Fur Affinity announces Project Phoenix; Weasyl traffic spikes
On January 15, Fur Affinity made its latest announcement of its intention to revamp their site. This new effort, code named Project Pheonix, is intended to bring massive updated to the site's interface to make it more user friendly, as well as incorporate a simplification of rules and decrease response time to trouble tickets.
However, the news caused a stir as it was stated that Adam Wan, known in the fandom as Zaush, would be leading the user interface development. Major controversy has shadowed Mr. Wan following the note leaks back in late 2010 revealed a private correspondence where an individual went to Dragoneer to discuss the possibility of going public with their experiences of sexual abuses committed against them by Mr. Wan. In that correspondence Dragoneer told the alleged victim they believed taking this action was not a good idea as making such public accusations would lead to public backlash against both the accused and the accuser. The victim took that advise and did not go public. Only after the security leak did the public get a hold of these accusations.
A major controversy and divide unfurled
While there was some rumblings when those notes were revealed three years ago, the promotion of Zaush to the position brought the issue back into the fold and caused an intense controversy concerning sexual abuse, power abuse, and free speech.
Some journals popped up on FA that plainly called out Zaush as a rapist based on the leaked accusations. The staff on Fur Affinity reacted to such journals as harassing and removed them from the site. In response to the controversy Zaush also posted his own journal, which he was allowed to modify when it too was accused of going beyond the Code of Conduct.
Many journals started to announce artists shifting to Weasyl, either to go there exclusively or simply adding it as an additional resource. After a few days of journals like these and furs started to return from Further Confusion more counter journals getting agitated at the Weasyl journals began to crop up among more loyal Fur Affinity users.
At its worst, those choosing to go to Weasyl were painted as a social justice mob who believe rumors and speculation just to perpetuate drama. While on the other side, those who chose to stay were painted as rape apologists who sit idly by while popular furries get away with heinous crimes. Caught in the middle are those artists who have created a business off the site, who use the income from their labors to pay bills, despite their feelings for those at the very top. Fear of having to start from the ground up somewhere new far more daunting than those who have yet to leave their mark.
While some users were promoting a push to Weasyl, the official channels and staff of Weasyl kept a hands-off approach to the affair. Even going so far as to not speculate on a series of DDoS attacks which targeted the Weasyl site not too far after the controversy started to go into full swing and instead just deal with the issue of making the site more resilient to such attacks.
Many users on the Weasyl side of the argument paint the reaction to Fur Affinity's announcement as an exodus, however the actual statistics show something not quite so clear cut. As of the week following Project Phoenix's announcement Fur Affinity has shown no significant decrease in activity or ranking. However, what has happened is that Weasyl's traffic has gone up substantially.
According to Alexa statistics, both sites have increased in ranking since the announcement. For those who don't have an account to see the linked line graph, the table below shows the major four furry art communities and their changes in ranks from January 15 to ten days after.
|Site Name||Jan 15th Rank||Jan 25th Rank||Change|
While we can see that while Weasyl had gained traffic, FA has not suffered any noticeable loss. Essentially artists have their feet wading in more pools now rather than a select few. Whether this means furry artists are diversifying their portfolios in a simple wariness of Fur Affinity's decisions or is an actual beginning of a shift is yet to be seen. However, at this point it would be foolish of those in charge of the largest furry website to not take notice and weigh carefully on future decisions, lest giving rivals more ground.
Awaiting the resurrection
After all the heat and flame of the announcement, Project Phoenix does have one thing that could save itself from being a complete disaster. That is if Adam Wan actually came through and updated the site's interface in the way which had been promised. Should however, Project Phoenix be yet another announcement without fruition, all the controversy that users had to deal with would have proven for no reason.
Given that Fur Affinity in its follow up to the outcry had noted there was concern of old projects that had not come to be, it is no secret that there is a jadedness that the fandom's largest website will incur the major changes it promises.
What doesn't help this scepticism is that while Dragoneer has said Adam Wan is qualified to perform the task given to him, there is nothing in Mr. Wan's visible history to indicate this is the case. In fact, he had announced an animation project several years ago (before 2006) which never came to be and seems to have been abandoned at this point. While he has shown himself a capable artist, when it comes to items of higher technical skill such as user interface development, his accomplishments are not as visible.
Another issue was how he had treated the programmers who were working on similar developments for Fur Affinity which included Ben Anderson. Ben posted interactions with Zaush that he found grievous before abandoning coding for the site (p1, p2, p3). This incident was something the follow-up alluded to, with the following statement:
Some rumors have circulated regarding a team of coders working on a new version of the site prior to the announcement of Phoenix. While they did ask permission to help, they were not a part of site staff and were working independently on their own project. They were not in communication with site staff, nor involved in site developments.
In this statement they did confirm that there was a group of coders working on new items for FA, they were brushed off as 'not official' in the end. What they did not do is more telling. They did not decline the other parts of the "rumor" which they have shown they are aware of, and that was Zaush's abrasive behavior towards those volunteer coders.
If this does indicate that indeed he is not a team player, and Dragoneer fails to find coders willing to work with Mr. Wan because of behavior such as this, it'll make the large task ahead all the more insurmountable. Even if this is not the case, the statement itself from Fur Affinity will most certainly cause volunteer coders to think twice before putting their sweat into improving the site or making applications for it, lest they too be waved off.
Fur Affinity's battle of trust
The follow-up gives the indication that major changes to Fur Affinity should occur this year at some point. With the shift in artists to other sites, now more than ever is it important that Fur Affinity take action that backs up its communications. The title of largest furry art community in the fandom has shifted before, and nothing on the Internet is too big to fail.
Whether the future of Fur Affinity is a rise from the ashes of distrust in following through on its promises, or this project becomes just a further burn to loyal users falls onto Fur Affinity alone. Only time will tell what 2014 has in store for the site.