Part II: After the Internet
Last week we looked at the history of fandom and some of the most well-known fandoms throughout history before the Internet came into play. This week, we’re examining the next stage of fan culture’s rich past: after the Internet. Or rather, during the Internet, since we’re still in this stage.
There’s no denying that the influence that digital technologies have had on the world is exponential and sometimes terrifying. Like the fact that there are now over 3.5 billion Internet users worldwide (Inc.com, 2018). Or the fact that 56% of all internet traffic is by automated sources, such as hacking tools, spammers, and bots (WebHostingRating, 2018). Well, the world of fandom is no different.
The way fans interact and express themselves and their love for their favourite things has been irreversibly changed by the emergence of digital technologies and in so many ways. From the days of mailing lists and 200-people conventions to forums, blogs, and Twitter, fandom has come a long way and there is no doubt the experiences of fans online will continue to change as technology grows.
To better explore the more recent history of fandom on the Internet, we’ve once again placed all the key information into a handy infographic. However, we will also go into more depth on each of the main points within the image underneath, should you want to learn a bit more.
So, without further ado, here is part two of our ‘History of Fandom’ series of infographics: The History of Fandom: After the Internet!
A Brief History of Fandom, After the Internet
The Beginning of the End
So, in the early 1990s, the Internet began to gain prevalence and widespread use across the world. However, back in the day, “fandoms had to create their own private spaces, which made them smaller and less accessible than fanzines” at the time (Busse, 2006).
Some of the more popular sites for fans during these early-adoption stages were UseNet (similar to a bulletin board system, sort of a precursor to some of the forum sites used today), and Geocities (created by Yahoo!, a web-hosting service where users could create their own sites).
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Fandom
As of June 1997, the first installment of the Harry Potter series was released, creating one of the world’s biggest and most vocal fandoms of all time. Potterheads, as they would become to be known, would create hundreds of their own websites online to share and discuss their love for the series. So many sites were created that J.K. Rowling even began a periodically-awarded “fan site award” in 2004.
Fan Sites, Take Two
In 1998, FanFiction.Net was launched. The first site to ever be made by the fans, for the fans, for fanfiction only, it was a revelation. The use of tags and ‘search’ to allow fans to separate their interests and find exactly what they wanted was like some sort of miracle.
Then, a year later in 1999, LiveJournal quickly followed suit. To quote Tumblr user ofhouseadama: “Fans created communities and their own private journals which was like woah, we have our own places to store our own fic? And can cross-post them places? However, with Livejournal came a new incarnation of the internet-based BNF: big-name fan. Since communities had moderators and posts could be friend or community locked, people could easily gain social capital.”
Oh My Blog
In the early 2000s, fandom “exploded into the blogsphere” (Busse, 2006). Blogs changed the way fans expressed themselves. Whereas before, bulletin boards and forums had fans all pitching in to talk about one subject at a time (e.g. a particular episode of Star Trek), blogs allow fans to amalgamate all their interests into one place, and they continue to do so today.
FanFiction 2: This Time, It’s Personal
In 2002, Fanfiction.Net banned all NC-17 fanfiction; that is, any fanfiction that featured “mature content” not suitable for a reader under the age of seventeen. Anyone who has been keeping an eye on the new Tumblr guidelines as of recent will start to get déjà vu right about now, but yes, Fanfiction.Net got there first, first in 2002, then in 2012 when they had another “purge” of mature content that had gathered around the edges.
As expected, many fans were not happy with this act of restriction, and in the interest of free-speech, adultfanfiction.net was created to fill the void.
Then came what some may say was the golden age of fan fiction. In 2007, the Organization of Transformative Works (OTW) was founded, a not-for-profit group run by fans, for the fans. OTW would then launch a brand-new fanfiction site of the name Archive of Our Own. Otherwise known as AO3, Archive of Our Own allowed any and all content, and with the functionality of FF.Net, but the restrictions of blogs (where anything goes), users flocked to it.
Similarly, in 2007, Tumblr was launched, a new kind of blogging site for those who loved to mix and match their fandoms and interests and have them all in one place. Despite it being launched at around the same time as AO3, fandoms didn’t gain large-scale usage of Tumblr until around 2010.
Getting Paid to Write Fanfiction? Yes Please!
In 2013, Amazon (yes, that Amazon) launched a service called Kindle Worlds. A number of fandoms were licensed to be used on the service (only 18 over the entirety of the service’s run), such as The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. Users could publish fics (obviously there were restrictions, no mature content or crossovers were permitted), and earn royalties on the views. There were many open issues with Kindle Worlds, from the quality of content to Amazon owning rights of the content published, many of which you can read more about here.
Earlier this year in August, Amazon closed Kindle Worlds for good. This one didn’t quite seem to stand the test of time.
#Tumblrpocalypse (Wait, Another One?)
On the 3rd December 2018, Tumblr announced that they were no longer allowing “Adult content” to be posted on the site, as of December 17th, all visual content that concerned nudity and “sex acts” would be removed, and no longer permitted to be posted.
This might not seem like an outwardly fandom-related issue, and in essence, it is not, but the fact is that many fandoms and users used this kind of explicit content to express themselves.
We won’t go into too much detail on this post about the whole ordeal; if you want to read the entirety of the new guidelines click here, and for a more in-depth look at how this will affect fandom, stay tuned for next week’s blog post!
So, there you have it, a brief (sort of) history of fandom, from before the Internet, to now. We hope you’ve enjoyed this little series and if you have anything to discuss or want to ask about, feel free to leave a comment or follow us on Twitter for more facts about fandom!
Busse, K., Hellekson, K., 2006. Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet: New Essays [online]. North Carolina: McFarland & Company.
Gasca, P., 2017. 10 Facts About the Internet That Will Blow Your Mind [online]. New York: Inc. Available from: https://www.inc.com/peter-gasca/10-facts-about-the-internet-that-will-blow-your-mind.html [Accessed 13 December 2018]
Ofhouseadama., 2014. A brief history of fandom, for those on here who somehow think tumblr invented fandom. Ofhouseadama.tumblr.com [online]. 21 May 2014. Available from: http://ofhouseadama.tumblr.com/post/86424015604 [Accessed 13 December 2018]
Pinchefsky, C., 2013. Fan Fiction is Finally Legitimized with Kindle Worlds. Forbes [online], 22 May 2013. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolpinchefsky/2013/05/22/fan-fiction-is-finally-legitimized-with-kindle-worlds/ [Accessed 13 December 2018]
The Digital Reader., 2018. Amazon to Shut Down Kindle Worlds. The Digital Reader [online]. 15 May 2018. Available from: https://the-digital-reader.com/2018/05/15/amazon-to-shut-down-kindle-worlds/ [Accessed 13 December 2018]
Tumblr., 2018. Updates to Tumblr’s Community Guidelines [online]. New York: Tumblr. Available from: https://support.tumblr.com/post/180758979032/updates-to-tumblrs-community-guidelines [Accessed 13 December 2018].
Website Hosting Rating., 2018. 100+ Internet Stats and Facts for 2018 [online]. Unknown: Web Hosting Rating. Available from: https://www.websitehostingrating.com/internet-statistics-facts-2018/ [Accessed 13 December 2018]