Google has hired Chris Poole, the founder and former owner of the controversial Internet community 4chan. The hire was first announced by Poole himself, and later confirmed by Bradley Horowitz, who is heading Google’s social efforts.
“I can’t wait to contribute my own experience from a dozen years of building online communities, and to begin the next chapter of my career at such an incredible company,” Poole wrote in a blog post Monday.
Poole launched 4chan as an image sharing message board in 2003. For the first few years, he was only known under the pseudonym “moot,” until the Wall Street Journal revealed his identity in 2008. 4chan was initially meant to be a community for anime fans, but the site quickly evolved to encompass all kinds of geek culture, and became the birthplace for a number of popular memes.
The site has also been associated with the Internet activism of Anonymous, and was the launchpad for a number of hacks and distributed denial-of-service attacks. By allowing users to post anonymously without the need to first register for an account, 4chan has become to some a safe haven for free speech, while others have criticized the site’s users for bullying and mob behavior. It’s worth noting that 4chan repeatedly shut down message boards associated with racism and the so-called gamergate movement.
Google didn’t immediately respond to questions about Poole’s role at the company, but it’s likely that he will try to help the company with its struggling social strategy. Google launched Google+ as its answer to Facebook in late 2011, but has since scaled back ambitions to make Google+ a social layer for all of the company’s products and services. More recently, Google+ has focused on the creation of communities around topics of interest — something that Poole may be able to help with.