After 20 years, furry website FurNation shuts down
On December 10th, 2015 FurNation announced that it will be closing its website after a string of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and staff's family, health, and career problems. The announcement marks the end of one of the original furry social networks.
It is a good time to reflect on what FurNation was, and what this loss means for the future of the fandom.
Furry in an unFurry Time
Before there was Fur Affinity, Inkbunny, e621, or any of the other plethora of choices for furries to consume furry content, a handful of original websites were bold enough to step forth into an unsuspecting and sometimes hostile Internet. These furry sites were typically found through the darkest regions of the web. They were usually discovered on less than savory website lists formerly known as "web rings" such as the now defunct Portal of Evil, until robust search engines made content rings irrelevant.
It's in that environment where the iconic symbol of FurNation came to be. The foreboding and secret society-like paw gripping a planet seemed to come out of the wildest dystopian imaginations of a world controlled by a secret society. This was reflective of the fact that back in those times furry communities were very much like secret societies. You had to dive into by going out of your way to look for, and most times they were only spoken of in soft whispers.
As time moved on from the late 1990s to the mid 2010s, the fandom found itself transforming from a secret and unknown demographic to that of a more mainstream acceptance. It's hard to argue this point when so many anthropomorphic movies are slated to satiate the furry demographic next year. In this changing environment, where social media and furry have evolved, the user base for FurNation over the course of many years dwindled. A decade ago most furries on the web knew what FurNation was, but like the VCL and other of the earlier havens, more people today look back in fond remembrance than choosing to use it as an active hub. If they know what it is at all.
The Tough Decision
Despite the dwindle in population, in 2015 there was still a core user base that called the site home. According to the Alexa site ranking statistics, the active community could be comparable to that of Flayrah's. After suffering a string of DDoS attacks, similar to that which have occured against many furry sites in recent years, a public offer was put up by FurTraxx owner Dark Xander via a press release on Flayrah to provide equipment and financial assistance.
However, the technological attack was only the surface issue. Offline the community leader was dealing with more personal issues with failing health both within immediate family and themselves. In the end the decision was to put FurNation to rest. In "SYSTEM"'s announcement they describe that they had lost their job because of this string of health issues. These kind of issues would not be resolved through offerings of technology and waiving of hosting fees.
The Future of Our Web
What happens to websites like FurNation are of great concern and are reflective of a changing paradigm of the information web. While demands for sustained net neutrality are typically levied at ISPs to not throttle content for their own purposes, we often tend to ignore the type of throttling that occurs based not on the whims of corporations, but those carried out by individuals through DDoS attacks.
Such threats of attack have taken smaller furry sites down, while making the larger ones require more resources to run. It has made our web evolve a very strange form of Social IT Darwinism, where the ones with the money and/or IT smarts survive, while those without them will perish, or be forced to ally with those that have them.
It is my worry that this problem is not isolated to just our fandom. For as long as we have individuals who wish to control the sites and content on the web for everyone, they will use whatever tools and means they have to make the web their web and not a neutral one. In order to prevent these kind of things we need to remind those that promote the use of such tools about the thing that binds the users of the web together, and how their use of these tools go against everything an open web stands for. In essence, when using such tools, what makes the DDoS promoter better than a throttling ISP?
That aside, furries are if anything technologically savvy. In this increasingly hostile web, as a community, we will find ways to prevent damages from such attacks. Certainly, others will reach out to those in need in response to these situations, as was attempted in this case. The resolve of the fandom to share our works and creativity will not be shaken. As "SYSTEM" said in his FurNation announcment, "FurNation was one of the first furry based sites on the web, but it will not be the last."
UPDATE (1/12/16): FurNation may be coming back after all. Sometime in the past few days, the website was updated with the following:
We are raising funds to bring back the FurNation server and hosted website system. The base amount needed for hosting is $350 a month. Our total goal for 1 year of hosting is $5000 (this includes an overhead of $800 for any additions/taxes or other costs we may need over the year. Anything left over will carry into the following year).
Our goal is to sustain the website with user donations (at cost, no profit) and to continue the service into the future.