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iichan (iichan.net), also known as WAKAchan for reasons I'll elaborate on later below, and idlechan, was a confederation of imageboards and textboards created as the result of both community experimentation and the need to satisfy a diaspora stemming from a very turbulent early 4chan. Starting as a single board for 4chan refugees, it shortly after began to not only host its own boards, but also linked to other, unlisted boards set up by other people. It enjoyed a moderate level of popularity (with sites like 4-ch under its wing), even after 4chan's constant periods of downtime became a thing of the past, and became in its way central to Western Textboard/Imageboard culture. Having a descentralized set of boards of various interests, hosted in different places, was a nice little involuntary experiment which felt almost cozy at the time - then again, iichan itself was always a cozy, slow website1).
iichan was established in or shortly before July 24, 2004 by Thock, apparently as a single board (/b/, of course) and then it very quickly caught on spanning an initial 24 boards2). Nobody is really sure who Thock was (at the time, some used to say it was moot in disguise), but the site was also run by dmpk2k!hinhT6kz2E and !WAHa.06×36, both working for the site's web development (WAHa would code the board software, Wakaba and Kareha, that was then used on iichan and pretty much everywhere else) and at least the former doing some moderation work. I'm unsure if it was meant to be a 4chan substitute and/or an attempt to join in the chaotic fun of anonymous imageboards - there was certainly a fair share of competition, too: for example, 5chan was at this time in full swing.
This iteration of iichan was actually very shortlived. Of note was the creation of a board called /mp3/, then /audio/ which allowed uploads of mp3 files. This did not sit very well with the limited bandwidth and hardware availability of the time and very quickly strained the site to the point a DC hub was created, and a manga fan translation group, called iitran, which actually released work of (very, if I recall) niche content3).
iichan goes through a kind of overhaul (I think it went from Futallaby to Wakaba at this time?), the server shits itself and the site dies for a few days, the site is reborn around September iichan 2.0, and promptly died somewhere around October 20044). Reasons may or may not include Thock's personal life5), his locking out of his Paypal account6), an inability to financially keep up with traffic, or an outright DDoS by an unknown party. It is at this point where iichan becomes hosted by a larger sister site, WAKAchan.
WAKAchan (wakachan.net, then .org) was set up by Lain!.b4fqjPDPo!!pWA1Dxfs in or before the day of iichan's death, with the earliest post I could find7) dated October 23, 20048). It began to host iichan's boards, and most of iichan's userbase, alongside its moderation team and assorted tripfags, flocked naturally to WAKAchan as a diaspora-within-a-disapora.
Shortly after9), it opened up applications for users to offer their own, smaller boards to be linked in WAKAchan's front page. In this way, WAKAchan began with the novel idea of decentralizing boards and as such delegating its management to the users - this meant not only thoughtful moderation and administration by a caring user and allowing the possibility of having a particular niche interest or discussion topic represented as a board (even though it usually meant these boards were terribly slow, even in their prime), but it also served as a solid solution to the bandwidth problem that plagued imageboards in this early age: the main site didn't have to shoulder the entire traffic load, as bandwidth would be adequately handled by each server's owner. The idea, though too simple and redundant for the contemporary age, attempted (and pretty much succeeded) to foster the involvement of the *chan communities that were beginning to take shape. One may even argue that this board distribution paradigm has some parallelisms with the user-made boards from 8chan.
This idea proved so welcoming that, even when iichan was eventually back up, WAKAchan's raison d'être had grown so much in so little time that both Thock and Lain opted for a merger - iichan hosted the boards back but now both were also board aggregators. iichan also offered applications for boards to join in the list (though it had reportedly stricter requirements), and as such the list of boards of both sites differed for a while.BlackMage and anon (aka humblefool) took over most of iichan's management over the years - Thock disappeared shortly after giving the keys to Lain, and Lain too vanished from the web at large around 2006-2007; from then, it was all mostly Blackmage and by this point the merge between iichan and Wakachan became effective. Early on, most of the boards were offered by anon and Mohey Pori, before more people (Shii, SovietRussia, etc) followed.
The days of both iichan's and WAKAchan's creation were ones where the idea of a “4chan replacement”, either for fun, fame, or to set up a contingency for 4chan's rickety uptime, circled around very commonly in the userbase diaspora. Certainly part of iichan's popularity came as an attempt to set up as said 4chan replacement, and the idea of federating boards was the result of a discussion of both users and admins (this discussion mostly took place in IRC, which was the biggest communication hub for the sites at the time) as a way to perpetuate their validity as an alternative or replacement to 4chan.
Around this time sites like 5chan and WTFux were in full swing, and there was even talk of a iichan-WTFux merger once the latter was under threat of shutting down. See, there was (and still is) a sense of enmity between chan sites - but in the end it was a userbase-fueled thing, with cases of open hostility being surprisingly far fewer than one would expect (Though they were still very real. DDoS attacks were commonplace during this time, and it proved to be a tremendous weapon until the rise of DDoS protection services). There used to be a lot of talk of iichan, being a 4chan replacement, celebrating very wholeheartedly one of the many impending deaths (and actual deaths) of 4chan. But in reality, very few admins went out of their way to enjoy seeing a rival administrator suffer financial woes over their pet project - it was a kind of malady that (almost) nobody sincerely wished upon anybody. That's why iichan's management became concerned about the future of 4chan, WTFux and, by extension, to the blooming chan culture as a whole10).
Site activity and functionality post-2005
Most of iichan's original boards slowly faded out, becoming irrelevant and overly specific now that 4chan had a more stable footing and an exponentially increasing Internet presence, and any old traces of centralization were no longer. Out of what I can only imagine it to be for purely historical reasons, both iichan and WAKAchan were still proudly displaying an identical list of boards, and they also hosted some boards of their own - the only thing which was different were essentially each site's homepage: iichan had a more “visible” administrative face, as their boards had relatively more popularity than WAKAchan's, whereas WAKAchan itself was more subdued, and only had an “image of the day” after it stopped pointing to iichan's news page by 2006.
At some point 4-ch joins the network, which was probably by that point the most visited section of the entire iichan confederation.
I'm not entirely sure if, after both iichan and WAKAchan became “disjointed”, in a sense, they also stopped taking requests to join the confederation or not.
Both iichan and WAKAchan died as they lived: in a very, very mellow fashion. The userbase had slowly drifted apart, 4chan (and, to a lesser degree, 7chan and even 420chan) had established itself king and everybody simply moved on to greener pastures and deal with the vicissitudes of real life.
First, the associated servers began to go down. I wouldn't find it weird if the owners never actively pulled the plug themselves11), but just simply them drift off and die through neglect. At some point, there was nobody in iichan nor WAKAchan to keep up with updating the list, and the dead links would stay there permanently12)…
The most famous one out of the two, iichan, went out first. Without previous notice, with very few people noticing, and with people barely posting in any of the network's boards, if at all, iichan dies in 2012. Very likely, they simply stopped paying the bills. WAKAchan would survive for a bit more, all the way to 2015, before meeting the same fate. The latest update to the boards list was a (currently still active) Kantai Collection board somewhere around July 2014.
Only domain squatters now remain. An attempt to revive the network, by someone named Archie Pittman, called idlechan.net spawned in late 2015/early 2016, which sported much fewer boards (and was mostly more like a personal curation of boards the owner liked, instead of a confederation one applied to join) and lasted around a year before calling it quits13). Ironically enough, one of the reasons Archie Pittman stopped hosting it was because Shanachan had comparatively more popularity than idlechan itself. Shanachan, too, would perish soon after.
Historical list of boards
(Various archive.org links or transcriptions would go here. Meanwhile you can go nuts by going to archive.org and perusing whatever they have left on iichan.net and wakachan.org.)
Current living boards
As always, you can count on Rumia for this. List may not be comprehensive nor up to date.
iichan's Associated Projects
- Doogtopia radio
- iichan's DC hub (shortlived anyway)
- The OVERCHAN, kind-of-but-not-really
There used to be a #iichan channel early on in ZIRC, but moved to SynIRC by around 2007-2008. It's still there, a testament to eternal idling. However, #wakachan, also in SynIRC, is no more.
iichan or Wakachan?
When it came to refer to the entire board federation14), iichan became the most visited site and was popularly referred as such. But, knowing that iichan was not the original author of this idea, calling it WAKAchan would be more historically honest.
Frankly, I propose neither. By the time of both its prime and its death, iichan had long stopped being a central collection of boards and WAKAchan stopped purely existing as an ad-hoc shelter - they have both amalgamated into a single entity, serving a single purpose, even though technically being two separate servers. The most important thing that came out of this little story of two sites in the turbulent times of early imageboards was the network of boards, users, people, and friends that developed out of it. In the end, the best way to call this as a whole would be under the umbrella of the Idlechan Network.