a brief history of fansites

On the Internet of the late 90s and early 2000s, individual hobbyists created fansites about their favorite things, much as fans do today through social media like fandom wikis, Facebook pages, Tumblr blogs, and Instagram channels. Fansites in the late 90s and early 2000s, however, were more of a homebrewed combination of a wiki and a Tumblr/Instagram/Facebook page, where fans of a particular thing could often find thoughtful and opinionated articles, news and updates, fan works such as fiction and art, specially designed graphics and icons, lively discussion on forums and tagboards, and more.

The particular beauty of this community was that each fansite was usually not only written and compiled by a single creator, but was designed by that creator as well. This meant that there were thousands upon thousands of different layout styles, graphics, and icons, as well as millions of different experiments with user interface design and color schemes. Small bands of like-minded content creators would often share design tips and tricks with each other through email or instant messengers like AIM, MSN, Yahoo!, and ICQ. In so doing, they created a design subculture all their own, with trends coming and going.

Fansites like the ones I'm describing may seem a bit redundant in the age of social media and modern fandom, but I can assure you that there are still people making stuff like this. I'm one of them, after all, and I'm in a community of people who still love doing it. Though the Internet has changed very much in those intervening years, my personal affection for the fansite medium and its design trends has never quite flamed out, and I think it's still worth preserving. Hand-built fansites are definitely not as easy to update as a social media page, and may not be as comprehensive as a wiki, but I find that creating a site from the ground up has a more personal, "labor of love" feel, allowing folks like me to share our individual perceptions and perspectives. This is why the Nostalgia Project was created, and I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I enjoyed creating it.

the original design »»