Stripe Denies 8chan Beta’s Payment Processing Services

Pinning down chan culture is like trying to pin down the definition of 'hipster'; it just keeps moving

(Photo: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Hacktivist group, Anonymous, is believed to have risen out of chan culture. (Photo: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The imageboard community needs new software, in the opinion of Joshua Moon. Mr. Moon is an experienced developer who wants to rebuild the software that runs sites like 2chan, 8chan and other so-called “chans,” starting from scratch. The project is called Infinity Next, and while he has been at work for several months, he has not yet made his first stable release. The open-source project is usable by anyone, at no charge.

“Infinity Next is a complete rewrite of our current imageboard software, and aims to replicate the fundamental aspects of Infinity (8chan’s current code, a fork of Vichan, which is a fork of Tinyboard, which is a mimic of Yotsuba) but with a clean slate,” Mr. Moon wrote in an email to the Observer. “All imageboard projects are marred with having been originally written by teenagers looking to start their own 4chan knock-off site.”

Imageboards are also marred by a reputation for posting objectionable material of every possible kind. Yet, that free and open spirit has also made them the birthplace of many of the Internet’s favorite memes. Chan users are constantly playing with image software, modifying photos for “lulz” and the best content has a way of exploding across the Internet. Chans have also been used to organize hacking groups and online mobs. Pinning down chan culture is like trying to pin down the definition of ‘hipster;’ it just keeps moving.

Joshua Moon (second over from left) with Frederick Brennan (8chan founder and administrator), and friends. (Photo: Courtesy of Mr. Moon)

Joshua Moon (second over from left) with Fredrick Brennan (aka, ‘copypaste,’ 8chan founder and administrator), and friends. (Photo: Courtesy of Mr. Moon)

Mr. Moon’s business is a crowdfunded, open-source software project. He’s using the funds to pay his expenses and that of the project while he develops this free software. Stripe, an online and mobile payments startup, appears to think it something else, because in July 2015, Stripe terminated payment processing services for the Infinity Next project. Mr. Moon appealed the decision and was again denied.

In the initial message terminating payment processing for InfinityNext, Stripe’s customer service team wrote, in a July 28 email, forwarded to the Observer, “While we hate to give you anything less than a great experience, it does seem that your business is in violation of our Terms of Service, section B.5 (‘Prohibited Businesses‘).”

Mr. Moon appealed, arguing that he’s simply building software that anyone can use for free. In a July 29 email replying to Mr. Moon’s appeal, Stripe customer service wrote, “I hope you’ll understand that I’m unable to reveal the details of our underwriting process. When we reviewed your account we determined that your business posed an elevated risk and, as a result, I’m afraid we won’t be able to work together any longer.” The Observer previously reported on Stripe in a feature about Bitcoin’s future.

‘My goal with Next is to have anyone be able to easily set up a copy for whatever purpose with limited hardware.’

The incident raises a philosophical question for the Internet: Is the software that powers websites responsible for how people use that software? There’s no question that imageboards are a font of porn and other objectionable material, but does that mean the person who builds the software for them is responsible for that use? Wikipedia is built on Wiki software. There’s nothing stopping someone from using that same software to build a site full of, for example, how-to guides for illegal activity. Would that mean that developers of Wiki software would run afoul of a payments site’s terms?

Mr. Moon’s goals for the new version of the software include the following:

  • Easy, seamless, instant posting
  • Support for multiple media types
  • Privacy and anonymity of users
  • Clean code, so that future devs can easily pick up where he leaves off

Infinity Next is documenting all of its progress on Github.

On August 5, Braintree confirmed Infinity Next as payment processing customer. The company had a few minor requests for the Infinity Next site (contact info, privacy policy, etc) before greenlighting it. Once done, they’ve worked smoothly together since. Mr. Moon’s payments page isn’t operational right now, but he hopes to have it working again in the next few days.

Mr. Moon is also accepting contributions via Bitcoin.

SEE ALSO: When Google kicked 8chan out of search results for a long weekend.

“It’s been about a month since I last collected donations and the development site is unstable as I’ve been heavily redoing how caches are put together,” Mr. Moon, who is building the project with Laravel, wrote. “Laravel offered appealing features like database agnosticism, which would allow people to use Postgres/MySQL/Sqlite as their database to taste. My goal with Next is to have anyone be able to easily set up a copy for whatever purpose with limited hardware, which is why PHP+Laravel is perfect.”

Infinity Next is a separate project from 8chan, but Fredrick Brennan and Joshua Moon have known each other a long time. Mr. Brennan intends to switch 8chan’s code base to Infinity Next when it is ready, according to Mr. Moon (8chan did not reply to a request for comment), but anyone else could use it to start their own imageboard as well. 8chan is also contributing to the project by giving it server space to run its beta (NSFW content likely); Mr. Brennan has also contributed code. Mr. Moon actively seeks feedback from the 8chan community.

8chan is currently owned by N.T. Technology, which has had no involvement in Infinity Next, according to Mr. Moon.

Stripe initially declined to comment on an individual account. The Observer sent a second request for comment and will update if we hear back.

Mr. Moon wrote, “In the end, we all just want a website where we can say whatever we want, share pictures and remain anonymous.”

Thoughts on this story? Email bdale@observer.com or on Twitter at @BradyDale