Now before you make some pithy remark about me being a troll, or baiting a flame war, or anything else, please, read my post. I am completely, unironically serious, and I'd just like to strike up a serious conversation.
I've seen an attitude trotted out many times that 4chan is a nexus of absolute evil, the very worst and sickest place the Internet has to offer. That isn't true anymore, and I have been there since 2008. I would know.
4chan isn't gross or depraved, it's harsh and cynical, and mostly Anonymous. Yes, there are porn boards, but mods enforce an SFW vs NSFW board division harshly, and you won't see any of it if you stick to the safe places. What you will find in the SFW boards are passionate, skeptical, wildly hilarious communities who create some of the funniest images in the world. With this original, remix-oriented content, we sustain 9GAG on our very own while our Dear and Beloved Administrator loses money on his site.
The reason it earned its atrocious reputation, which, for a while, was truly fair and earned, was the Random board, /b/. The thing is, every blowhard and dumbass with a computer heard about /b/, and for years it has been flooded with mainstream, bandwagoning idiots, who do nothing but ramble about pot and tits. It may once have been vile and depraved, but now it's just vile and idiotic. In other words, its very fame and reputation consumed its soul, and it currently exists on the same cultural level as YouTube comments. Distasteful, but no one really *cares*.
So the reason 4chan was always reviled has eaten itself alive. But there exists a second 4chan, or rather, thousands of them. There are about sixty other boards, each with their own culture and dozens of subcultures of repeating threads, and not a single one of these is ever host to child porn, gore, murder, or whatever other silly exaggerations people have dreamt up. And if illegal material *is* posted, the offenders' IP addresses are reported to the Feds and they're summarily banned. We don't tolerate this.
I've forged lasting friendships from the My Little Pony board, the Music board, the TWO Video Game boards, the Literature board, and the Paranormal board. The outdated, second-hand attacks that keep getting parroted by the internet-at-large are disheartening, because I know for myself just how deeply the bonds a thread can run, such as in The Elder Scrolls General, or My Little Pony Fanfiction General, or any number of thousands of similar communities, that contribute to a true sense of friendship and cameraderie.
This is the same with Reddit, this is the same with NeoGAF, this is the same with Something Awful, our cantankerous and silly old uncle. We are harsher than these sites because we react violently to ego - you have no identity, so your contributions stand on their own merits, not your post count, your Join Date, your Karma, or anything but *you*. That's not to say 4chan's policy of absolute self-effacement is the best or only good answer. Those other websites I mentioned are certainly more polite than 4chan, which is valuable and necessary.
Just watch one of the many public lectures by our founder moot at TED, Web 2.0, and other conferences. Clean-shaven, articulate, intelligent, and one of the most respected advocates for online privacy in the modern Internet.