This is Part 3 of a series of blog posts discussing the History of World of Anime. If you have not read Parts 1 and 2, please read those first.
In Part 2, I talked about the growth of World of Anime from its infancy in 2009 into what may have been the height of popularity, in 2015. Those of you who were around then will remember September, 2015 as the time when everything on World of Anime changed. There was a reboot of the site, into a completely different platform, and all user accounts and other data was gone. World of Anime essentially started over.
You might be wondering, if everything was going so good, why did I do this? While everything may have appeared to be going well, behind the scenes, it wasn't. As you have seen from the previous posts, the original World of Anime was all custom developed by a single person over the course of what was now 6 years. It was started out just as a hobby project with not a lot of planning and thought as to where it was going. Anyone who does software development knows where something like that winds up.
By 2015, the codebase had grown so much, and many parts of the system had deep underlying bugs and performance problems that were going to be difficult if not impossible to fix, and were only going to get worse with increased users. I was frequently being e-mailed with bugs people were finding. I was fixing the ones I could as fast as I could, but more were being discovered quicker than I could fix them. And as I mentioned, some of them were so deeply embedded in the code that fixing them was not a viable option.
Also at this time, there were a few users on the site who were seemingly there just to cause trouble. In addition to bothering users, some people liked to discover the bugs on the site and exploit them to make bad things happen. It seemed like I was spending most of my time fixing bugs, finding exploits people were taking advantage of and trying to fix those, and making sure the site was staying up and not crashing due to the bugs and exploits I was talking about. This was not why I had started the site. It was to build things for anime fans to use to communicate with each other and have fun together. I began to get overwhelmed, and did not want to continue like this anymore.
I decided that instead of owning and being responsible for all of the code the site runs on, that it would be better if I were to instead turn to a pre-made software package that was built specifically for social networking sites, at least for the core. I researched several, and the one I decided on was a package called Social Engine. It seemed to have most of the main functionality the existing site had, and from the documentation, it looked like it could be easily extended for adding your own features. That was my plan all along, install a solid core social networking software package that provided all of the basic features and functionality, and then build my own custom features on top of it, like the Anime Database, Fan Fiction, etc.
So on September 24, 2015, the site was rebooted, and the old World of Anime no longer existed. Users had to re-register for the site, and start everything over from scratch. Most people were ok, and seemed to like the new site. Maybe it was just because it was different, and they were looking for a change. Or maybe because it acted more like a traditional social networking site like they were used to. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, I have never liked social networking sites, and don't use them other than this one. As a result, I was able to make the initial version of World of Anime behave the way I thought it would be best to work, instead of whatever all the other sites were doing. Now I no longer had that, my site was just like all the others. I think this may have been the point where World of Anime started to lose some of its character.
The site still remained very popular for quite some time, including another round of drama as users who are there just to cause problems came around. It even resulted one time in me having to take the site completely offline for a few hours just so I could regroup. During that time, I had to decide whether I should even bother bringing the site back up, or if I should just be done with it. Ultimately I decided to bring it back up, mainly for the majority of the good and well behaved users who relied on the site to communicate with the friends they had made on the site.
If you are wondering why the site never gets new features anymore like it used it, it is because the promise the software had of being easily extensible turned out to not be so true. In the beginning, I tried working with it to add new features, but nothing ever worked the way I wanted to, and it was very frustrating to try to use. My dreams of getting the Anime Database and Fan Fiction sections back went away, and I was left with a plain old social networking site that looked exactly like all the other ones out there. The years went by, nothing was changing, and the userbase began getting smaller and smaller. It seemed like the site was slowly dying away right in front of my eyes, and I didn't know what to do about it.
Then, in June of 2018, something else happened on the site which was the next big change in direction for the site, even though you wouldn't know it yet. Those of you who were around then will remember that as the time that the entire look of the site changed, very accidentally and very unexpectedly. It was one of my darkest times on the site, and in Part 4, I will go into what that was, and the long term ramifications that has had, and will continue to have on this web site.