There exist three forms of anonymous. The first form represents the legions of internet users who visit anonymous imageboards and textboards such as 2ch, 2chan, 4chan, and similar internet sites in the Western World. The second form is a personification of the internet users, who represent no identifying race, skin color, or gender. Finally, there is the stand-alone complex, which is like an organization, but it has no true command structure or true standard operating procedure. Each one of these forms merit examination on an anthological level.
The first origin of Anonymous, the default username of people who choose not to use a username on the imageboards can be traced back to Ayashii World. The word is known by its Japanese characters as Nameless or nanashi. Its Japanese kanji characters are known as 名無し.The kanji combination can be separated into individual characters: 名- or ‘na’ represents “name”, and 無 – or “mu” represents naught. し-is merely a suffix, but when combined with mu and shi it combines into “without”. So literally the word Nameless can be known as “Without a name”. This tradition of the use of the “nanashi” as a default name continued throughout the textboards of Ayashii and other textboards until 2channel was established.
When 2channel was established, they adopted the tradition of using Nanashi as a default name for people who post anonymously. But as more boards were built by 2ch, more variations of the default name appeared. Some of the variations like from the Pokémon board (Nameless, I Choose You), the windows board (Nameless~3.exe), PC Games board (Nameless Ambition), and general railway’s board (The Nameless GO! Based on the title “Densha de GO!”). There are just many boards that have variations of the nameless default use. As a matter of fact, you can view a whole list of default names that are currently used in 2channel in Japanese at: http://logo.s3.xrea.com/_nanasi.xhtm
There is one major exception to this rule: The VIP board. The VIP board (or by its proper full title NEWS4VIP), was originally for awful threads, banned posters, and spam threads that were on the site’s various boards that were removed by 2ch’s staff (Similar to The Something Awful Forums Comedy Gas Chamber). But actual people came to the boards and pretty much used it as a general chatroom. While you may think that NEWS4VIP may be for news by Very Important People, it has little to do with any with current and breaking news. There are a wide range of topics that are discussed in the board as there is something to talk about daily. Overtime they created their own culture, style of writing, and memes on top of 2channel’s culture. Eventually they even their own nickname as a default name known as VIPPERS.
The origin of the name VIPPER was not clear, but the name was adopted because “the name sounded good at the time”.
When 2chan was created, eventually there was a /b/ or several /b/ boards for 2-D (animated/anime topics) and 3-D (real world) content. And that /b/ at the time was spammed by a user named “Toshiaki” who was to 2chan a “lifeless spammer troll”. Eventually the people who regularly go to /b/ adopted the name. Eventually it was adopted as a default username on 2chan’s /b/.
Then a person named Christopher “moot” Poole created 4chan, translated “Nanashi” as “Anonymous”, and the rest is history. Well, until the idea of imageboards arrived in Russia in 2006. While channers there post anonymously, they often signed their posts and replies. Typical signatures include the name of the city they are from and the Japanese honorific “-kun”. For example, someone from Omsk (the largest city in Siberia) might sign their posts “Omsk-kun”. This practice allows users from the same city or region to exchange information. Especially due to the fact that the Russian media is controlled by the government and hopelessly biased, so imageboards in Russia are a good source of news for many people living in the country. (And yes, Image boards are well used in Russia.)
There are several boards that continue this tradition in different ways. Major examples include 7chan and iichan. Both are strongly associated with 4chan in two ways. The former was a refuge for 4channers when the site was having server problems in it’s early history. The latter is being the home of “the real /b/” and preserving 4chan’s meme based culture.
7chan’s /b/ usually takes a random username per month and on their /a/ board (which the board structure is entirely in Japanese text) the default name is Anonymous-san. iichan on the other hand has many different default usernames depending on the board you go to. People who go to the news board are known as junior field reporters. The random board has different usernames based on the British 1800s. The users of the video games board are known as “Wii, the people” as a play on the words “We the people” on the preamble of the US Constitution. Cosplayers who go to the cosplay board are known as “Anonymous Cosplay Connoisseur”. The Final Fantasy board users are known as “Random Encounters”.
Other imageboards that have little to do with 4chan, often play with the names that users can adopt. The General Told Discussion board (/told/) denizens are called Unbannable Macfags. In Pooshlmer’s Touhou board users are known as “nameless fairies”. And in OPERATORchan: people are known as “OPERATORS”, based on the OPERATOR in-joke on 4chan’s /k/. Because all users have the same name, these are just different ways of getting users to embrace anonymity.
Ndee “Jkid” Okeh (YSjkid@gmail.com)
(UPDATED ON 6/15/2011 WITH NEW INFORMATION)