Google hires founder of controversial 4chan

Analysts say this could be yet another stab at making Google+ interesting

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Credit: Derek Walter

In an apparent attempt to jumpstart its lagging social networking efforts, Google has hired the founder of the often controversial 4chan image-sharing hub.

Christopher Poole, the founder of 4chan, announced in a post on Monday that he has joined Google, though he does not specify what he will be doing for the company.

"When meeting with current and former Googlers, I continually find myself drawn to their intelligence, passion, and enthusiasm...," Poole wrote. "I'm also impressed by Google's commitment to enabling these same talented people to tackle some of the world's most interesting and important problems. I can't wait to contribute my own experience from a dozen years of building online communities..."

Bradley Horowitz, vice president of streams, photos and sharing at Google, confirmed the hire on his Google+ page.

When asked what Poole's title and role at Google will be, a company spokesperson would only confirm the hire.

Poole, known in the online world as moot, helped to make 4chan a well-known image-based bulletin board on which users generally post anonymously.

The site, which originally focused on fans of Japanese anime, gained a lot of notoriety for being an uncensored, brazen and risqué spot on the Internet after it was blamed for leaking stolen naked photos of female celebrities and originating memes considered racist and homophobic.

Poole, who is in his late 20s, left the site early in 2015 after the brouhaha that erupted over the repeated sharing of the hacked nude photos of actress Jennifer Lawrence.

The online entrepreneur, who also founded a failed site called Canvas, has spoken at large about the need to be anonymous online. He even gave a TED talk on the power and price of anonymity.

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said he believes Poole was brought on to assist Google with its lagging social media initiatives .

Google+ has not taken the online world by storm -- to put it really mildly.

"The hiring of Poole definitely means that Google is making yet another effort to break the code and build a social network presence that challenges Facebook's dominance," Olds told Computerworld. "Over a dozen years, Poole has built 4chan from nothing into a site that claims to have 22 million unique visitors a month. These are the kind of numbers that gets Google's attention."

Rather than believing that Poole is tempering his controversial work, Olds said he could be bringing more of that attention-grabbing influence to Google and potentially Google+.

"One of the big attractions of 4chan is the, ahem, controversial content," he added. "That site was pivotal in publicizing the pictures gleaned from more than 100 female celebrities. It's a plain fact that this type of content attracts attention and users, but is it something that Google is willing to traffic in?"

Jeff Kagan, an independent analyst, said if Poole is heading to Google+ it could at least stir up some much-needed interest, from both the public and the media, in the site.

"Google has only seen limited success with Google+," he added. "We must remember that as large and strong as Google is, success is possible, but not a certainty, with social. Google obviously thinks Poole can help them with new thinking."

This new hire, according to Kagan, is another stab at making Google+ successful.

"Let's see if this move makes any difference," he said.

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