In the hope the controversy-courting whiz kid can turn their social media fortunes around...
The 28-year-old known to many online as “moot” has taken a job at Google.
Chris Poole, the founder of the underground but highly influential image board 4chan, has put the pair of high-profile controversies that led him to sell the site last year behind him as he steps into a new role with the tech giant.
Taking to Tumblr on Monday, Poole announced his “new chapter” and talked fondly of his dealings with current and former Googlers.
With the New Yorker hinting in his post that he will be tasked with online community-building, it is thought that he has been enlisted to aid the company’s ailing social network.
Google+ launched just over five years ago and has thus far failed to capture the public’s imagination, particularly when you consider Google’s enormous Internet clout.
Adding fuel to the speculative fire is the fact that the new appointment was confirmed by Bradley Horowitz – Google’s vice-president of streams, photos and sharing has been leading the Google+ push alongside Vic Gundotra. The other possibility is that the company is plotting a totally new social media move.
In Poole, they will be getting a forward-thinking entrepreneur who dreamt up the meme-creating, agenda-setting and boundary-pushing 4chan as a teenager in his bedroom. The site’s rise to notoriety was impressively swift, but its laissez faire attitude to censorship and protection of posters’ anonymity brought storm after storm of the kind of negative publicity Google will be praying Poole is ready to leave far behind.
Aside from giving the world cat memes and Rickrolling, and being the cradle for a nascent Anonymous movement, it also became synonymous with the more squalid digital districts of the online community. Its almost-anything-goes /b/ board regularly came in for condemnation.
Poole's passion for – and patience with – the site collapsed in 2014, chiefly owing to users’ involvement in “The Fappening”, which saw nude iCloud photos of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton leak, and "Gamergate", which saw women in the video game industry subjected to harassment.
His attempts to rein in illegal content were met with extreme resistance from posters, and he left the site after 12 years at the helm, subsequently selling it to Hiroyuki Nishimura. Ironically, Nishimura’s own 2channel textboard had been an early inspiration for 4chan.
Emotionally drained, he told TheVerge.com in September 2015:
"I've spent the past 12 to 18 months trying to avoid technology like the plague. I still had a responsibility to manage 4chan, but I tried to sort of wind down my obligation to everything else and take a breather from the wonderful world of startups and tech."
It would seem Google prepared an impressive enough offer to lure him back into that world some six months later. It has secured the services of "the Mark Zuckerberg of the online underground", as Rolling Stone once put it. Google bosses will be hoping for Facebook-style social media success without the trolls spoiling the party.