Fanfiction.net boasts itself as the “world’s largest fan-fiction archive and forum where fan-fiction writers and readers around the globe gather to share their passion,” and though it is difficult to find any set or specific set of recent numbers to back up or dispute this claim, as of 2010, a website by the name of ffnresearch.blogspot.com explains how to find out how many works have been published on the site to date: simply by looking at a story id. As this was written, there were 12,255,376 stories that had been published, whether they are still published or have been since deleted, to the site, though ffnresearch explains there is no way to know for sure if there are still this many stories currently posted. At one point, however, there have been 12,255,376 different stories posted to the site over the course of 18 years. While fanfiction.net has been around for 18 years—it can vote, it can smoke, it can join the army, in some countries it can even drink now—is its age enough to remain in the good grace’s of fiction writers everywhere?
In 2008, a website by the name of Archive Of Our Own—affectionately known as ao3 to many—was created, and launched into open beta in November of the following year, and people fell in love almost instantly. Archive Of Our Own currently hosts over two million fanworks and boats over 14,000 users, with the numbers constantly growing every day.
But does newer necessarily mean better? For some, yes, for others, no.
Fanfiction.net can claim the nostalgia factor, as long as it’s been around. Many people in the fanfiction game started with their site, so it holds a special place in a lot of users’ hearts. But logistically, what are its selling points? For one, the sheer amount of stories that are posted to the site, the number of users and categories that it hosts, mean that there is bound to be something for near everyone to read. It also boasts a private messaging system that Archive Of Our Own is severely lacking in, and provides writers with the ability to view how many hits their stories receive both as a whole and by chapter.
The fallbacks of the site, however, lie in its search system and its limiting in how one can search; it allows you to use keywords, and exclude certain words or phrases from the search results; it allows you to filter by two genres and up to four characters that are included in the fic, but it’s rare that it yields results that the searcher finds satisfying. In addition, fanfiction.net also has policies against MA rated content, and doesn’t allow for things like fanart or fanvideos, or allow you to link to outside sources or sites in your postings, carving out its niche as a site for fanfiction and nothing else.
Archive Of Our Own is much freer in its policies, allowing for all of the things that fanfiction.net does not: art, videos, links, MA rated content—ao3 even allows unrated content as well and podfics. It also allows users to add specific tags to their works, letting you narrow down your choices of what you can read to very specific topics and subjects, and include as many pairings and characters as you would like in your search. But a quip users have with ao3 is the fact that, rather than being allowed to just sign up for the site like you would any other one, you have to instead request an invitation from the site to be permitted to sign up for it, a system that some find they are too impatient to deal with.
Everyone has a different opinion: there people who find ao3 easier to navigate; some claim it’s too busy or complicated for them to figure out; others don’t want to wait for an invitation; there are those who think simpler is better and would rather stick with fanfiction.net; others still seek the nostalgia factor that fanfiction brings to the table for them, as it was a starting point for them in their fanfiction career.
Despite what these authors may think, there’s no use denying that it’s all irrelevant when it comes down to it, what matters more than anything is the love of fic, and the love of reading and writing that comes with it.