New art site, Furry Network, sees traffic growth following FA Forum incident
Furry social networks have grown since the early days on the Internet. Gone are the days when you had to find some hidden Usenet group, or dive into a MUCK to hang out with furries (though you still can if you want to). Furries now have a multitude of websites in plain view, from art-based social galleries such as Fur Affinity, Inkbunny and SoFurry, to image boards and thread-based sites such as e621 and fchan.
It seems that the catalog of places for furries to flock to has become pretty saturated over the years. But even with this plethora of choices, a new contender has come out of the gates and is attempting to make its mark on the furry community. Furry Network, not to be confused with the defunct Furry News Network, is a new furry community site that is currently in beta. However, with a more-saturated market, it is important to ask: will Furry Network just be another furry site with a new coat of paint, or will it offer something its competitors don't? Let's take a look.
Update (Nov 20): A recent update has added many features. These include the support of textual and multimedia works. Therefore you can now upload stories, music, and even short movies if you wished. It also has the capacity of changing an artwork to a photo with the edit feature now. These new media types are also their own tab.
While it is only in beta, Furry Network passed Flayrah in Alexa's site ranking charts as of November 9th, with a ranking of 809,000, a big jump in ranking from around 20 million in mid-August when it began its climb. It still has a hefty gap of around 700 thousand to reach SoFurry. However at its current growth of over 20k ranks daily, it may be knocking at its doorsteps around the end of this year.
The chart also notes major events on FA around the times of notable bends in site rankings. As one can see there appears to be a link with the rise in Furry Network's ranking and the exodus of the Fur Affinity forum moderators. Of course these can be misleading. As the bump in Flayrah's rank did occur around the time when Fur Affinity had issues with Adult Ads being a bit obnoxious, the actual article that increased its ranking was that of Doug Winger's passing as Flayrah, incidentally, never did an article about the adult ad mishap.
The Site (So Far)
While the site does look good, it is still in beta and lacks a notable set of features. It has a robust photo and art upload system; however, if you're more the kind to create music or write there is currently no way to upload your works as of right now.
Right now the strategy of the Furry Network appears to be to go for the visual first, which despite the grumblings of those who produce primarily written works, is a sound strategy. It's not even hiding exactly whose traffic they are going for. In the Edit Profile page there is an import data function. Right there you can enter your FA username and password and all your visual items will transfer over. Not only this, but you can also transfer your avatar and watches, if it can find them as users on Furry Network.
Of course it's not the first site to provide such a tool. Inkbunny has FA to IB; Weasyl has their own site-importing browser extension, albeit targeting multiple art sites. However, Furry Network seems to be the first to unabashedly put it in the main site as an option.
The tool isn't without its flaws, though. You'll want to go through your imported posts to make sure you don't have any text that won't make sense. For instance, I saw some images on Furry Network that said things like they were celebrating their third year on the site: which means they either imported from Fur Affinity without changing the text or they live in a parallel universe with a shorter year. The cool thing is this is easily fixed as you can select multiple pieces you uploaded and edit them simultaneously. So you could click on all of the auto-uploaded items and change the description to "Transferred from FA" in a few clicks instead of editing one at a time. Another issue with the import, that unfortunately isn't so easy to fix, is it will import all your visual media as artwork, even if it's a photo, which Furry Network has as a separate category. I see no easy way to change an artwork upload to a photo once it has been uploaded as an artwork to the site as of this article.
Right now each user page has four tabs:
- The 'about' tab has all the profile information. This is where you'd plug what you do and where you can find your works on other sites and contact info and such.
- The 'activity' tab seems to contain the notes posted by the user. They're not quite robust enough to be journals. Your entries are more apt to take the form of a long winded tweet than a journal.
- There is the 'photos' tab to contain all the user's uploaded photos.
- The 'artwork' tab contains drawn items uploaded by the user.
If you want to see what those you have been following are up to you, you'd select your activity feed in the upper right corner. If signed in, it seems the homepage also becomes your activity feed. This Twitter-style page lets you see the activities of those you follow. This can include their artwork, posts, comments, and other such items listed out in order of time done. You can activate and deactivate the type of content on your feed on the right side of the page by clicking the content types. This may be for the best as it seems you can see all of the comments made by those you follow, not just ones made in your direction. So I don't know why anyone would want to keep that on if they have an active timeline.
The Site's Big Plan
One of the biggest plans for the site is to try and resolve one of the age old issues of this artistically inclined fandom: commission fraud. In order to try and prevent the artist from taking the money and running, or a client taking the art and not compensating the artist, Furry Network plans to act as a third-party escrow service: the client and artist decide on a scope of work, and all agreements happen between the parties on a commission page on the site. The client pays Furry Network, whom in turn compensates the artist once the commission is complete.
If this works, it has the capacity to become the safest and most trusted system in the fandom. If it doesn't, it'll be seen as a clunky bureaucracy that isn't responsive to the demands of either party. While some artists see this as a great opportunity, others see it as a risky endeavor. The horror stories of clients demanding refunds when they were given their art is all too familiar, and a third party judging whether to pay the money to the artist or back to the client is a bit too much of an exercise in trust.
That being said, trust is the operative word here. You have to trust the person running the system is looking out for the interests of both the client and the artist equally. If the one running this kind of a system shows any client or artist bias, it'd be noted. If you think people harshly question Dragoneer for his personal choices and how it impacts him as a leader, imagine how we'll treat one who is handling one of the most vital economic transactions in the fandom. No "I" will go undotted, no "T" uncrossed without people taking notice.
I believe the biggest challenge faced by Furry Network here is ensure they have the staff and resources to pull this off. Financial systems are tricky. You're not only dealing with the artist and client but the governments of both the artist and client. Does a sales tax need to be paid? One needs to be aware of the history of both the clients and the artists. How often does a client ask for a refund? How long does it take the artist to do their work on average? If a client does demand a refund and argues the art provided is not within the scope of work, is someone going to have to review everything to come to a decision? How often is this going to happen, and how long does that take to do?
And those are just a sampling of questions that arise from this situation. I didn't even touch on the factors of ensuring transaction security and payment processing costs. How Furry Network handles these will cause them to be seen as an invaluable tool, or as a hefty liability.
Upon initial investigation, Furry Network looked as if it was trying to be yet another furry social site, and I approached it with that eye. If that is the case the lack of features to upload non-visual works and socializing functions that seem to be just passable would make it a decent site, but nothing that other ones don't already do better.
However, after reading the article about their plans, I've come to believe that the word "network" may not refer to a social one, but instead a business one. This idea seems as if it was made in response to the fear artists constantly lay out that their source of income and living is tied to Fur Affinity. If that is the case, they are following through on this extremely well. They allow quick and easy integration of visual works from Fur Affinity, and they plan on providing a robust commissioning system looking to prevent artist or client abuses that can occur in the laissez-faire system all current furry social sites employ.
One can be certain: Furry Network is a site, and idea, worth paying attention to.