4chan founder Christopher Poole (a.k.a. moot) made waves this past year when he unveiled his newest project— Canvas. Canvas is a place for people to post media (i.e. images, video) and start a discussion around this content. The platform launched in private beta in January and has been invite-only for the past nine months but today, Moot is finally opening up Canvas to the public.
The premise of Canvas is similar to 4chan in some ways, except that content is archived, and people create accounts, create images and vote on content. Users can still stay anonymous, with communities and interactions built around sharing and photoshopping images and other media.
Users can drag and drop visual icons and stickers, including smiley faces, LOLs, WTFs, and more to the content. This helps gather metadata about each image, which then helps push it up or down on the popular list. One of the more unique features that Canvas offers, according to Poole, is the ability to remix images. The image editor on the site lets users do simple photo and image editing in the browser, which is awesome for meme propagation.
Canvas has also recently added basic oEmbed support for a few sites to include videos, and will continue to add support for other sites over time.
Poole says one of the biggest changes to take place on Canvas over the past few months has been the ability to create groups on the site, similar in the way Reddit does groups. Users can now also follow groups as well. Basically, Poole says that this functionality allows Canvas to show users streams of content that could be interesting to them as well as content that is popular on the site generally. As he puts it, it offers users the ‘best of both worlds,’ in terms of discovery.
Another new feature in the public version is a sticker shop. As we wrote above, users place stickers on photos as an engagement and voting mechanism. Users can now earn specific and limited quantity stickers based on how often they visit the site, post stickers and more. Users can trade stickers and more, creating a game-like element to the site, says Poole.
Additionally, Canvas has added a bookmarklet that works on all browsers, and allows you to upload and sticker photos from anywhere on the web.
Engagement on the site even among the small group of users in the private beta (Poole says the site is approaching the six figure mark for users) is impressive. More than half of Canvas’ user base has ‘stickered’ and image and a quarter of the user base has been posting images. Poole says around 20 percent of the site’s users have been remixing images.
Poole says the challenge will be now be to extend the community to broader mainstream audience with the public launch. But Moot has some experience with growing a community from scratch—4Chan has millions of monthly users.
The long term vision for Canvas, he explains, is to create a platform of communities, where people can share, add, lurk and more around media content. While the inspiration for Canvas spawned from re-imagining the message board, the site is becoming more than just an online message board.
It should be interesting to see if Canvas can bring in the sort of engagement and traffic that 4Chan has seen over the past few years. Poole explains that he built Canvas into a separate venture-backed company as opposed to porting over the existing 4chan users onto the new platform because he believes the Canvas can be its own sustainable community. He says that while the Canvas and 4chan communities will eventually overlap, he doesn’t want to force the communities to interact.
Canvas has an impressive group of backers, including Union Square Ventures (who led a recent $3 million round), SV Angel, Lerer Ventures (who led Canvas’ seed round), Andreessen Horowitz, Founder Collective, and Joshua Schachter.