Hopefully this post will be a bit shorter since for once this isn’t an end-of-day post, but something that had been on my mind as something I wanted to discuss. Now I’m not exactly an artist, as I haven’t drawn anything in years, but I have written some stories here and there. I’ve also commissioned some art in the past and more recently, just to give you an idea of where I’m coming from in my opinions. A heavy user/artist might look at things differently, etc etc.
One of the oldest art sites still running, bar VCL(if it still exists) and Furnation(If that really counts, as it is more of a general webhost). Over time due the the lack of a TwitSpaceBook site for the furry community, the community sort of shangahied it into that role, despite the best(and continuing) efforts of the admins. Their intention is a place to put up art that was done “by you/for you” but over time they’ve narrowed that definition, and clarified parts of it.
For example, Second Life. Originally, there were very few restrictions on what could be uploaded of SL pictures, then there started to be a large force of furs who put up random pictures of their stock avatar(about 75% of the time probably in a sexual pose). This annoyed a vocal minority of users who disliked Second Life in and of itself, and the admins added a restriction to the number of shots you could have of each avatar. Eventually that wasn’t enough and they then moved to only allowing collages and requiring a significant amount of user modifications. Their justification each time was that the users could post the pics on Imageshack or TwittTumblrBook if they wanted to share them as there was no creativity involved, and there were too many for them to police themselves.
Eventually, they banned SL content all together on everyone’s main gallery, despite there being actual heavy creative work involved whether modding(like my avatars) or work form scratch, just because they didn’t want to deal with the arguments and fights any longer. All because some users wanted to post pictures of “themselves” and their friends, just like they would on any other social networking site.
In the years since I found the site, it has changed very little on the outside. A new color scheme, but mostly lots of back-end work to keep up with the heavy demand. There was talk years ago of a FA 2.0 but so far it has yet to materialize. The front page layout lends itself well to art of a visual nature, taking top billing, with seperate sections below for literature and for audial art. All it shows though is a bunch of thumbnails, but mousing over gives a small pop-up of the description, not leaving you totally in the dark. It also only shows the most recent uploads on the front page.
User pages are fairly basic as well, with places for your most recent favorites, most recent uploads, a shoutbox, a spot to feature your favorite submission, a slot for a visual profile ID thing(one of the few actual new features I can recall being put in), and a spot above it for all the text and icons you may want to put in. In practice, from what I said above about the community looking at it more as a social networking site than a pure art site, that profile box will sometimes take up a full monitor screen’s worth of space before you get to any submissions as they try to squeeze in all the detail they would normally have elsewhere. it’s also the only place you really have any customization beyond that provided.
Overall, it probably compares favorably to DeviantArt, with less customization on the user profiles, and some disagreement between the admins and the userbase on the purpose of the site.
Once upon a time this was purely an erotic story archive called YiffStar, before it changed hands and became the more general art site it is today. This has both good and bad points, but one theing they haven’t done is stay stagnant, with a 3.0 of the current site already in testing.
The front page has changed with the versions, and true to its roots it feels a lot more suited to posting stories than either FA or Weasyl. In large part this is because the stories submission, instead of just giving you a thumbnail, gives you a title, 5-star rating, and tags to give you an idea of what the story is about. It also gets even billing with the art at the top of the page, though still separated. Art is shown as thumbnails still, but that is also fitting.
The purpose of thumbnails, you see, is that it’s supposed to give you a quick idea of the contents of the submissions so you can decide if you want to actually look at it or not, rather than making it a throw of the dice. i’d argue that their current approach to story submissions is really the text version of a thumbnail, and more appropriate for the medium than a possibly somewhat-related random picture in a tiny square.
Below that, they have photos and music separated out into their own sections. I kind of like that they have photos separated, as it leans towards preventing the kind of kerfluffle that led towards a lot of FA’s restrictions. The photos have normal thumbnails(as is proper) but the music has tags and rating, like the stories. If it were me, I’d probably have a 10-sec or 15-sec clip you can play from there to act as a true music “thumbnail”.
Another nice trick is that they have an option to view the most “popular” submissions, instead of most recent. It is the default as well, however, so it somewhat ends up in a feedback loop that drives certain submissions higher and higher. It’s sad to say(and I wish it were otherwise) that if you were to look at it with all filters off, maybe twice in a week will there be something non-sexual in the “most popular” section. Still, they also provide true filters(working via the tagging system) so you can hide what you don’t want to see, and the algorithm that picks what to display will adjust accordingly.
The user page itself is similar to FA’s, but with a bit more customization. Stories take top billing here, and content is again separated by type, as opposed to FA”s “lump it all together”. Journals are moved to the bottom, discouraging use of it as a blogging platform. In addition to avatars, you can add a banner here as well across the top of the profile page, and both banners and avatars will automatically adjust what is available based on the maximum rating you set; from G all the way to X.
That all said, the preview of the 3.0 version of the site I’m not sure is better. Rather than having all the media separated by type, it puts them all together, fitted into a grid ala Windows 8. There is supposed to be a list option too, but no preview of that yet. Stories will have all the current information it looks like, but with a short description added, and possibly limited on the number of displayed tags(as that part isn’t clear). You can still toggle between the various types instead. Bio/profile and journal also share space, with a toggle, which I’m not so sure is an improvement. Favorites don’t appear to have a display by default at all, just a link to get to them. It all feels like a lateral move rather than a straight improvement(apart from the fact it fixes some scaling issues).
Overall, great site for stories compared to the others, but if you’re looking for visual art, it tends to be a bit of a second-class citizen in some respects. The redesign coming aims to fix that, but we’ll see if the story focus is still there, or if literature becomes a second-class like FA.
I’ve got probably the least to say about this site. The newest(relatively) on the block, they’re still technically in Beta, but it might as well be a Google-style Beta at this point.
The front page in some ways feels like a darker-colored clone of FA’s, except that the “recent submissions” section puts everything together, with standard image thumbnails. When you mouse-over, it gives no extra information on it other than title, so no way to tell if it’s a story, image, or something else. If it had the FA-style description popup, it wouldn’t be as bad, but currently I’d rate it the poorest of the three in regards to the new submissions section.(On the other hand, as started they were still iterating and this could change.)
Below that however is a nice new feature where they display 10 random submissions from the entire site. A good way to promote older work, without running into the feedback loop of making popular stuff more popular.
The bottom of the page, besides the standard set of links, also offers promotion of artists wanting critique, and current streaming. SoFurry does the latter, but not the former, and FA does neither. An excellent idea to help growing artists.
The userpage design is somewhere between FA and SoFurry, and probably the cleanest of the three in presentation. In keeping with the non-separation of content, there is a filmstrip-style row at the top of the screen that shows the most recent submissions of that user. Like SoFurry(and unlike FA) it also implements folders to organize your submissions, and shows those below. It also displays your most recent art upload, but only for a time.. This is actually a rather nice idea, because it means you aren’t going to have the same image displayed prominently for long periods of time.
One innovative feature it has is a new submission type called “characters”. Unlike the other site, it has a place to put all your “OC donut steel” creations, complete with a visual piece about them, rather than having them lumped in with other artwork submissions. If you’re a heavy commissioner, I can see that as being a godsend, as you can simply link the artist you hire straight to a refpage and description, and easily keep it updated.
The other trick it has going for it is a feature called Collections. Aimed at commissioners, when an artist uploads a piece they can send a message to the person who commissioned it, and if the person accepts, it gets added to their Collections page. This way, it avoids duplicated content(one of the things causing FA’s back end to groan) while still allowing the commissioner to display their purchase with all their other stuff. However, it depends on both commissioner and artist being on Weasyl, and the artist sending the collection request. Originally you had to be the artist when Weasyl first came out, but because of the limitations I just mentioned, they changed their minds and just like FA you can upload anything “by you/for you”.
FA is the 800-pound bobcat on the block due to user intertia. It’s the most basic of the three, but between artists wanting to go where the most users are and users wanting to go where the most artists are, it keeps trundling along on that feedback loop and user inertia. It’s best suited for traditional art in my opinion.
SoFurry, true to its roots is the best place if you want to post stories and literature currently, but if you want to post any non-adult work of any kind, be prepared to not see much response unless it’s really good. (To be fair though, that last part is a failing on all three really, due to the nature of the userbase.) The revamp may or may not change that, but it’s still a ways off as it was still in the alpha stages a month ago.
Weasyl feels like FA+ right now. It has a similar bias towards traditional art, though more through the nature of their thumbnail system than by design. The design in general though looks like someone got fed up with FA not updating, took a long hard look at it and asked “how can I do this, but better?” Due to FA having the lion’s share of activity however, the only time it sees a lot of traffic is when FA is down, and from all reports it’s level of traffic is inverse to FA’s. After the last FA downtime I’ve seen a minor push from artists to move to Weasyl, but we’ll see if that continues.
…well this ended up being the longest entry yet. I guess I got a bit more into going over the details than I expected.