A pastebin is a web application which allows its users to upload snippets of text, usually samples of source code, for public viewing. It is very popular in IRC channels where pasting large amounts of text is considered bad etiquette. A vast number of pastebins exist on the Internet, suiting a number of different needs and provided features tailored towards the crowd they focus on most.
Pastebins, similar to the ones referenced from this article, have been around since at least 2002.Pastebin.com is one of the earliest public pastebins and has spawned a large number of direct descendants (such as Pastebin.im and Pastebin.ca), based on its open source PHP code. Pastebin.com was inspired from a basic PHP code sharing application called Paste.
Pastebot, a stand-alone Perl application incorporating both an IRC client and a web server, was created for EFNet #perl as late as March 2002. It is still in use. Pastebot's stock submission form template encourages "No paste!" and may have coined or helped popularize the term as a noun.
Over time, many of the public pastebins have become specialized and targeted at a single group of users. This benefits the users by letting them share code or text in a consistent and clean manner. In many cases, pastes made to pastebins are kept only for some time, usually a month.
Although there are literally thousands of pastebins available, most have a common set of features. They may appear different or target a different user base, but at the core, they take an upload or text paste and provide a sharable HTTP URL which contains the body of text.
A pastebin often has the capability to format and syntax highlighting the text for easier viewing. Throughout the years, the number of languages and formatting styles has grown quickly as the Pastebin user base has grown and their needs have fanned out. A well-known highlighting software package called GeSHi supports the most common pastebins.
Some of the newer pastebins provide features for comparing two or more pastes, synchronous notifications through IRC or XMPP, paste histories, encryption, password protection and virtual subdomains.
In some cases, pastebin sites have been abused as a venue in which to post personal information, such as passwords or identifiers. In one such incident, media coverage of abusive postings of approximately 20,000 Hotmail passwords as part of a phishing scheme led to the operator of the original pastebin.com temporarily closing the site with the following message: "Down for maintenance - 6th Oct 2009 - Pastebin.com is getting an unprecedented amount of traffic due to a news story in which some leaked Hotmail passwords have been pasted on this site. Pastebin.com was intended as a tool to aid software developers, not for distributing this sort of material. Filters have been put in place to prevent reoccurrence, but the current traffic level is unsustainable. Pastebin.com is just a fun side project for me, and today it's not fun. It will remain offline all day while I make some further modifications. Paul Dixon"
Spam is a large problem. For the same reasons that open up the pastebins to abuse, they are easy to spam. The spam robots or spammers involved in this sort of activity may not realize that most pastebins do not allow search engines to index their pages or even follow the links. This causes an extra burden on the services to provide filtering of pastes which would not accomplish the intended goal. To protect against spam, some pastebins have implemented CAPTCHAs.