Big changes may be coming to Japan’s online world with the announcement that Hiroyuki Nishimura, founder of the infamous BBS 2ch (pronounced ni-channeru and abbreviated ni-chan), has sold the rights to the popular website to a company in Singapore. “I thought it might be interesting if I sold 2channel off, to see if there would be any difference if it was owned by a company, rather than myself,” Nishimura said in an interview. 2ch is a massively popular BBS and all-around source of vibrant Japanese Internet culture, birthing such legends as Densha Otoko (Train Man), the true story of an anime otaku who won the love of a beautiful woman by getting advice from readers of the site, and Kikkoman, the super hero who also dispenses soy sauce. The site is so influential that companies and politicians tread lightly to avoid catching the ire of 2-channellers, as its users are called. No one is sure what the infamous founder is up to in transferring ownership in the site to a third party, but there’s widespread conjecture that it’s a legal move designed to protect him from the many lawsuits he’s faced over content from the website’s anonymous users. The BBS has a less-than-sparkling reputation for reasons other the libel issue: crimes are often announced on the site by deranged users looking for attention. Police have learned to take posts on the site very seriously, as they did when a 2ch users made a death threat against Mongolian sumo wrestler Asashoryu, arresting the man immediately.
The influential Hiroyuki of 2ch is Japan’s version of Kevin Rose