FanFiction.Net vs. Archive of Our Own
FanFiction.Net vs. Archive of Our Own: A Comparison of Two Fan Fiction Archives
Fan fiction is a widely popular hobby on the internet today. While fan fiction has been around for decades, earlier shared in fanzines or passed-around, type-written stories, since the 1990s there has been an explosion of fan fiction websites and archives on-line. People share their fan fiction stories through internet mailing lists, journaling and social media networks like LiveJournal and Tumblr, and also through archive websites. These archives can be small and focused on specific fandoms, such as Twilight, Star Trek or Harry Potter, or they can be large and all-encompassing, open to almost any and all kinds of fan fiction.
Two of the largest and most well-known multi-fandom archives today are FanFiction.Net and Archive of Our Own. In this article, I will give a brief introduction to both as well as a comparison of their features, usability and critcisms. You'll also have a chance, if you use either/both archives, to sound off on your opinions as to which one better suits your needs. There are certainly pros and cons to both archives, yet for a fan fiction author who wants to preserve his or her work and present it to a wider audience, using one - or both - of these archives may be worthwhile.
Are You Familiar With These Fan Fiction Archives? - Please note: No cursing/foul language allowed in comments! If you swear, your comment will not be posted!
How familiar are you with FanFiction.Net and Archive of Our Own?
The internet's largest fan fiction archive.
FanFiction.Net (FFN) was launched October 15, 1998 by Los Angeles computer programmer Xing Li. Xing Li was not himself heavily involved in fandom, but hosted the site on a server connected to his place of employment where it was considered a test of the server's functionality.
FanFiction.Net quickly rose in popularity, being one of the few archives at the time open to just about any kind of fandom, not just a single specific universe, anime or TV series. Originally the archive was open to anyone over the age of 18 who wished to register for an account, and allowed any storing rating, from general audiences ("G") to explicit adult ("NC-17"). Stories about celebrities including musicians, actors and sports players (ie, Real Person Fiction) were allowed along with those stories written about television series, fictional books, comics, anime and movies.
Eventually the website needed to employ advertising in order to keep the server running due to increasing demand and use. However, registered members could pay for a premium account if they did not want to see ads and have access to other special functions. This function was not heavily embraced by users and eventually abandoned in favor of advertising support only.As the archive grew in popularity and size, certain types of content were officially banned and other changes implemented. In 2002, NC-17 rated stories were no longer allowed (although enforcement of this policy is up to users reporting stories; there are still many explicit-content fictions to be found on the site.) Real person/celebrity fiction was disallowed in 2003. Other topics such as songfic, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, and non-fiction lists have also been banned through the years, although again enforcement is spotty at best. The site has also disallowed fan-fiction based on certain works after receiving requests from their creators, including authors such as Anne Rice, P. N. Elrod, Laurell K. Hamilton, Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, Raymond Feist and Terry Goodkind.
The age limit for site registration is now 13. As of 2010, the site had over 2.2 million users and stories posted in over 30 languages. Its largest fandom as of the end of 2011 was Harry Potter, with over 570,000 stories posted in that category alone. Naruto was the second most popular fandom, with over 290,000 stories. FanFiction.Net also features active forums for users to discuss their fandoms, Communities of moderated, hand-selected fiction, and a list of beta readers available to help authors improve their work. The site now has a mobile version and RSS feeds one can subscribe to, in order to see the latest works in particular fandoms.
In 2012 there was a widespread purge of adult content from the site, which had widespread impact throughout fanfiction communities online.
Where to learn more about FanFiction.Net:
* FanFiction.Net - FanHistory (features lengthy timeline through 2010 of events in FanFiction.Net's history)
Criticisms of FanFiction.Net
FanFiction.Net may be the largest fan fiction archive on the internet, but it's not everyone's favorite site by a long shot. These are some of the common criticisms of the site.
- Difficulty finding quality fiction amidst all of the dreck. As Sturgeon's Law proposes, 90% of everything is crap - and that means there is an AWFUL lot of crap on FanFiction.Net. Indeed, the site has long been known as "The Pit of Voles", derided as the home of some of the worst of the worst that fan fiction has to offer. Lack of proper spelling and punctuation, poor characterization, childish plotting and blatant Mary Sues - to many, this is what FanFiction.Net represents.
- Limitations on allowed content. As the site grew to astronomical proportions and needed to start accepting advertising to stay afloat, it is not surprising that it had to start restricting content in order to be acceptable to non-adult oriented advertisers. Yet that means that the site is technically useless to fan-fiction authors who write about subjects or include content that is no longer allowed, such as bandfic or adult fan-fiction. For many years, however, writers of adult fan-fiction have kept posting their stories on fanfiction.net, as enforcement of these policies was poor at best. This has changed in May of 2012, as a widespread purge of adult-content stories has begun, angering many users of the site. Statistics on Fanlore suggest that over 17,000 Harry Potter stories alone were deleted during this purge, along with thousands in other top fandoms.
- Sorting multiple-character/relationship fiction is difficult. FanFiction.Net only allows one to sort/filter fiction within a fandom by two characters (Kirk and Spock in "Star Trek"). What if you are looking for stories featuring more characters or complicated relationships (yes, people do write Kirk/Spock/Uhura poly relationships, or perhaps love triangles such as Kirk/Uhura and Uhura/Spock). With AO3's freeform tag system, it is much easier to label and look for such stories.Update! As of March 15, 2013, Fanfiction.net now allows four characters to be assigned to a story, not just two.
- Annoying advertising. Some users find the full page ads one must skip over or wait to load on FanFiction.Net extremely annoying - particularly those on slower internet connections.
- Disinterest in punishing/banning plagiarist authors and plagiarism. Plagiarism can be a major problem in fan-fiction, as some think that because "all fan fiction is stealing" that it is perfectly fine to steal another's words and claim them as their own. That can be a fan fiction author stealing content word-for-word from a published author's work, or from another fan fiction author (often times only changing characters' names and minor details, to publish a story in a different fandom.) When such incidents have occurred on FanFiction.Net, they have generally been ignored by the site administrators.
Archive of Our Own
Noncommercial and Nonprofit.
Archive of Our Own (AO3) first launched in beta-testing on November 14, 2009. The archive is a project of the Organization for Transformative Works, a non-profit organization which promotes the legitimate and transformative nature of fan works including fan fiction, fan vids and fan art.
It was originally proposed in 2007, in part as a reaction against the recently-launched archive FanLib. FanLib faced deep criticism by the media fandom community at the time for its corporate sponsorship and funding and apparent lack of understanding of how fan communities truly operated. At the time, many older, smaller fan fiction archives were disappearing as free hosting sites popular in the 1990s and early 2000s were disappearing or going out of business.
AO3 has grown slowly, as one requires an invite code to join (if you request one, it can take anywhere from a month to upwards of 5-6 months to receive one, according to recent reports.) The archive is now the home of the large, annual small-fandom fest Yuletide, which is how many members of AO3 have gotten accounts there by signing up to take part in the exchange. Some of the features and highlights of AO3 include:
* Open to all kinds of fandoms, including Real Person Fiction
* Open to all ratings of fan-fiction, from general audiences to adult. Content which is not allowed includes text of or links to "child pornography (images of real children); warez, cracks, hacks or other executable files and their associated utilities; trade secrets, restricted technologies, or classified information; or if it consists entirely of actual instruction manuals, technical data, recipes, or other non-fanwork content, including non-fanwork creative work". (Site Terms of Service.) Other policies are in place to disallow harassment or threats against real people, whether other users or people named in fictional stories.
* Ability to lock story visibility to other AO3 members only, to minimize search engine inclusion (some authors don't want their stories showing up in general Google searches.)* Allowance of certain fandoms (include Anne Rice's "Vampire Chronicles") and story types (including songfic) which have been banned from FanFiction.Net.
* Ability to link various pseudonyms and names under one account, and to also "orphan" stories to remove your name from them
* A complex tagging system so that stories can be searched by theme (romance, hurt/comfort), trope (Steampunk AU, Aliens made them do it) or whatever an author may choose
* Backdating system, useful if one is trying to organize all of her fanfiction chronologically
* Ability to import stories from other URLs
* Collections and challenges
* A "Kudos" button to show that you read a story and enjoyed it, without having to leave written feedback
* Ability to add new fandoms if not already listed, without having to wait for a site administrator to add them
* A warning system for common fannish triggers and controversial subjects - which an author can choose or choose not to use
As of January 2012, Archive of Our Own featured approximately 8,300 fandoms, 290,000 archived works and 33,500 users. The most popular fandoms at that time include Stargate (18,300 stories), Harry Potter (17,900 stories) and Supernatural (14,300).The minimum age for registering for an account is 13.
Links to learn more:
Criticisms of Archive of Our Own
The following are some of the criticisms which have been made by some of Archive of Our Own as a fan-fiction archive. While the site has been embraced by many, there are those who are not as thrilled with the archive or have had issues with it in the past.
- Too heavily focused on media fandom. The archive administrative team has been accused on numerous occasions of having little understanding of how other fanfiction communities operate, such as music and anime fandoms. Everything from the site's design to category structure reflects a Western media fandom bias, particularly that of LiveJournal media fandom. As such, many outside of Western media fandoms do not feel welcomed contributing to the site nor feel like their specific community issues and needs are being addressed.
- No ability to sort out crossovers from non-crossover stories. Crossover stories, involving characters from multiple fannish sources in one story, are quite popular among many fanfiction readers and writers. However, some readers do not care for crossovers in general or at all, and AO3 doesn't have an easy way to filter crossover stories out of the listings returned for a particular fandom. In comparison, FanFiction.Net has a completely separate section of their website for crossover fiction only, so it's easier to find (or not find) such stories as you wish.
- Frequent downtime/slow server response. As the site's userbase has grown, some have reported increasing errors and downtime when trying to access the site. This has become particularly troublesome around the end of May/early June 2012, perhaps linked to the sudden surge of interest in Avengers fandom as well as the mature-content purge at fanfiction.net. This has lead some to wonder if the archive can really keep running on its current hardware, software, and financial donations to OTW alone.
- The tagging system is a mess. Writers are allowed to use however many different tags as they want to on their stories and there is very little structure to the tagging system. Even within a single fandom, one character may have their name "tagged" in multiple different ways - making it difficult to easily filter only for stories featuring them. The archive does employ a team of Tag Wranglers whose sole task is to link together related tags to be more searchable. (For instance, if I search for the tag "vampire AU", 9 different tags are currently returned for me to sort through including "vampire AU, "'verse: Vampire AU" "vampire!AU" and "sherlock bbc john watson holmes vampire au".) However, as the archive grows and grows, keeping up with all of the freeform, user-generated tags can become difficult - and some tag wranglers have expressed frustration with the system and how their committee has been handled. It doesn't help when you have some authors tagging everything and anything possible to an almost laughable extent. Do we really need to know that many details about a story before reading it? Are these things people will actually want to search based upon?
- Lack of community/readers don't comment and review. Many authors seem to view AO3 as a convenient "storage bin" for all of their old works, dropping stories there but rarely reading others' works. Many fan communities even with large numbers of stories on AO3 are far more active elsewhere, such as on LiveJournal communities or smaller, fandom-focused websites. With the "Kudos" button feature, readers are less likely to leave actual feedback or interact with authors, since they can just hit "Kudos" to show that they read and at least moderately enjoyed a story.
- Hard to keep up with what's new in a particular fandom. With backdating, sometimes it's hard to just find what are the newest stories posted in a particular fandom. However, rss feed subscriptions have recently been introduced, allowing interested readers to subscribe to not just favorite authors but favorite fandoms as well.
- No filter "out" options, period. Many users have expressed annoyance that there is no way to search on AO3 to "filter out" unwanted tags, characters, or types of fiction. For instance, if a Harry Potter fan didn't want to read about any stories heavily featuring Severus Snape, or slash as a tag, you can't do that. In very large fandoms this makes searching for stories a person actually wants to read rather difficult, particularly as there is also a 1,000 work cap on search results. Now that the archive allows for the hosting of meta posts and they are mixed in with the fiction, more users are annoyed by this inability to filter out the types of content they do not want to read.
- Too much adult content/no way to filter out adult summaries and titles. While some appreciate the freedom of AO3's accepting of gen to mature/explicit content, not everyone is happy about it. Some feel as though AO3 has become little more than a "smut dump" (see comments at bottom of this page), with certain fandom's categories completely predominated by sexually explicit material. This is why some wish there was an easy way to filter out content - both stories themselves and story titles/tags/summaries - if undesirable or intended for adults only.
- Increasingly long wait for an invite code. On June 11, 2012, Lucy Pearson posted on the OTW news site that there are currently over 17,000 requests in the queue for invitation codes. However, since the beginning of 2013 it appears that the wait time for invite codes has decreased considerably; it may take only a week or less currently to get access to a user account.
- Coding problems from the ground up/three years and the site is still in beta. Some have begun to wonder if the site will ever "officially" launch and get current coding and hardware issues sorted out. In a June 2012 Dreamwidth post, "branchandroot" said: "When a platform is so ----ed up that the only way to make it run is to take out the navigation, then it's time to think real hard about who's been driving development."
Make Your Choice: Which Archive Do You Think Is Better? - FanFiction.Net or Archive of Our Own?
You've read the basic information, examined some of the pros and cons of each, now it's time to leave your opinion. Which fan fiction archive do you prefer, and why?NOTE: All comments are subject to approval and any comments using foul or abusive language will be immediately deleted.
Which archive is better: FanFiction.Net or Archive of Our Own?
Other Multi-Fandom Archives on the Internet - If neither FFN or AO3 is for you...
These are not the only two large, multi-fandom archives on the internet today. Some other sites you might wish to explore include the following:
Like FanFiction.Net, but for adult-oriented stories only.
A multi-fandom archive with currently over 30,000 stories. Note there are currently concerns about lack of administrative management and control over spammers on the site.
A band fiction RPF archive with over 2,000 stories.
A small (but growing) site for all kinds of music and band-based "real person" fiction.
Multi-fandom archive with over 9,000 stories.
Fan fiction archive with over 13,000 stories.
A large multi-fandom archive for fan fiction and fan art, with an emphasis on anime and cartoons. However, this site is suffering from lack of moderation and site administration, so new users be wary.
- Fandom Haven Story Archive
A multi-fandom archive with an emphasis on western media fandoms. Currently with about 2,000 stories.
- Forever Fandom
Multi-fandom archive with currently over 7,000 stories, emphasizing books, tv and anime fandoms.
A closed archive (you must have an invite to join) which a large community of Harry Potter authors, but many other book, anime, movie and television fandoms represented as well.
- WWOMB: The Wonderful World of Make-Believe
Home to over 28,000 stories, with an emphasis on Western Media fandoms. Hosts several smaller collections as well as the main archive.
- Passion and Perfection
An archive for f/f ("femmeslash") fiction in various fandoms.
© 2012 Nicole Pellegrini