-known imageboard in the U.S. is probably 4chan, created in 2003 to serve as an English-language version of Futaba Channel. Especially among American otakunote , it's quite popular for the huge numbers of memes it generates and, due to anonymous users and loose moderation, its extremely variable quality. For these reasons, one could see imageboards to be the antithesis of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Most American wakaba boards trace their heritage to 4chan, as many of them were alternative boards formed in 4chan's formative years when the latter site would periodically be forced offline. The successful ones tend to cover more specific niches, like Meganekko or sad girls in snow. Or guro hentai. Or Lolicon and Shotacon. Or guro hentai with underage meganekkos in snow. Weeping profusely over image boards. It's kinda like that.
The only real standing rule of just about every imageboard site in existence (besides topic-specific rules for subforums) is that its users can't post anything considered illegal in a site's area of hosting. Enforcement of this rule can vary wildly between imageboards, and many admins turn a blind eye to things like unauthorized filesharing. And no matter how vigilant the mods are, users often take delight in posting dodgy to outright highly illegal material just to subvert this rule; mods will counter with anything from warnings to reports to the FBI.
Almost every imageboard uses the same simple yet distinctive layout and interface as 2ch, with a sidebar on the left, bottom, or top (but never the right) that lists each board on the site in a simple URL theme. The board's URL contains a contraction of their topic name, a scheme pioneered by 4chan, whose major boards are indicated by only one or two letters (e.g. /v/, /m/, /tg/). As such, you can usually count on entirely different sites to have the same general setup.
Every link you see below should be considered Not Safe for Work unless specifically mentioned otherwise:
- AllChans and Overchan v3 aren't imageboards themselves; instead, they aim to be directories of every English-language imageboard in existence (including furry imageboards and text-based 2ch-esque boards). They try to be as up to date as humanly possible, but it's not easy given how easy it is to start an imageboard (and how many wither and die). And these are also the closest thing to worksafe links from this point forward.
- The aforementioned Futaba Channel is the Ur-Example. It's based in Japan, but it's so famous worldwide that you're not allowed to post there (or its text-only progenitor 2ch) if you're outside Japan, as a means to prevent crapflooding and DDoSing. And even if you could, it's not likely you'll want to; it's much more chaotic, vitriolic, somehow better organized, and far less tolerant of newbies than even 4chan. Most boards have frequent discussion, images, and ASCII art that are totally unrelated to their purpose, and spam is basically omnipresent. It has a lot more boards than 4chan, allowing it to churn out memes, trolling, and gifs at an even faster rate. And it's also got boards that its Western counterparts might shut down; it still maintains guro boards, and it's got an entire board dedicated to racism against Koreans.
- The also-aforementioned 4chan is the biggest English-language imageboard, surpassing even Futaba Channel in traffic. It hosts boards dedicated to just about every generalized subject you can think of, and a few specialized subjects as well. In particular, it's home to the self-proclaimed "final boss of the Internet", the Random Bullshit board, a.k.a. /b/, which is the starting point for about half the memes listed on Memetic Mutation and its subpages. /b/ is also the progenitor of the "Anonymous" movement, where the group's anonymous users dabble in hacktivism (quite a feat given the board's decentralized nature). Humorously enough, 4chan was created by a bunch of regulars from Something Awful's anime subforum, a fact best left unmentioned on both sides. Naturally, it's produced a lot of spinoffs, such as:
- 7chan, considered in many ways to be 4chan's luckless spinoff. It's most popular with ex-/b/-tards annoyed with what they perceive as 4chan's decline. Its boards mostly mirror those of 4chan, but its lower visitor numbers tends to mean it's less chaotic. It really doesn't like Something Awful, or the notion that it's a 4chan snowclone. It maintains a lolicon board (among other things) but will ban anything that even smells funny of child porn.
- +4chan originally started as an offshoot of 4chan prime's /co/ (Comics and Cartoons) board, but has since grown into its own standalone site with a very tight-knit userbase. Much of the content is still /co/ related, but there are also boards about anime, video games, music and television, and drawing, among others. It currently serves as a temporary safe haven for when things go too hectic on 4chan proper (but it's mostly used as a porn depository).
- 99chan is elitist as hell, and damn proud of it. 99chan is even slower than 420chan, but has a huge variety of boards. Expect to be banned if you post demotivators, memes, or if the many mods are feeling bored. Most of the humor on the site revolves around inside jokes and self-deprecation. Practically everything is decided on the IRC (better known as the "circlejerk"), which is self-admittedly populated entirely with pseudo-intellectual gay Canadian alcoholics. It tends to have a "sekrit club" mentality, so if your post smells even faintly of 4chan, expect to be banned.
- Infinitechan or 8chan, made by Fredrick "Hotwheels" Brennan (so nicknamed because he uses a wheelchair due to brittle-bone disease), is the Internet's second most popular English-language imageboard after 4chan. It allows anyone to make their own board and host it on the site, similar to Reddit's subreddits. The site has no global rules other than prohibiting content that would get the site shut down (and even that isn't very strongly enforced), and users are not allowed to moderate more than one board at a time (except for a small group that enforces the global rule). The rules for porn on the main boards (/v/, /a/, /pol/, etc.) are nearly nonexistent; it's technically supposed to be spoilered, and some of it is, but much of it is not. Obviously, NSFW. Not to be confused with 888chan.
- Nuclear-IB, more commonly known as NIB, is a slow-moving but steady imageboard made by Asylum. Its rules are fairly straightforward and basically amount to not doing anything that could get the site shut down. Most of the boards are NSFW, and even nominally work-safe boards can be NSFW because the banners might feature NSFW boards. One unique feature is that instead of identifying users' countries by flags (or countryballs), they use "country nukes" — your country's flag laid over an image of a nuclear bomb.
- 420chan, created as a result of one of 4chan's longer downtimes, is specifically geared toward drug users. Several boards are dedicated to different types of controlled substances, and its most visited board is /weed/. However, the site does not allow anybody to directly buy or sell drugs on the site itself. It also has several boards not related to drugs, included the site's second most visited board, /wooo/, which is one of the best-known Professional Wrestling imageboards on the Intenet; WrestleCrap considers them its Arch-Enemy and forbids its own users from mentioning them.
- fchan is the best-known furry imageboard out there, specializing in erotic artwork. Although it's often assumed to be created as a response to 4chan's infamous "April Fur's Day" prank,note it was actually around before then — it arose from the death of 5chan, which had hosted a couple of furry boards. The site set a standard for furry imageboards by segregating images into different boards by content (e.g. female-only art, male-only art, etc.) and its DNP list (for "Do Not Post"), a list of artists whose work could not be posted on the site by their personal request. fchan's heavy-handed moderation and large DNP list led to the proliferation of several other furry imageboards to counteract fchan's perceived stupidity, the most notable of which are:
- Lulz.net, which is sometimes referred to just as /furi/ after the site's main board. It is always EXTREMELY NSFW, and not always because of furry porn. In fact, not always because of porn — many threads are about gore pictures, grossout images, trolling, and extremely vitriolic politics. There's also more furry-hate on the site than /b/ and Something Awful combined. Even the site's regulars will often admit that it's basically "/b/, but with less furry porn". If you go in without Adblock prepared beforehand, it's also a great stress test for your antivirus application of choice.
- The Goddamned Furry Board, run by former fchan admin Sage "Goddammit" Freehaven. Notable for having really strict and opinionated moderators (being a private imageboard), and being the butt of Lulz' jokes.
- 55chan is a dead Brazilian imageboard that's notable for how it dealt with its functionally illiterate users — many of whom came from the social networking site Orkut, would flood boards with bland topics, and would request users to raid their enemies' pages on Orkut. The mods installed a filter on the post screen that would block users from posting unless they could copy a simple sentence — capitals, punctuation, and all — without using the copy-paste command. That filter was enough to fend off the vast majority of the problem users. Its replacement is now BRchan.
- 888chan was the imageboard chiefly used by Project Chanology, a project of /b/'s "Anonymous" movement targeting the Church of Scientology. After /b/ lost interest, Project Chanology moved over here; it's one of Anonymous' most "successful" ventures, leading to some real-life protests. But that wasn't enough to keep 888chan alive; it shut down in 2014.
- Touhou Project is the main Touhou imageboard, done in the style of a Choose Your Own Adventure fanfic. It tries to maintain a fairly high standard of quality. It was spun off from 4chan's /jp/ board, which started to get festooned with Touhou CYOAs. It ranges from cute, fluffy adventures to grimdark stories about Touhous abusing each other. It took over from Pooshlmer, which was for many years the definitive (mostly) worksafe Touhou imageboard before it died in 2016; it was particularly hostile to Western fanart.
- Desuchan is designed to accommodate a single meme that had become too big and obnoxious for other imageboards, ~desu. It's worksafe! It even has its fair share of spinoffs, mostly as backups during downtimes.
- britfa.gs is the main British imageboard. They're generally remarkably decent by imageboard standards, or even by Internet standards. Just be careful about your spelling, punctuation and grammar.
- Krautchan is the main German imageboard. Its humour consists mainly of intentionally bad and literal translations of English memes and imageboard slang (beweis mich falsch, fappieren). It became famous in the wake of the Winneden school shooting, after the media fell for an extremely obvious fake post announcing it (a photoshop of a real but completely unrelated post).
- Uboachan, devoted entirely to Yume Nikki.
- GUROchan (we won't link to it) is the mecca for guro, guro-manga, and all forms of porn you could ever want. Except for real stuff. Worst of all, it's not super active. Not safe for work, school, or anywhere else on Earth. Somewhat notably, a good bit of its userbase is surprisingly friendly.
- TF2chan, devoted to Team Fortress 2 fans, is mostly noted for the massive amounts of shipping and porn.
- B3TA is another British imageboard, famous for not its message boards, but also its weekly or so Image Challenges, quizzes, movies and games. The Image Challenges are the source of many funny images, and the userbase is surprisingly genial.
- Ponychan (found here) is the result of a merger between two imageboards devoted to My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. The original Ponychan was entirely worksafe and known for being (comparatively) something of a "hugbox" with a strangely tight-knit community (for an imageboard). The other was MLPChan, which was created as a counterpoint to Ponychan's "hugbox" nature (and the comparative chaos of 4chan's /mlp/ board). The modern site allows NSFW content only on its /anon/ board, as long as it is properly tagged.
- "bbw-chan, home to the big and beautiful." Also, they've got other kinks as well, thankfully, on separate subforums.
- 1chan.net is for railfans, especially of the foamer variety. It's worksafe, too.
- 789chan was an imageboard with a focus on technology, whose most famous board is /cwc/, which is entirely about Sonichu and its creator Christian Chandler. Despite the title, though, very few threads were about Chris, and it generally discusses other people on the Internet the users don't like. It was shut down in November 2012.
- Bienvenido à Internet ("Welcome to the Internet") is both an imageboard and a textboard for all Spanish-speaking people that, in its own words, tries to stay away from the disaster that is *chan culture and social media, trying to be more like 2ch/Futaba Channel. It was born in early 2010, spun off from Chilean imageboard 6-chan. It has an explicit rule that you can be banned for any post with spelling errors.
- Shrekchan is a strange and somewhat active board with a focus on all things Shrek. Mostly full of Shrek-themed images and NSFW greentext stories with a... unique version of chanspeak. Yes, it's ironic. Probably.
- zerochan sees itself as an high-quality anime imageboard focusing itself mainly on Japanese animated media. It's designed in part to avert the hatred animesque drawings get elsewhere on the Internet and be a safe place for fan artists; as such, it's indisputably worksafe and one of the most light-hearted imageboards ever made.
- Pregchan is an image board dedicated to pregnancy fetishism. It's fairly slow, and covers a lot of content, from the relatively Safe for Work vanilla stuff to the more... let's say "out there" stuff, and let's leave it at that.