One Year On - Celebrating the Anniversary of AO3 Open Beta!

Today, November 15th, is the first anniversary of the Open Beta launch of the Archive of Our Own! We're totally thrilled to reach this milestone!

Open Beta was the launch of our beautiful Archive into the fannish world at large, and came after two years of intense coding, testing, fundraising, writing of docs, development of policy, and other amazing work. Everyone working on the Archive was super-excited to be able to share the fruits of this work with the rest of fandom, after a year of testing with just a small group of volunteers in Closed Beta.

The results since we launched suggest that fandom loved our shiny work as much as we did! We have expanded faster than we ever dreamed.

When we entered Open Beta on 15 November 2009 we had:

  • 347 users
  • 668 fandoms
  • 6565 works

At the time of writing we have reached:

  • 10649 users
  • 7757 fandoms
  • 116888 works

We're looking forward to seeing our userbase grow and diversify even more - our International Outreach committee have been working hard on the mission of improving the experience for multinational fans. We already have 22 languages represented on the Archive, but we want to see more! (Let Support know if you want to post in a language not represented on that list!)

All this fannish activity filled up our servers quick-smart, so after only one year we're investing in new, much more powerful ones - an investment made possible by the generous support of fandom at large.

We've still got much, much more work to do - Open Beta is, well, beta, and it's been a year of immense change and growth for us. We've learnt a lot about what makes our users happy and we look forward to improving based on all the feedback we've had from fandom. But we're also VERY proud of how much we've achieved so far. Here are a few reflections from staffers on what reaching the first anniversary of Open Beta means to them - do add your thoughts in comments!

Zooey Glass, AD&T Chair

I'm totally amazed and proud of how much work and dedication has gone into this project. I was around last year for Open Beta, and I remember how crazily hard everyone involved was working (I think I still feel exhausted by it). Just this week, I've watched my team sit up all night to test and deploy new code - and then to bugfix when unexpected problems cropped up - and it makes me feel awed and proud. There's so much passion and so much hard work invested in this project.

For me personally, the year since Open Beta has also been about learning - about what kind of features users want, how to communicate with people inside the org and out, how to balance what we want and what we need, and HUGE amounts about servers and code and technical stuff I never dreamed I could understand (I was an English major!). My personal journey also reflects the journey the Archive has taken, and I know everything we have learnt this year will go to make the next year even better. I choke up when I see the feedback we get from users - fandom has supported us not only financially but also by taking the time to say thanks when they see things they enjoy. We're so glad we make you happy, and we really appreciate it when you tell us!

On a practical note, I also LOVE reading on the Archive - so much nommy fic to enjoy!

Helka Lantto, International Outreach member and Finnish translator

My involvement with AO3 has been mostly as a user – as a reader, to be exact. I began reading fic on the Archive after the Open Beta launch, and with time passing, I've come to prefer it to any other archive. True, the code is still in beta, but the Archive shows so much promise that I can't help but love it. In the future, my involvement with the Archive will grow when we get to translate the interface. It'll be a huge undertaking, especially for a small team like Finnish (hint! hint!), but it'll be worth it. It warmed my heart to see that we already have a few fics in Finnish there. Let's hope that with the translation of the interface, we'll get more of them.

Sidra, Systems Co-Chair and AD&T coder

The past two years have been a tremendous learning experience. Those of us in Systems had little to no experience with web applications that receive (during busy times) more than sixty thousand hits per hour, or databases that average two hundred requests per second. And those numbers will just keep climbing. Keeping the servers up and running has been a challenge but the rewards have been huge. Every time I look at the Archive I think, "I helped make this happen". And every time I see something I wish were different (which is, unfortunately, quite often), I know that I can work on making it better.

Enigel, AD&T coder, honorary tester, tag wrangler

I remember the flurry of activity before we launched Open Beta - coding, testing, bug-hunting, performance-testing - and the worries about the best number of invites to hand out per day. There were around 300 users back then, and I can now, when we're at over 10 000, confess that I had some doubts about the worrying itself. I was thinking to myself that it was kind of presumptuous to imagine the hordes of people knocking on our door before we were sure they were indeed going to be that eager, you know? ;)

It was amazing, over the next days, to see people asking for invites, people posting their works, people actually using this thing I had helped build. Every message with praise was a sign we did something good, every message with criticism was a sign that people cared enough to let us know what could be improved, and was a step towards making the Archive better.

10 000 users and 100K works later, I still have that awe and joy at seeing people use the Archive. If you notice something you think could be better, remember: your next support request might become my next coding project! :)

Kristen Murphy, Webmasters chair and tag wrangler

We made this. Once upon a time someone asked, "Can't we do this?" and fandom answered, "YES." That can-do, DIY spirit is one of my favorite things about the Archive. Every time I visit it, whether it's to browse for new works, post a story of my own, or wrangle tags, I think: this is here because a whole lot of fans cared enough to make it happen. The Archive truly is a labor of love. And it isn't only the staff and volunteers who have made it happen, although their efforts have been superheroic — this has been and continues to be a community-wide endeavor. Everyone who offered feedback on the early drafts of the TOS, everyone who's ever submitted a bug report or suggestion, everyone who's donated, everyone who's helped spread the word by posting a story to the Archive and inviting their friends to come and read it — all of these people have made the Archive possible and are helping to make it better, day by day. Thank you.

Rebecca Tushnet, Content Policy chair

I'm pretty sure there are monkeys that know more code than I do, but I'm so pleased to be able to participate in building the Archive by working on policy language that is, we hope, understandable, flexible, and inclusive. What the AO3 means to me is an archive that tries to do things that fans want done in a way that is sustainable in the long term. I have particularly enjoyed seeing tags used in new and exciting ways, combining folksonomy with structured organization. I really admire all the fans who've coded, wrangled, and kept the site up and running, and I look forward to the shiny new servers to make things even better.

Megan Westerby, Archive Support Chair and Development Officer

Stepping into the Support Committee recently I was struck by not only the Archive's fast growth but with how diverse that growth has been. When the Archive went into Open Beta there were 668 fandoms represented -- to have 7757 fandoms just one year later, on servers we own, on a system we built, on an Archive we've invested in -- it's boggling to think where we might be in a year, after video embeds, tagging structure and bookmarking start to make an impact. It's boggling and encouraging. We're building a home and a future and we built it from the foundation up.

Mirrored from an original post on the Archive of Our Own.

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