Things that nerds call news [dot] Tumblr [dot] com: the anarchic wing of the 4chan message board, known as /b/, is angry at the micro-blogging service Tumblr, which is known for book deals and as the weapon of choice for New York City media losers and wannabes. What often goes unsaid about Tumblr, because the same people who use it are the ones writing about it, is that it is populated by millions of teenagers who don’t know what The Awl is. This is a crucial fact when it comes to online squabbles like the 4chan vs. Tumblr e-rumbles planned for Sunday evening and Monday.
Both Urlesque and Gawker have rundowns of the beef.
In short, many of the cute/funny/quirky photos and videos that “succeed” on Tumblr (read: spread virally) originate on 4chan (see also: Reddit, Digg), who feel like they’re being ripped off. As a result, they’ve planned Operation Overlord, which hopes to first flood Tumblr with porn and gore and eventually crash their servers because of excessive traffic (a.k.a. a DDos attack). Last time we heard about the /b/ board, they were doing the same thing to Gawker.
Here’s the plan, slated for 5 p.m. on Sunday, in words normal people hopefully do not understand:
In response, Tumblr has planned a “raid” of their own for Monday. You can see that .jpeg below, but first let’s talk this out.
Yes, you’re right, it is entirely inconsequential. But there is something entertaining and fascinating in it — if you read the internet a lot, as being on this blog might indicate — because it shows a serious level of loyalty among web users. More than that, it shows intense identification among very young users, because it is safe to assume that if you can drive a car and legally purchase Four Loko, you are not going to spend any afternoon ever as part of an internet “raid” over some cat pictures.
In other words, teenagers who are using the internet more and more are committing with virtual blood and tears to the sites where they will spend their attention dollars (a currency I just made up) to the point where they’re willing to fight with competitors. And while it is a niche, the web is made up of niches and they’re not really that small when you look at the numbers. These kids live on the internet, grow on the internet and will eventually run the world.
(Disclosure: Lest this all sound like old people fear-mongering about the evil internet, know that I use and love too many services online, for too many hours a day, many of which I feel some tingling of loyalty to. And I don’t think those who prefer Facebook chat are going to meet for a knife fight with a group of Gchatters. But doesn’t mean extreme, seemingly isolated examples like 4chan vs. Tumblr don’t speak to the path we’re on.)
If anything, it’s a super-concentrated example of why sites like Facebook, which will announce email tomorrow, and Google can keep launching new projects that aim to eventually control our entire lives. People go for it because it is convenient, but also because humans are now feeling an allegiance to websites. Photos, marketplace, chat, email, events, all in one place — think about it. It’s neo-brand loyalty, but it’s not what sort of sneakers you’re going to buy, it’s how you’re going to communicate with the rest of the world. This is more than pictures of cats. Even if you don’t care, just be ready.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 14, 2010