This is Part 2 of a series of blog posts discussing the History of World of Anime. If you have not read Part 1, please read that first.
After the welcome email, there was a short period where several people signed up for the site, after which, signups slowed down quite a bit. By the end of December, 2009, there were 44 registered users. Activity was very slow, too. Often it could be hours between any postings on the site. And there was rarely more than 1 or 2 people on the site at the same time. I tried interacting with everyone I could, trying to drum up interest in using the site. And when I wasn't posting and trying to keep people engaged, I was doing what I loved doing most on the site, building new features.
The site launched with only the most basic of features, and I worked frantically in the beginning to add things I thought people would like using. The first new major feature I added was the ability to send private messages. The next major feature was blogs. After that came chat, which in the spirit of everything else on the site at the time, was custom written by me. That turned out to be not a great idea, as the chat was confusing to use, slow, and buggy. I would eventually scrap it and replace it with a link to a Mibbit IRC chat room, which worked out much better.
The first year of the site had very slow growth, and very light usage. After 1 year of operation, the site had 119 registered users. However, even though it was a small user base, the people who kept showing up were very passionate and dedicated. I think the small user base helped begin to mold the culture of the web site. We weren't a lot of people, but we were very friendly and enjoyed discussing anime and other things with each other. We felt like a family, and it was a great feeling knowing I was helping bring people together to discuss a topic such as anime that they may not be able to discuss with anyone in real life because it can be such a niche topic.
As we grew, I continued to keep adding new features, such as Forums, Anime Answers (which I largely modeled after Yahoo! Answers, I site I used to enjoy reading a lot, which I'm not even sure is still around anymore), and Groups, which was a long time in the making. In addition to new features, I was constantly tweaking and enhancing existing features. One of my favorites was customizable themes, of which the users of the site provided the graphics and colors and designs. You could select which theme you wanted to view the site in, and the look and feel would change. There were 6 themes for the site, the original Classic Theme, and then 5 more that users of the site created. The site was constantly growing and getting better, and it was exciting seeing people's reactions when they would log in and see the new stuff and then start talking about it. Seeing people use and talk about my features gave me the motivation to keep going.
What I believe to be the two of the biggest, and my most favorite features that I built were the Anime Database, and Fan Fiction, which closely went together. The Anime Database was exactly what it sounds like, a user generated database of anime, grouped by genre, type (OVA, Movie, TV), and year released. It included information such as English title, Japanese title, description, number of episodes, and an episode list, including title, air date and description of each episode. All of this had to be input by the users of the site. I entered several myself, but I was very happy to see that many, many users took it upon themselves to really populate the database well. People would spend lots of time adding information about shows and episodes. By the time it was not editable anymore (which I'll get to later), there were 746 titles added to the database, and 4,839 episodes. In addition, each title allowed a user to rate it and to write a review if they wanted. There were a total of 2,483 ratings given, and 398 reviews written.
And speaking of writing, I could tell early on that writing was something the users of the site loved doing, and from the early days, I always wanted to build a Fan Fiction section on the site, so people could write and post their fan fiction. So that is exactly what I did, and it integrated nicely with the Anime Database, as many fan fictions were written based on anime. But I know a lot of fan fiction is original and not related to an existing anime, so fan fiction could also be submitted that was marked as original and not related to an anime. The Fan Fiction section became one of the most popular areas on the site, not just for the writers, but for people who loved to read the fan fictions. I can tell from analytics on the site how long people stay, and the site had a huge average page session time because many people would spend a long time on the fan fiction pages, reading the stories our users wrote. All in all, there were 618 unique stories written, with a total of 1,438 chapters.
As these new features were introduced, and existing features were enhanced, the usage of the site began to pick up. Slowly at first, and then quite a bit, actually catching me a little surprised. Our number of registered users at the end of each of the first few years was this:
It wasn't just registered users that was rapidly increasing. Usage on the site all around was at an all time high. At its peak, the site was receiving about 1 million page views per month, and an average session duration of nearly 30 minutes, which is exceptionally high. People were spending a long time on the site, and viewing lots of pages. The site was very popular, at least in my opinion considering it was a single person project done more as an experiment to see what I could build.
However, everything was not going as great as it might have appeared. Behind the scenes, there were many problems in place that was going to prevent the site from continuing growing as it was. Something drastic had to change, and that was the reboot of the site in 2015. Many people questioned why I did it. I have said from the beginning that it had to happen. And in part 3, I will go into why it had to happen, what exactly happened, and the immediate effects of it happening. I'll also begin going into my thoughts on the old site vs. the new site, and where I see things going from here. I hope you'll all come back and check out part 3 of this blog series.