The Times They Are A-Changin’

As much as I’d really like to continue with my review of Disney shows, I have some other subjects that I’d like to address.

Before opening this blog, I created and ran many websites throughout the 2000’s. They were all fansites for various cartoons – Sonic Underground, Kid Paddle, and Hey Arnold!. They were all created and hosted on MSN Groups (previously named MSN Communities). The online world was much different back then and it’s fascinating to pause for a moment and analyze how rapidly the Internet has grown in a ten or even five year span. What we did online and how we looked for information online in 1999 is largely different now in 2009. With the closing of MSN Groups after 14 years of service, and them being moved to Multiply which is a “social networking” type of place; and me recently going through all my old Internet bookmarks removing old dead or offline sites, I have come to a realization: that the “fansite” as we used to know it, as of 2009, is gone.

Think about it. Think how much has changed over the Internet in a decade. Yes, websites popped up online as early as 1994/95, but now its 2009 and it’s not uncommon to still see a couple of websites from 1998/99/00 still online after all these years. It was around the late 90’s, in my opinion, where personal websites and fansites really took off. And now look at them – these websites are ten years old, and many are dead or very outdated, with very few being translated into the current time. The Internet is literally littered with abandoned webpages from years ago that show their age and how the Internet was “back in that time”. Back “in the day” a fansite is where you could go to get anything and everything you wanted about your favorite animated series. As far as I see it, those days are finished.

Fact one: Many companies that offered free web hosting services for websites have died or no longer offer free hosting. Remember the early 2000’s? Many places offered a certain amount of storage and bandwidth, etc, free of charge. Cityslide, Homestead, AOL Hometown, and now MSN Communities/Groups all closed (Cityslide gave up “free” hosting but still exists). FortuneCity, Tripod, Angelfire and Geocities still offer free web hosting, although I’m sure their popularity is waning these days. There are a great deal of other places that offer far more storage space, bandwidth, and most of all free blog templates. Take Multiply for example – you can currently upload as many pictures as you like without any restrictions and can easily change the layout. Why would you use a service where you can only upload a few megabytes worth of media and only have 2-3 megabytes of traffic per hour? Fact two: So many online services have been created over the past ten years that really, you don’t need your own fansite anymore. All you need is a main webpage that has links to all the other places/accounts your stuff is hosted or where you can find information.

Want older information on a show? – Online encyclopedias (Wikipedia): Their articles are sometimes the first or second hit in what you are looking for, moreover for a show that never gained much of a big online fanbase, therefore no fansites exist. Some shows even have their own fan-created Wikipedia-styled encyclopedia.

Want current news and information or more detailed older information on a show? – A blog (Blogger, Wordpress): They have grown massively over the past couple of years and many (like this one) provide information you couldn’t find anywhere else. More series creators/producers/directors, etc, have blogs these days to keep fans updated on current events, and to educate with their history and knowledge working in the business.

Want a place to chat about a show? – A forum/message board/chat room, or social networking websites (MySpace, Facebook, hi5, Windows Live Spaces, Windows Live Groups, Multiply, LiveJournal, Twitter): It’s usually pretty easy to find a forum/message board/chat room dedicated to your favorite show so you can talk to others who share your interests. Many social networking sites have groups dedicated to shows so people can join them and talk amongst other members.

Fanart? – Deviantart, Side7, Fanart Central, VCL, Fur Affinity, Imageboards (4chan, 7chan): Deviantart has been around for years and has gained a reputation for its large amount of fanart and conversation it showcases. Side7 not so much, but its still a decent place to find good artwork. 4chan and 7chan are also great places to find fanart as well, but are NSFW (not safe for work) at times and therefore I won’t link them here. Imageboards can also be a great place to chat with others about favorite shows and gain information as well.

Fanfic? – FanFiction.net: Like Deviantart, this place has been around for years as well and holds a ton of fan generated fiction for various shows.

Videos/Fan Videos? – Video hosting websites (YouTube, Veoh, Blip.tv, Break.com, Dailymotion, Google Video, AOL Video, Imeem, Newgrounds, LiveVideo, Hulu, Guba, Vimeo): Perhaps one of the biggest changes of all in the Internet in recent years, these places offer free video hosting. Users can post episodes, bumpers/commercials and special exclusives of their favorite shows, as well as fan made music videos, dubs, and animations.

Screenshots/Official Art? – Image hosting services (Photobucket, Flickr, ImageShack, Picasa), Imageboards (4chan, 7chan): These places offer free hosting for large amounts of pictures, and are handy for organizing them and being able to hotlink images for use on other websites and forums/message boards. 4chan and 7chan are also great places to find screens and promotional artwork for shows too.

Downloads? – File hosting/downloading services (RapidShare, FileFront, Megaupload, SendSpace, YouSendIt, Fliiby): Are handy for uploading entire episodes of shows and other related videos, mp3’s, fanart/fanfic, screenshots, official artwork, scanned comics – anything you can think of, you can find it at these places.

Other Links? – Google it. Or check the “Links” page of the Wikipedia article you’re reading, the website/blog you’re visiting, or check out links on forums, message boards and chat rooms.

See what I mean? Why have all this stuff on your website and pay for large space and bandwidth when you can put it up for free somewhere else and it gets noticed more? Face it people, the fansite as we knew it, is dead. MSN Groups closing last month is another sad progression to technology geared more towards social networking websites (What is it with all of them these days?! It’s almost impossible not to be tracked down. There is no privacy anymore!). It took MSN shutting this service down for me to realize “Holy fuck, 1999 was ten years ago!”, and I remember being online in high school back then and what it was like, and look at how hugely different the world wide web is now! Its nothing like it was...and I kind of miss the simplicity it had back then.

I guess if I ever continued work on my fansite projects, for the “information” portion, I’d start a blog about it. Really, it seems like the right direction to go. Blogs get noticed a lot in search engines and whatnot. They are a great place to find information and personal opinions. It may not be laid out like a website...but then again a lot of websites these days use a “posting like a blog” layout system which allows visitors to comment on the latest updates. Who needs a guestbook anymore these days, either? Or a fanlisting? Or a webring? One downside to having a different account for everything is remembering passwords and usernames. I have so many now I had to write them down.

A great deal of what I’ve stated here relates to “Web 2.0”, surprise-surprise Wikipedia provides a great article about the second generation of web development and design. What also makes “Web 2.0” interesting is that it takes a lot of work out of creating a website from the webmaster’s hands and places it in the hands of the people who visit the site. You just need to set up a service and people will start filling it with content for you. You don’t necessarily have to offer interesting stuff on your site anymore to get people to visit it, you just need to make a platform that gets people’s attention. Take Facebook or Youtube for example – the people who own those services don’t need to add any content; the users do for them…and in the process make the owners stinking rich!

I'm not sure if I like where the Internet is going these days, but there is nothing we can do to stop it. Its progression is fanatic. Its momentum is increasing. Its space is expanding. And the possibilities of what the Internet can provide are always growing. It will be intriguing to see where world wide web will take us, and the world, in another ten years.

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