If you live outside of Japan and/or have never been here, I guess the chances are you’ve probably never heard of 2channel. (Or maybe you have. I don’t get away from Japan more than once or twice a year any more, so I can’t really claim to know.) Anyway, if you haven’t heard of it, do yourself a favor and head over to the Wikipedia site to read the 2channel article there. That article begins with the following:
2channel (2ちゃんねる, pronounced “ni-channeru”, 2ch for short) is the largest Internet forum in the world. With over 10 million visitors every day (as of 2001), it is gaining significant influence in Japanese society, approaching that of traditional mass media such as TV, radio and magazines.
As impressive as that may sound, I think it understates the influence that 2channel has had in Japan. Read a little further down in that article, and you will find this:
What is unique about this website is its scale and its management style. It has more than 600 active boards (Japanese ita) such as “Social News”, “Computers” and “Cooking”, making it the most comprehensive forum in Japan. Each board usually has thousands of specific threads, such as “Coming election in Tokyo: 4th vote”, “P4 vs. Athlon: overheating 51 times”, and “Best wheat for making Pizza: 3rd slice”.
And as far as the 2channel “management style”, well, there is none. At all. It is basically one big information free-for-all. And a completely anonymous one, at that. Because another feature that has set 2channel apart is that all posting there is done
Anyway, I am far from an expert on 2channel. But from what I know and have seen of it, I know that it is in part a resource where people go to ask questions and get some (hopefully) expert advice — even on the most obscure topics. People also rely on 2channel as a real-time source for breaking news and for discussion about breaking news.Yeah, some of it is just hearsay, but there are also firsthand reports, including reports from people who otherwise would not be sharing information unless they could do share it anonymously.
Now, as you would probably expect, users at 2channel can and do sometimes post bogus information. Sometimes they do it just for fun, sometimes for more sinister reasons. Given all that, the natural question to ask is: How do you know whom and what to trust there?