This is Part 4 of a series of blog posts discussing the History of World of Anime. If you have not read Parts 1 - 3, please read those first.
Part 3 of this series described the fall of the site from its height of popularity in 2015 up to mid 2018. The new software platform from the reboot was not living up to the expectations I had hoped for, so new features were no longer being created. The site was like every other social networking site now, and users were not excited by it anymore. I had no idea what I should do next for the site.
It took an event in June 2018 for things to finally reach a boiling point with me. The version of the captcha (reCAPTCHA, from Google) used when signing up accounts was being deprecated and no longer worked. As a result, there was a huge increase in bots signing up and spamming the site. The new version of the captcha required a later version of Social Engine than I had, so I had to upgrade. It should have been a routine upgrade, but something went horribly wrong.
The site was upgraded, however the custom theme the site was using (which was yet another 3rd party) no longer worked right with the new version of the software. Everything looked really bad, and the site was pretty unusable. To make matters worse, the 3rd party which developed the theme was no longer around, so I had no one to turn to to help fix the problem. All I could do was find another theme to buy, which is the one you see on the site now (as of May, 2019) It has some of its own bugs, some of which have been fixed and some of which haven't. But now I'm afraid to try to upgrade things on the site, unsure of whether I will make things worse. I'm also not sure if I like the new theme better or the old one better. It is a little more functional now, but I think the other theme was more visually appealing. Either way, it doesn't matter. I have no control over how the site looks or behaves now, and that gets into why I'm not happy with the site right now.
I started World of Anime as a project to see what I could build. And instead it has now turned in to just owning a generic piece of social networking software that I can't do anything with, and I'm also at the mercy of several 3rd parties. I had to upgrade Social Engine because reCAPTCHA from Google wasn't working with it, and then the other 3rd party theme broke because of it, and so on. I became very angry at this dependence on 3rd parties, and not being able to do anything about it.
So once I got things back to an at least usable form, I made a decision. I decided I wanted to build stuff again. I want to put things on to World of Anime that are my own creation, and have people use things I make. That is where I get my satisfaction. Not from number of users, but from what they are using. I would rather have 20 users using things that I create than 1000 users using something someone else creates. So I made a decision sometime in July of 2018 that I was going to do something crazy. I was going to, one final time, start over from scratch and create a version of World of Anime with the classic look and feel of the original World of Anime, along with the classic features of World of Anime like the Anime Database and Fan Fiction.
However, I do not want people to have to re-register accounts again, or lose everything they have done up to this point. And I also don't want to have to build the core of a social networking site. The one good thing about the reboot was that there is now solid social network software at the core of the site, handling the basic features like user accounts, friends, posts, likes, etc... And I don't want to have to deal with re-creating and maintaining the basics like that. What I want to do is create new features and applications for users to use. I think having a 3rd party social networking application at the core is the right thing to do, but that's all I want it there for, I want to build everything else around it.
So I once again began looking for solutions. I found a 3rd party API plugin for Social Engine which seemed to be just what I want. It would allow me to create my own custom applications, and connect with the core of the World of Anime social networking site. So in August, 2018, I bought and installed that plugin, and then dusted off the old World of Anime site, which I still had on my computer. I took the design of it, and the database from it, which still had all the old data from the original World of Anime, and I began creating an entire new web site from scratch again. The look and feel is the same as the old web site, and much of the old data from the old web site is still there for me to use. But other than that, everything was started over, and written in a much more robust manner and a much more mature and maintainable web framework.
This is what I have been working on now for the past several months. There is still a lot of work to do on it, but I made a decision recently that instead of waiting until everything I want for version 1 is done, I'm going to stop new development for now, get it to a working version, and put it out there for people to begin using. Then after that, I'll get back to working on adding more features to it. Having users using it will help me discover any bugs too, and help guide me towards new features. Kind of like the original World of Anime did, back in 2009.
The first version is very close to being ready for you to use. Sometime in the next few days, I am going to be announcing the new web site. I hope everyone will like using it. People who are old time World of Anime users will hopefully like the nostalgic feel of the old web site. And people who were not there before 2015 will hopefully enjoy seeing how the site looked and behaved back in the early days. I am excited because for the last several months, I've actually been able to build stuff again. And I am very excited to show it to you and have you start using it. Hopefully I'll see lots of you back here in a few days for the big announcement.