Saturday, December 18, 2010

Delicious is Going Down

The website Delicious, formerly known as, was among the services that Yahoo announced would soon be shuttered, following a round of layoffs and consolidations. The news has sent some of the fandom folks into a panic, because Delicious is one of the premiere social bookmarking sites, that allows users to save and share links to content with other users. Since fanwork is often located in a lot of disparate places on the web, Delicious links have become a default index in many fandoms, and the pontential loss of them is a scary thought. I browse through Delicious-enabled lists of other people's fanfiction and video mashups frequently. The big annual fanfiction event, Yuletide, is coming up soon, and Delicious always provided a quick and easy way to sort through the stories and recommendations. I have my own account with a couple of lists of videos that I don't want to lose. Fortunately, there are other bookmarking sites around that will be happy for the traffic, and I'm waiting to see which service everyone is going to jump to next, so I can start exporting my data.

This kind of social media migration is nothing new, especially if you move in fannish circles. I remember starting out with online fanfiction in the late 90s on Usenet message boards and Yahoo mailing lists. The Usenet groups are all still there, but see little activity anymore and are full of bot-generated advertisements these days. Occasionally I'll get an E-mail out of the blue from a Yahoo group I didn't realize I was still subscribed to. At some point fans starting moving to centralized archives, quitting the newsgroups and personal websites for big sites like and its imitators. These had obvious appeal because readers didn't have to go digging around through endless lists of links and posts on multiple sites to find stories. FFNet is still around and still going strong, an automated repository that has no quality control, so anything that meets minimum content standards can be posted there. Prior to 2002 it was easily the most popular fanfiction site available. Then it reorganized and booted all adult content, prompting a lot of popular authors to jump ship. In the fanart universe you have DeviantArt, which didn't really start gaining steam until around 2005, and has yet to see any major declines. There's no centralized site devoted to fanvidding yet, though Youtube is the popular default.

Social networking pulled a lot of the displaced fanfiction writers to forums and blogging sites like Livejournal, which offered better social interaction, feedback options, and the ability to create private communities of like-minded fans. A good chunk of vidding is also centered on social networking sites, and DeviantArt actually has these functions built into its service. This is still more or less where much of fandom is now, producing work in small, self-regulated groups for like-minded fans. You still see people using the big archive groups or a personal site here or there, but most of the activity is happening on blogs now. Indexing content is more difficult though, which is where bookmarking sites like Delicious come in. I think the system is still a bit of a pain and could stand more centralization and standardization - there's no universally agreed upon format for tagging, which drives me nuts - but it works, and I get more out of it than I ever did out of dumping stories on FFNet. There was a major scare, however, back in 2007 when Livejournal purged several user accounts for adult content. Among other things, this led to the creation of the Dreamwidth social networking site. There wasn't a mass exodus as some feared, but there was a lot of handwringing and drawing up of contingency plans and endless discussion over myriad alternatives in case the worst should happen.

I expect that the migration of larger fandom will happen eventually though, most likely once some newer, shinier service comes along that gets everyone's attention. It's really the same old story every time, though. You back up everything you want to save in the old system, and convert everything over to the new one if you can, in order to catch the eye of a new audience. A few people and their content get left behind or are forgotten. These cycles of fandom were going long before the internet of course, when fanfiction used to be self-published in underground fanzines and traded at conventions along with VHS tapes of the Star Wars Christmas Special. The impending Delicious shutdown is a pretty rare event, since so many fans are still actively using the site, but there's no reason to fear. It'll be a hassle, but everyone just needs to pack up their stuff and move house, like we do every couple of years anyway. Fandom endures and fandom adapts to anything.

There are more important things to worry about. Like finishing this #%&@!! Yuletide story.

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