The Origin of Object Classes
rating: +54+x

Just about every SCP contains the line "Object Class: _" between the SCP's number and containment procedures. As a writing community, we have long taken this little piece of data for granted and have seldom questioned where object classes came from or why every article contains them. This historical essay will examine their origins and how they became an established part of the SCP article structure.

I have three quick notes to make before the essay begins. First, most of this history takes place before the current Wikidot website was founded. If you are unfamiliar with this part of the SCP Foundation's history, I would strongly recommend reading Roget's History of the Universe Part One. Second, I link to several archived 4chan posts throughout this essay, which are saved as both HTML and XML posts. HTML posts look like actual 4chan posts but only XML posts contain post dates and numbers. If you want to see the other version of linked 4chan posts, change any url ending in .html to .xml (and vice versa). Third, the essay takes place from June 2007 to April 2008. I will spend a bit of time describing later developments in an addendum to this essay, but these developments are not the main focus of this essay and the examination will be cursory.


Seed: In the beginning, there were no object classes
SCP-173 was originally posted to the /x/ board of 4chan on June 22, 2007 at 1:40 AM by Moto42 (then going by the name S.S. Walrus). Moto42's original post contained many differences from the current language presently on the Wikidot website: there were numerous typos and instances of nonclinical language. Most noticeably, there was no object class of any type; SCP-173 skipped straight from "Item#" to "Special Containment Procedures."1 This would be the norm for the earliest SCPs posted to 4chan and the EditThis wiki.

Roots: The rise of the "Class # Hazardous Objects"
The SCP-173 text we are all familiar with today largely comes from an anonymous June 24th response to Moto42's original post (search for post 142247). The post fixed a number of typos and cleaned up the article's language. Most significantly, the post added the following language to SCP-173's containment procedures:

In the event of an attack, personal are to observe Class 4 hazardous object containment procedures

This addition may seem trivial, but the entire object class system can be traced back to this post.

Over the next few months, the text of SCP-173 was reposted multiple times. On September 5, an anonymous member of 4chan posted SCP-246, the second ever SCP, to /x/. 246 was a statute that attacks people who talk too loud; its literary structure is identical to SCP-173. However, 246 contains the following line:

In the event of an attack, personnel are to observe Class 3 hazardous object containment procedures.2

A follow-up SCP, posted in the same thread contains the line:

If personnel are to be in contact with object 188, biohazard precautions should be followed and applied as if item is a class 9 hazardous object.3

From January 17 to 19, 2008, there was a sudden and massive surge in SCP postings (this surge led directly to the creation of the EditThis wiki). Many of these also contained reference to "class # hazardous objects."

These "hazardous object classes" were always buried deep within the description section; they did not yet have their own stand-alone section like in modern SCPs. Additionally, they had no definition. Rather, the SCPs were closely copying the structure of SCP-173 and used the hazardous # object because 173 had done so. All of this is significant, however, because it demonstrates the growing idea that SCPs could be grouped together by shared characteristics and given a label.

Growth: creative names emerge
Starting in January 2008, the naming conventions for object labels transitioned from the hazardous # object to more creative names often based on religion or physics. Many of these object classes are still in use today.

The earliest reference I can find to the safe class comes from a January 9, 2008 post (post 428962). The SCP stated in relevant part that:

Object is currently safe, provided no unprotected personnel enter the containment zone, so handling instructions are only provided for the possibility of a security breach, or if needing to move [the object].

This is basically the current definition of the safe class: an object that can be safely and reliably contained.

The keter-class also comes from this era; the earliest example I could find comes from a January 19, 2008 post about a "keter level object": a statue that emitted energy from an unknown wavelength (posts 446105, 446107-446109). The statue was incredibly dangerous and dramatically broke containment during the course of the SCP's description. The SCP's text also noted that keter-level objects were supposed to be handled by D-class.4

Not all of the proto-classes from January have survived into the present. For example, a January 19 post mentions Gamma and Epsilon class objects. The post received little fanfare and was deleted.

During this era, the proto-classes could be found in the description and containment procedures section; the SCPs still skipped from their item number to the containment procedures. However, by this point posters were putting more thought into their labels and definitions had started to emerge.

Leaves and Branches: the modern classification system emerges
This era started on January 20, 2008 (a day after the creation of the EditThis wiki) when an anonymous member of 4chan started this general SCP thread. The topic of the thread quickly transitioned to standardizing the SCP format. As the thread continued, a user named Lofwyr started posting a number of guides and classification pages to it and the EditThis wiki. On January 21, Lofwyr posted the first ever object class guide to the EditThis wiki. The contents of the original guide have unfortunately been lost; the earliest saved version contains changes made in April. However, keter and safe class objects were frequently mentioned in the ongoing thread, so it can be assumed that Lofwyr's list included these two object classes. Interestingly, there was no reference to Euclid SCPs in that thread or any earlier threads; the earliest reference to Euclid class SCPs comes from a February 4 thread (post 473447). Euclid appears to have been the last of the main classes created; it may have developed as a middle ground between safes and keters. As such, it wouldn't have been included on Lofwyr's original list.

Another major development occurred during the linked thread: on January 21, an anon posted a new SCP that started out as follows (post 449426):

Item #: SCP_447
Object Class: Trinity (scientific)
Threat Posed: Moderate
Usefulness: Moderate (theorized extreme, see ref. 451-33N)
Control Difficulty: Moderate-Intricate
Special Containment Procedures: …

This is the earliest instance I could find of the object class being listed between the item # and containment procedures. While none of the other descriptors really caught on, more and more SCPs placed the object class between the item # and containment procedures as time went on. The second SCP to use this format was posted in February. The use of this formatting on /x/ accelerated in March. Near the end of the month, Aiden (a member of the EditThis wiki) posted a message on the "discussion" page of the SCP series list to discuss cleaning up the SCP entries. The message, in relevant part, read:

I'm also seeing that a lot of reports are straying from the Item #/Object Class/SCP/Description format. Some are just missing an Object Class (and while I'm at it, some having the WRONG class, IMO) and others are just cluttered whitespace-wise. I'm going to go ahead and make the sections (#/Class/SCP/Desc) bold and add some white space where needed to make them easier to read.

The message received a single positive reply. Aiden appears to have carried out these suggested changes because by April virtually every SCP on the EditThis wiki followed the standard S/E/K model. There doesn't appear to have ever been any official discussion to create the S/E/K model in the first place on either /x/ or the EditThis wiki. Rather, the format seems to have hit a critical mass and everyone just fell in line. Aiden's role in the manner was ensuring that older SCPs and other stragglers complied with this new class system.

Thus was born our current system of object classes.

Addendum: Decay- the emergence of new systems
In April 2008, a discussion broke out on the EditThis wiki about adding additional classes. During the discussion, many members expressed the view that the S/E/K system was too confining and that there were several SCPs that did not fall into any of these classes.5 On the Wikidot website, there was further discussion in 2008 about altering or even recreating the object class system entirely.6 These early discussions ultimately resulted in no changes. Outside of the occasional esoteric in SCP-001 proposals, the same system cemented in April 2008 was continuously used.

A few cracks did however start to emerge in the mid to late 2010s. First, two new classification systems were proposed: the threat level and the Anomaly Classification System (ACS). The level threat system lists a color-coded threat level (located above the object class) showing how dangerous the SCP is. The system was invented on the English wiki, fully implemented on the French wiki and later spread back to the English wiki. The ACS system created a new graphic which contains information on the threat level (dangerousness) and disruption level (danger posed to normalcy) in addition to the standard object class.

The second crack concerns esoteric classes. Since the S/E/K system was established, there have always been additional classes. For most of the SCP Foundation's history, these were basically gimmicks rarely found outside the SCP-001 slot. This started to change after the SCP-2000 contest which saw the winning entry use the non-standard (but soon to be canonized) Thaumiel class. Additional esoteric classes started to emerge following this contest; at first slowly but with growing speed. By the late 2010s, their number skyrocketed. Today, there are numerous esoteric classes used across multiple articles with a consistent definition.7

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License