4chan founder Chris Poole believes that users need a balance of anonymity and identity online, a strategy he hopes social networks will also adopt as a way to allow people to make mistakes online without having to worry about those transgression coming back to haunt them.

Christopher Poole at Web 2.0 Summit 2011

Christopher Poole at Web 2.0 Summit 2011

4chan founder Christopher Poole (also known by his online pseudonym, “moot”) gave an interesting speech at the Web 2.0 Summit today, all about the tension that lies between identity and anonymity on the Internet. The talk was reminiscent of one that Poole gave at TED, in which he questioned whether users are losing the ability to make mistakes online without repercussions. But the crux of the speech was that Facebook and Google+ were mishandling the way they allow users choose to identify themselves, and that users need a choice between the need to authenticate but also to make mistakes.

“Facebook and Google do identity wrong, Twitter does it better,” Poole said. “But I want us to think about what the world would be like if we did it right.”

The goal of these networks, from Poole’s perspective, should not necessarily be to tie a user’s identity to his or her full name, but to give users a choice in how they represent themselves. From Poole’s point of view, the lack of this self-selection generally takes away the freedom that comes with anonymity. “With this persistent consolidated identity… I feel like we’ve lost ability to make fools of ourselves,” Poole said.

On the other hand, Poole’s community 4chan is notorious for an environment where anyone can post more or less anything they want to — and to do so anonymously. That has raised some questions about the legality of such a forum when things like child pornography gets posted.

For what its worth, Poole’s latest community, Canv.as, requires users to authenticate with Facebook Connect. But when they interact, they’re able to decide what their screen names are and even to post anonymously. If they choose, they can later decide to change those anonymous postings to use their screen name at a later time.

That’s a strategy that Poole hopes other networks will also adopt — if only to allow people to make mistakes online without having to worry about those transgression coming back to haunt them.

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  1. Moot made some really key points. Critical to the future of the internet, imho.

  2. Op is a fag

  3. Flavius Saracut Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    I think it depends on the specific of the website, but the fact that you can post anonymously and then you can switch and display whatever you want seems interesting.

  4. Sachin Balagopalan Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Interesting .. toggle between anonymity and screen name at any point after the conversation.

  5. I feel like he’s talking about something in between the two. Like having an anonymous account, but the people who know you in real life know your online persona, yet giving you the choice to choose. Like in http://slashdot.org/ or https://truefriender.com/

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