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FFFFOUND! ( is an image hosting service designed for the sharing and bookmarking of found images. It allows registered users to post digital artwork that they find on the Internet, creating a database of images open for public viewing. logs the ways in which viewers interact with the site, tracking which images are most commonly linked to each other. In this way, the site can recommend "other images you may like," based on the clicking habits of other site visitors. FFFFOUND! was created on May 18th, 2007, and was allegedly designed by Yugo Nakamura, who is considered one of Japan's leading web designers.[1] [2]

According to the "about" section on,

FFFFOUND! is a web service that not only allows the users to post and share their favorite images found on the web, but also dynamically recommends each user's tastes and interests for an inspirational image-bookmarking experience!![3]


FFFFOUND! is a user-created content site. Images are uploaded by registered users who maintain a username on the site. The site is in private beta, which means that in order to register, a user must receive an invitation from an already-registered user. This invitation-only basis for generating content helps maintain the quality of the site's content, ensuring that users will not only be accountable for what they upload, but also for whom they invite to participate.

In order to facilitate the appropriation process of found images to, the site employs a bookmarklet for importing images. This allows users to easily add images as they come upon them while browsing the Internet. Activating the bookmarklet creates a blue border around all images displayed in the browser, so that clicking them will immediately import them into the logged-in user's FFFFOUND! account–a completely non-obtrusive way to create posts without having to toggle between browsers. The bookmarklet also keeps track of the images' source URLs, which allows the original context/location of the images to be referenced.[4]


The site's design is extremely simple. On the homepage, large images (usually around 500 pixels square) are displayed on a white background in one long column. They are labeled with the name of the source they were quoted from, as well as the url link to this domain. Each images is accompanied by the number of users who have saved it, as well as the number of minutes that have passed since it was uploaded (the site flows chronologically, with the most recent of posts at the top of the page). To the right of each image appear three different thumbnail images, each of which have been linked to by people who have first linked to the main image.

User-generated image-flow[edit]

Once an image is clicked on, the website is programmed to log the user's progression through the [database], click by click. This enables the site to catalog each image by how it is viewed, rather than what it is, who uploaded it, or who made it. In this way, the site's flow is 100% user-determined: there are no tags, comments, categories, or text profiles – just the images themselves.

One user's description of his interaction with the site:

Recommendations branch from each image, via a collection of related thumbnails. Browsing the site is a many-tabbed experience, and I routinely follow a thread of interesting pictures every time I visit. There's a healthy population of users here with excellent taste, most of them Japanese. Images range from Processing screen grabs, to fashion photography, to architecture, to excerpts from graphic design portfolio websites. There's a heavy emphasis on inspiration among the pictures I've browsed. There are also personal recommendations behind the "New For You!" link in the navigation. Both seem to work just like your basic Amazon "people who liked this also liked..." feature. ---Michal Migurski, from[5]

Terms of Service[edit]

The spirit of the FFFFOUND! site is one of sharing. It is hoped that users will be careful not to violate copyright laws when making posts. However, due to the nature of the site (i.e. the fact that its content is generated through the appropriation of images), cases of copyright infringement are inevitable. To deal with this issue, maintains its right to hold users responsible for what they upload. In the "Terms of Service" section of their page, FFFFOUND! makes it extremely obvious that they will not be liable for the actions of its users:


Legality: Copyright Infringement vs. Sharing is Caring Ideologies[edit]

In the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, certain limitations are made for "transitory communication," which is the type of site that classifies itself as. These limitations are explained below:

In general terms, section 512(a) limits the liability of service providers in circumstances where the provider merely acts as a data conduit, transmitting digital information from one point on a network to another at someone else’s request. This limitation covers acts of transmission, routing, or providing connections for the information, as well as the intermediate and transient copies that are made automatically in the operation of a network.[7]

As the above summary of section 512(a) makes clear, service providers should not be held accountable for the data that flows through their networks, if this content is generated by outside users and not by the provider. This limitation allows the website to hold all users directly accountable for what they post, meaning that cases of copyright violation must be handled between the poster and the complainant.

As cited in their terms of service, is not liable for dealing with cases of copyright infringement. Each image on the site corresponds to a "flag this image" link, which when clicked notifies the site maintainers of a potential copyright violation. In this way, FFFFOUND! makes it very easy for complainants to quickly have their work taken down. Due to the simplicity of this process, cases of copyright infringement are not generally considered to be a huge problem for the site, and they can host the intellectual property of others without worrying. Furthermore, since the site is so incredibly vast, it is not likely that an artist would stumble across his work–unless he was an avid user. And, if this was the case, he would probably be familiar enough with the site to know that it was not out with the purpose of exploiting artists, but rather with the not-for-profit purpose of sharing art on a peer to peer level.

US Copyright Law grants artists exclusive rights to their original works for a certain period of time, afterwhich these works enter the public domain. To many artists, maintaining these exclusive rights is extremely important. These artists wish to maintain a high degree of ownership and control over their works, and do not wish for others to have the ability to copy, publish, or distribute their works. FFFFOUND! is not a site where these types of artists want their work to be posted, as the nature of the website is not to promote individual artists. However, many artists do hope to have their work posted to, because they rely on the site as a source for inspiration, and they like to give back to the community from which their ideas were generated. This is primarily why FFFFOUND! can function as an archive of popular images: artists have used the archive to their own benefit, and they therefore have no problem contributing back to the general collective. This allows for a back-and-forth exchange of ideas through the site, which is ultimately beneficial to most users.

FFFFOUND!: The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Appropriation[edit]

The majority of images hosted on originate on other photo hosting databases, such as Flickr and DeviantArt. However, unlike these sites (on which users are supposed to post self-generated work), it is often not the original poster of an image who will re-post it to In this way, FFFFOUND! is largely a site devoted to [appropriation art|appropriated art], where the re-poster becomes the appropriation artist by "ffffinding" something good amongst the slew of images on the Internet, and then submitting it to the site.

As the internet continues to change the way artists make, display and disseminate works, it is important to note how these changes manifest themselves culturally. When the printing press was invented back in 1439 by Johann Gutenberg, it took a long time for the creative sector to recognize its many possible applications. However, artists and consumers alike eventually came to use the printing press and other emerging technologies for reproducing and distributing works. In 1935, German critic Walter Benjamin published an essay considering the cultural implications of reproduced art, titled The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. In the introduction to this essay, Benjamin quotes Paul Valéry:

Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign.[8]

The Internet has allowed Valéry's vision to become a reality, and it has completely changed the way in which viewers interact with art. Websites like allow images to flow in and out of viewers' minds like water. It is no longer a requirement for a work of art to physically exist in the tangible world, or to have an artist who claims it as his or her own. On FFFFOUND!, there are hundreds upon hundreds of images that have little to no historical context associated with them–they exist on the site, and perhaps in a few other places, but other than that they have no meaning other than what they inherently represent. For example: On, a picture of a woman wearing a red hat is primarily viewed as a picture of a woman wearing a red hat. The image exists on the site because it is an interesting picture, not because it was taken by a famous photographer, or because the woman is a celebrity, or because her hat was designed by a an elite fashion designer. In this way, images on FFFFOUND! must stand for themselves, as signs that can only hold meaning in conjunction to their visual properties, and the ways in which they relate to the other images on the site–anything else is superfluous.

The above phenomenon represents the final stage in Benjamin's "loss of the aura," as is described in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Benjamin's initial concern with the reproduction of art was that the nature of the reproduction was not akin to the nature of the original work. In this way, the reproduction would lose the historical context and cultural value that it would have otherwise accrued in its original form. He writes:

“One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition… And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced.”[9] does not display original versions of artwork. Rather, it displays digitized versions, which have oftentimes been transcoded from their original medium. Since the images on are made visible through a computerized translation of a numeric code, they are completely reproducible. Furthermore, since there are no safeguards in place on FFFFOUND! to keep users from copying/saving images from the site onto their own hard drives, any image can be taken from the site and reproduced innumerable times. As Lev Manovich would substantiate, the ability to reproduce digital media through a means of direct copying (i.e. through numerically represented codes) is what makes it so fundamentally transforming.

Inherently, the nature of the site is one wherein all images are reproductions, simply because they have been taken out of their original contexts and reproduced by the site's bookmarklet–oftentimes transcoded from their original medium. Of course, this re-appropriation is facilitated by the ease in which computers can copy the numerical data used to digitally code images. This ease of reproduction/appropriation as facilitated by digital technology concerns many artists who do not wish for the general public to have full access to their works. Furthermore, since there are no safeguards in place on FFFFOUND! to keep users from copying/saving images from the site onto their own hard drives, any image can be taken from the site and reproduced innumerable times, for innumerable purposes. Obviously, this inability to keep control over intellectual property is not desired by most artists.

While the inherent loss to rights of intellectual property does deter many artists from allowing their work to appear on the site, there are many who do not see it as detrimental to their work. Instead, they believe that websites like are essential for both generating inspiration. In this way, they do not believe it is essential to reserve specific rights to their work; rather, they want to give back to the collective pool from which their ideas were birthed. In this way, FFFFOUND! is just as beneficial to the individual viewer as it is to the entire collectivity of Internet-using art-appreciators. There is no boundary between art generator and art receiver, allowing for a much greater sharing of ideas, all across the globe. is essentially just a collection of artistic artifacts, chosen individually for their valued qualities, which together come to represent the state of human culture–a culture which can be shared by anyone who ventures onto the site.

FFFFOUND! as a "Global Village"[edit]

FFFFOUND! has come to serve many designers, artists and art-lovers as an easy way to see interesting images for free, all at the same time, and in one place. The way the images are organized allows for the user to peruse through image after image, while never reaching a dead-end. The site is designed in a way that gives priority to the images themselves, rather than to the original artist or the poster. If a visitor to wishes to know the origins of a posted image, he or she must follow the link back to where the image was initially found. However, due to the changing nature of websites, it is often difficult to track these images all the way back to their roots. In this way, the images on stand for themselves, re-contextualized by the collective nature of the site, which ultimately produces a global village of cultural artifacts.

In Marshall McLuhan's book, The Global Village (1989), he considers the need for combining man's artifacts in order to make cultural progress:

"Man cannot trust himself with his own artifacts. The tetrad is needed to reveal any artifact’s subliminal effects. Every artifact is a new archetype, and the ongoing cultural recombination of old and new artifacts is the engine of all invention and drives the subsequent wide use of invention, which is called innovation.”[10]

Through the analysis of McLuhan, FFFFOUND! should be considered the "tetrad," in which the artifacts of many different human beings are combined through internet technologies in order to constitute an engine of invention. If McLuhan's image of progress is valid, then websites likes become important tools for creative innovation. In his book, McLuhan asks four specific questions which can help elucidate the nature of[11]

* What does the medium enhance?
The medium enhances the user's ability to see many varying works, all in one place, for free. It also allows the user to benefit from the previous tendencies of other users, which therefore helps him or her to most efficiently navigate the site.
* What does the medium make obsolete? makes the ownership of the individual artist obsolete. If the originator of a work has a problem with it being viewed as a piece to the collective puzzle, he or she will flag the image and have it taken down. Therefore, each image on FFFFOUND! is allowed to exist as a smaller part to the group, taking on meaning through the context of the site as a whole.
* What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier? retrieves a notion of cultural centrality, where the "most interesting" of images (i.e. the images that are clicked on the most) float to the top of users' saved images. In this way, the collective group of all users have a say in which images are most frequently shared, creating a sort of democratic pick of which images are the most valued.
* What does the medium flip into when pushed to extremes?
When pushed to extremes, becomes a way that technology is able to manifest as a collective brain, where artists, designers and photographers alike may feed off of each other.

FFFFOUND! as a Collective Brain[edit]

"By means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time... The round globe is a vast... brain, instinct with intelligence!" –Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of Seven Gables, 1851.[12]

As Nathaniel Hawthorne predicted it would back in 1851, the globe has been condensed by a great sharing of information. As facilitated by the Internet, networked data has come to inform human intelligence as a type of centralized brain. On sites such as, users anywhere in the world can participate in this open cultural exchange, directly feeding off of each other's ideas, sharing results, and making progress. The digitization of information has allowed for global communities to form, where people from any number of different social backgrounds can come together. On, even the great language barrier is easily transcended, as the nature of the site is purely visual. Sites like FFFFOUND! have dramatically enhanced the artistic vocabulary of artists world-wide, and it is rather miraculous that a site based solely on the sharing of found images can exist, especially since it is not-for-profit. As this culture of sharing comes to a pinnacle, it is probable that issues of copyright will dwindle, resulting in a completely open-source artistic environment.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Whois Record for". [[1]]. Text " " ignored (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  2. ^ "FFFFOUND! "About"". Retrieved 2008-12-10.
  3. ^ "FFFFOUND! "About"". Retrieved 2008-12-10.
  4. ^ Migurski, Michael (2007-7-29). "ffffound!". [[2]]. Retrieved 2008-12-10. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Migurski, Michael (2007-7-29). "ffffound!". [[3]]. Retrieved 2008-12-10. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ "FFFFOUND! "Terms of Service"". Retrieved 2008-12-10.
  7. ^ U.S. Copyright Office Summary (1998). "THE DIGITAL MILLENNIUM COPYRIGHT ACT OF 1998".
  8. ^ Benjamin, Walter (1968). "Illuminations". New York: Schocken Books.
  9. ^ Benjamin, Walter (1968). "Illuminations". New York: Schocken Books.
  10. ^ McLuhan, Marshall (1989). "The Global Village". New York: Oxford University Press, Ltd.
  11. ^ McLuhan, Marshall (1989). "The Global Village". New York: Oxford University Press, Ltd.
  12. ^ Dietz, Steve (2002). "Ten Dreams of Technology". MIT Press. Unknown parameter |publication= ignored (help)