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New art site, Furry Network, sees traffic growth following FA Forum incident

Your rating: None Average: 3.8 (6 votes)

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.

The Numbers

Alexa Ranking Chart

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. There is the 'photos' tab to contain all the user's uploaded photos.
  4. 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.

Conclusion

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.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 3 (3 votes)

Oh neat, it sounds like a game changer maybe. I was saying for a long time that a commissioning platform is the step up from a hobby to a movement. The more self sustaining it is, the more people can make cool fan stuff just because they want to. I want to see some more furry animation and movies. I mean, not that there's any reason development needs to happen. It's just neat when people get to build creative self employment from the ground up on their own terms.

On terms with the site anyways... no comments about the business already run by Bad Dragon that's backing development for this? As far as I know, nobody has ever done a business profile and it seems kind of shadowy, and some of the rumors about management are way more outre than anything drama mongers spread about Dragoneer. As far as I can guess, by gross revenue they would be the biggest thing in Furry, more than the $450,000 budget for Anthrocon (which isn't all that much at all.)

I guess you have to take the chance (cough) about joining up with anyone who'd have power to make this happen because that's basically, nobody else except outsiders who wouldn't give a shit about anything but money. It was illuminating to read the blog post from Varka talking about payment systems already in place to sell doggie dongs that could process adult art sales that others can't. Here, hopefully you get support of a culture. If adult business makes it go, hopefully the other kinds are along for the ride.

Being arbiter of transactions means fee for service and a real business model for an art site. Good. I'm impressed by the idea of the service/incentive (not just "pay us and we'll keep you safe",) the commission handling interface. Very smart, well thought out with describing a step up from a messy inbox of unthreaded notes you have to clumsily transfer to a spreadsheet.

So I wonder what the fee could be? A custom system for a niche activity seems specialized and expensive, but then companies encourage adoption by inviting users in at a loss. I didn't see anything talking about a % or a subscription, but maybe both? Platforms take any place between Etsy's 3% and Amazon's 15%. Also if the aggregate of money in escrow gets big enough, they get some benefit from the "float" (interest while it's held). But I don't know if the entire pool of potential furry users would be enough to make that special.

Anyways, then there's who the arbiters are and how they work... art and furries isn't your average widget selling activity... I've suggested artists getting together as a guild as a way to build trust by group approval, and if such a thing happened perhaps it could offer some sort of independent input. A seal of approval could go a long way towards building trust. And wouldn't they want to carefully pick for experience, not just anyone already in their company, and pay them, because it's a pain in the ass to weigh sides in disputes.

Last concern: security and identity... Amazon manages fraud by allowing one account per person per lifetime... but if this site tries to manage accounts they'd need to verify ID for real, and furries aren't exactly friendly to that, especially when it involves sensitive content.

It's a lot of big ambitions to tackle... again, nobody but furries could do this, and no furries but ones running a big-ish business, and I can't think of any others than this. Porn saves.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

Is there any sort of rating system associated with commissions? The whole escrow model is a good idea, but it sounds like they're jumping into the deep end when there are simpler and more practical solutions to help counter commission fraud.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

Do ratings sounds like a given, if they are jumping in the deep end, do you think?

Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

Not necessarily a "given," but I think a ratings system would be a lot better for a startup volunteer organization to delve into since there's less of a liability issue and a rating dispute resolution is arguably much less of a critical decision than that of who loses money.

FA is constantly criticized about inconsistent staff decisions when it comes to banning art or penalizing users - but when it comes to transaction disputes, you can probably expect even tighter scrutiny from users. I believe Furry Network's own moderators will have to carefully follow a very tight policy to make it work, and if the service grows in popularity, Furry Network is going to have to do a lot of recruiting, while remaining selective enough to employ moderators who can remain composed and professional enough to keep complaints to a minimum.

Should a ratings system be expected of them because they offer another feature? I suppose not, but it seems like that would have been a less risky and less costly first choice compared to escrow. But either one (or both) would at least help the service stand out against the other furry art sites, if it is pulled off successfully.

Slightly off topic - While there is no concrete definition of a "social network", I find InkBunny/SoFurry/FurAffinity a bit lacking in "social" areas. Few (if any?) support social groups, none of them have sharing features or friends suggestions, and none of them have a primary focus on blogging - whereas Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, LiveJournal, etc (all what I think of as established social networks), do all focus primarily on blogging and feature social groups, and most feature content sharing, and have easy friends suggestions/management. Meanwhile, though a lot of furries try to treat art sites like social networks with their limited support for blogging, they're still just...art sites.

Your rating: None Average: 2.7 (3 votes)

Those sites you say have a focus on blogging are not blogging sites. Maybe LiveJournal (I don't use it) and Tumblr can meet blogging standards but Facebook is not a blogging site and Twitter is nothing like a blogging site.

SoFurry meets pretty much everything you mentioned. It has social groups and, since journals are browsable, it can function as a blog as well. It can certainly do it better than Twitter or Facebook. Friend suggestions is a strange feature. If they are your friends you probably don't need them suggested to you and if you don't know them then they aren't your friends.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (4 votes)

Went on, enabled four javascript processes for the site (all except google-analytics) and it still wouldn't work for me. Other furry sites need one or two at most. Of course, it's possible that it's just that something else is being blocked through my browser but sites that need all sorts of weird things running to display correctly do not instil confidence in me.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Had to make an update to the article. 4 days later the point about lacking music and written work uploads is moot.

Also the point about being unable to change an artwork to a photo is also now resolved as well.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Inkbunny posted some updates, too. Competition drives progress! :-D

Your rating: None

Hello! Running wind and success on the road!

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About the author

Sonious (Tantroo McNally)read storiescontact (login required)

a Kangaroo from Syracroose, NY, interested in video games, current events, politics, philosophy and writing