Fandom (website)

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Fandom, Inc.
Logo since August 2021
Type of businessPrivate
Type of site
Wiki hosting service
Available inMultilingual
FoundedOctober 18, 2004; 19 years ago (2004-10-18)
Headquarters,
U.S.
OwnerTPG Inc. (2018–present)[1]
Founder(s)
Key people
  • Perkins Miller (CEO)
  • Jimmy Wales (president)
  • Brandon Rhea (VP of Community)
Products
  • Wiki hosting
    • Wiki topic discussion forums
  • Data research[2]
  • Private focus group and early marketing[3]
  • API[4]
  • Digital pop culture news magazine[5]
Employees300+ (2016)
Subsidiaries
URL
AdvertisingDirect and advertising networks
RegistrationOptional
Users350 million[6] (as of December 11, 2022)
Launched
  • October 18, 2004; 19 years ago (2004-10-18) (wiki hosting service; as Wikicities)
  • January 25, 2016; 8 years ago (2016-01-25) (Fandom News and Stories)
Current statusActive
Content license
Written inPHP, JavaScript (Node.js)
Hallidie Building in San Francisco, current Fandom headquarters

Fandom[a] (formerly known as Wikicities and Wikia[b]) is a wiki hosting service that hosts wikis mainly on entertainment topics (i.e., video games, TV series, movies, entertainers, etc.).[9] The privately held, for-profit Delaware company was founded in October 2004 by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley.[1][10] Fandom was acquired in 2018 by TPG Inc. and Jon Miller through Integrated Media Co.[11]

Fandom uses MediaWiki, the same open-source wiki software used by Wikipedia. Unlike the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that hosts Wikipedia, Fandom, Inc. operates as a for-profit company and derives its income from advertising and sold content, publishing most user-provided text under copyleft licenses.[12] The company also runs the associated Fandom editorial project, offering pop-culture and gaming news.[13] Fandom wikis are hosted under the domain fandom.com, which has become one of the top 50 most visited websites in the world, rapidly rising in popularity beginning in the early 2020s. It ranks as the 50th as of October 2023, with 25.79% of its traffic coming from the United States and followed by Russia with 7.76% according to Similarweb.[14]

History

2004–2009: Early days and growth

Fandom was launched on October 18, 2004, at 23:50:49 (UTC) under the name Wikicities (which invited comparisons to Yahoo's GeoCities),[15] by Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, and Angela Beesley Starling—respectively chairman emeritus and advisory board member of the Wikimedia Foundation. Wales' original idea was to use his Wikipedia idea for a place where people from the same city or other geographical place could come together.[16]

The project's name was changed to Wikia on March 27, 2006.[17] In the month before the move, Wikia announced a US$4 million venture capital investment from Bessemer Venture Partners and First Round Capital.[18] Nine months later, Amazon.com invested $10 million in Series B funding.[19] By September 2006, Wikia had approximately 1,500 wikis in 48 languages.[20] Over time, Wikia has incorporated formerly independent wikis such as LyricWiki, Nukapedia, Uncyclopedia, and WoWWiki.[21] Gil Penchina described Wikia early on as "the rest of the library and magazine rack" to Wikipedia's encyclopedia.[22] The material has also been described as informal, and often bordering on entertainment, allowing the importing of maps, YouTube videos, and other non-traditional wiki material.[23]

2010–2015: New management

By 2010, wikis could be created in 188 different languages.[12] In October 2011, Craig Palmer, the former CEO of Gracenote, replaced Penchina as CEO.[24] In February 2012, co-founder Beesley Starling left Wikia to launch a startup called ChalkDrop.com.[25] At the end of November 2012, Wikia raised $10.8 million in Series C funding from Institutional Venture Partners and previous investors Bessemer Ventures Partners and Amazon.com.[26] Another $15 million was raised in August 2014 for Series D funding, with investors Digital Garage, Amazon, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Institutional Venture Partners. The total raised at this point was $39.8 million.[27][28]

On March 4, 2015, Wikia appointed Walker Jacobs, former executive vice-president of Turner Broadcasting System, to the new position of chief operating officer.[29] In December 2015, Wikia launched the Fan Contributor Program.

2016–2018: Fandom brand

Former Fandom logo used until May 2017
FANDOM logo from 2017 to 2021

On January 25, 2016, Wikia launched a new entertainment news site named Fandom.[30] On October 4, Wikia itself was rebranded as "Fandom powered by Wikia", to better associate itself with the Fandom website. The parent company Wikia, Inc. remained under its then-current name until 2019, and the homepage of Wikia was moved to wikia.com/fandom and later to fandom.com.[8] In December, Wikia appointed Dorth Raphaely, former general manager of Bleacher Report, as chief content officer.[31]

On May 18, 2017, Fandom updated their branding with a refreshed logo, all-uppercase lettering, and a flat design instead of the previous green-blue gradients.[citation needed]

2018–present: Further acquisitions and inclusivity

In February 2018, former AOL CEO Jon Miller, backed by private equity firm TPG Capital, acquired Fandom.[1] Miller was named co-chairman of Wikia, Inc., alongside Jimmy Wales,[32] and TPG Capital director Andrew Doyle assumed the role of interim CEO.[33] In July, Fandom purchased Screen Junkies from Defy Media,[34] and in December of that year, they had acquired Curse Media which included wiki farm Gamepedia and websites part of the Curse Network such as D&D Beyond, Futhead, Muthead, and StrawPoll.me.[35]

In February 2019, former StubHub CEO Perkins Miller took over as CEO,[33] and Wikia fully changed its domain name to fandom.com.[36] Various wikis had been tested with the new domain during 2018, with some wikis that focused on "more serious topics" having their domains changed to wikia.org instead.[37] In June, Fandom began an effort to rewrite its core platform, which was written based on MediaWiki version 1.19, to base it on a newer version of the software.[38] On March 11, 2020, Fandom released the Unified Community Platform (UCP), based on MediaWiki 1.33,[39] for newly created wikis.[40]

In 2020, Fandom sold Curse Network properties to Magic Find which includes communities and news websites.[41] In November, Fandom began to migrate Gamepedia wikis to a fandom.com domain as part of their search engine optimization strategy, with migrations continuing into 2021.[42][43]

In February 2021, Fandom acquired Focus Multimedia, the retailer behind Fanatical, an e-commerce platform that sells digital games, ebooks and other products related to gaming.[44] In late March, Fandom updated its terms of use policy to prohibit deadnaming transgender individuals across their websites.[45][46] This policy was in response to a referendum on the Star Wars wiki Wookieepedia to ban deadnaming, which triggered a debate around an article about the non-binary artist Robin Pronovost.[47] In response to the deadnaming controversy, Fandom also introduced new LGBT guidelines across its websites in late June 2021 which include links to queer-inclusive and trans support resources.[48]

In June 2021, Fandom began to roll out FandomDesktop, a redesigned theme for desktop devices,[49] with plans to retire its legacy Oasis and Hydra skins once the rollout was complete.[50] Two months later on August 3, Fandom rolled out a new look, new colors, new logo, and introduced a new tagline, "For the love of fans."[51] In late November/early December, all remaining wikis under the wikia.org domain migrated to the fandom.com domain.[52]

On April 13, 2022, Hasbro announced that it would acquire D&D Beyond from Fandom.[53][54] Fandom shut down StrawPoll.me in August.[55] On October 3, Fandom acquired GameSpot, Metacritic, TV Guide, GameFAQs, Giant Bomb, Cord Cutters News, and Comic Vine from Red Ventures.[56]

Services and features

Present

Wikis

The main purpose of articles in a Fandom community is to cover information and discussion on a particular topic in a much greater and more comprehensive detail level than what can be found in Wikipedia articles.[57]

Other examples of content that is generally considered beyond the scope of Wikipedia articles include Fandom information about video games and related video game topics, detailed instructions, gameplay details, plot details, and so forth. Gameplay concepts can also have their own articles. Fandom also allows wikis to have a point of view, rather than the neutral POV that is required by Wikipedia (although NPOV is a local policy on many Fandom communities).[58][59]

The image policies of Fandom communities tend to be more lenient than those of Wikimedia Foundation projects, allowing articles with much more illustration. Fandom requires all user text content to be published under a free license;[60] most use the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, although a few wikis use a licence with a noncommercial clause (for instance Memory Alpha, Uncyclopedia and others[61]) and some use the GNU Free Documentation License.[c][62] Fandom's terms of use forbid hate speech, libel, pornography, or copyright infringement. Other material is allowed, as long as the added material does not duplicate existing wikis.[63]

Wikis are also not owned by their founders, nor does the founder's opinion carry more weight in disagreements than any other user's opinion. Consensus and cooperation are the primary means for organizing a community on Fandom.[63] However, Fandom may make decisions affecting the community even if there is no consensus at all.[64]

Technology

As of May 2023, Fandom uses a heavily modified version[65] of the MediaWiki software, based on the version 1.39 of MediaWiki.[66] It has several custom extensions installed to add social features like blogs, chat, badges, forums, and multimedia,[67] but also remove features like advanced user options[68][69] or skins. The personal choice[70] of using the Monobook skin instead of the default custom skin was removed on May 25, 2018, alluding GDPR compliance.[71]

In August 2016, Fandom announced it would switch to a service-oriented architecture.[72] It has also removed many custom extensions and functionality for specific wiki, has created certain features to fill those needs.[73]

Entertainment news

In 2016, Wikia launched Fandom, an online entertainment media website. The program utilizes volunteer contributors called "Fandom Contributors"[74] to produce articles, working alongside an editorial team employed by Wikia. In contrast to the blogging feature of individual wiki communities, Fandom focuses on pop culture and fan topics such as video games, movies, and television shows. The project features fan opinions, interviews with property creators, reviews, and how-to guides. Fandom also includes videos and specific news coverage sponsored or paid for by a property creator to promote their property.

In the same year, it was also announced that the entire Wikia platform would be rebranded under the Fandom name on October 4, 2016.[8] A leak from Fandom's Community Council was posted to Reddit's /r/Wikia subreddit in August 2018, confirming that Fandom would be migrating all wikis from the wikia.com domain, to fandom.com in early 2019, as part of a push for greater adoption of Fandom's wiki-specific applications on both iOS and Android's app ecosystems. The post was later deleted.[75]

Wiki partnerships

Fandom has created several official partnerships to create wikis, vetted by the corporation as being the "official" encyclopedia or wiki of a property. In 2012, Fandom partnered with Sony Online Entertainment to create the first "Wikia Official Community" for PlanetSide 2, with the game's wiki slated to receive exclusive content and support.[76][77] In 2014, Fandom partnered with Roddenberry Enterprises to create the Trek Initiative, a Fandom hosted wiki community site that features video interviews, promotions, and other material about Star Trek to celebrate its 50th anniversary.[78] Fandom made similar partnerships with 2K Games during the launch of Civilization: Beyond Earth[79] and Warner Bros Interactive for Shadow of Mordor.[80] Fandom also has partnerships with Lionsgate Media to promote Starz and Film franchises through wiki content, fandom articles, and advertisements.[citation needed]

Esports

In 2021 the United States Navy hired Fandom to manage and promote esports tournaments and streams on Twitch.[81]

Fandom Games (YouTube channel)

With Fandom's acquisition of Curse Media, the Curse Entertainment YouTube channel was renamed to Fandom Games. Fandom Games publishes Honest Game Trailers, which was previously published on the Smosh Games YouTube channel until Screen Junkies was acquired by Fandom.[82]

Past services

OpenServing

OpenServing was a short-lived Web publishing project owned by Fandom, founded on December 12, 2006,[83][84] and abandoned, unannounced, in January 2008.[85] Like Fandom, OpenServing was to offer free wiki hosting, but it would differ in that each wiki's founder would retain any revenue gained from advertising on the site.[83][86][87] OpenServing used a modified version of the Wikimedia Foundation's MediaWiki software created by ArmchairGM, but was intended to branch out to other open source packages.[83][88]

According to Fandom co-founder and chairman Jimmy Wales, the OpenServing site received several thousand applications in January 2007.[89] However, after a year, no sites had been launched under the OpenServing banner.[85]

Armchair GM

ArmchairGM was a sports forum and wiki site created by Aaron Wright, Dan Lewis, Robert Lefkowitz, and developer David Pean. Launched in early 2006, the site was initially US-based but sought to improve its links to sports associated with Britain over its first year. Its MediaWiki-based software included a Digg-style article-voting mechanism, blog-like comment forms with "thumbs up/down" user feedback, and the ability to write multiple types of posts (news, opinions, or "locker room" discussion entries).[citation needed]

In late 2006, the site was bought by Fandom for $2 million.[90] After the purchase was made, the former owners applied ArmchairGM's architecture to other Fandom sites.[91] However, Wikia had "dropped support" for the custom software innovations by ArmchairGM by January 2010. From September 2010 to February 2011, Fandom absorbed ArmchairGM's encyclopedia articles and blanked all of its old blog entries, effectively discontinuing ArmchairGM in its original form.[citation needed]

The software powering ArmchairGM was incrementally open-sourced starting in February 2008 with the public release of the SocialProfile MediaWiki extension.[92] This process was complete by August 2011, when the original ArmchairGM codebase (internally codenamed wikia-ny[93]) was released in full. Since 2008 the ArmchairGM innovations, nicknamed "social tools", have been developed by volunteer developers of the MediaWiki community and they are available under the GNU General Public License, version 2 or later, which is a free and open-source software license. The source code is hosted on the Wikimedia Foundation's web servers and mirrored to the popular source code hosting platform GitHub.[94][95]

Search engines

Wikia, Inc. initially proposed creating a copyleft search engine; the software (but not the site) was named "Wikiasari" by a November 2004 naming contest.[d] The proposal became inactive in 2005.[citation needed] The "public alpha" of the Wikia Search web search engine was launched on January 7, 2008,[citation needed] from the USSHC underground data center.[97] This roll-out version of the search interface was roundly panned by reviewers in technology media.[98] The project was ended in March 2009.[99] Late in 2009, a new search engine was established to index and display results from all sites hosted on Fandom.[citation needed]

Questions and answers site

In January 2009, the company created a question and answer website named "Wikianswers" (not to be confused with the preexisting WikiAnswers).[100] In March 2010, Fandom re-launched "Answers from Wikia", where users could create topic-specialized knowledge market wikis based upon Fandom's own Wikianswers subdomain.[101]

Controversies

Advertising controversies

Fandom communities have complained of inappropriate advertisements, resource-intensive advertisements, or advertising in the body text area. Users have also complained that the advertisements are so resource-intensive and hindering, that they have no choice but to use an ad-blocker to continue using the website.[102]

McDonald's Grimace Shake promotion

In June 2023, McDonald's paid Fandom an undisclosed amount to temporarily replace the McDonald's Wiki's main page and exhaustive article on Grimace into an advertisement promoting the Grimace Shake and the character's 52nd anniversary. The article's primary contributor, Nathan Steinmetz, complained that the decision undermined his research and efforts and considered Fandom to have set a "really bad precedent" of IP holders' ability to suppress user-generated content with press releases.[103][104][105]

Wiki departures

A number of wikis have migrated away from Fandom, citing issues such as intrusive advertising and branding, a non-user-friendly site design, a lack of customizability and company cross-promotion which is often irrelevant to wiki content.[106][107] Other communities, such as the Zelda Wiki and Minecraft Wiki, have named the increasing "corporate consolidation" of wikis, alleged censorship, Fandom's "degraded" functionality and the Grimace controversy among their reasons for migrating.[107][108][109] Covering the Minecraft Wiki's departure for PC Gamer, Rich Stanton stated that most of the migrations began after the 2018 acquisition and Gamepedia's move to Fandom. He noted that the Minecraft Wiki would have to face Fandom's higher search engine optimization (SEO) and the struggle to establish a wider audience after moving.[107] In 2023, Fandom CEO Perkins Miller told The Verge that he takes wiki migration "very seriously".[110]

Some of the more high-profile wikis which have migrated from Fandom include the RuneScape wiki in 2018,[106] the Zelda and Terraria wikis in 2022,[108][109][111] and the Minecraft, Fallout and Hollow Knight wikis in 2023.[107][112][113] Some wikis have received support from the creators of their topic areas during migration.[106][111]

Forking

There is no easy way for individual communities to switch to conventional paid hosting, as Fandom usually owns the relevant domain names. When a community leaves Fandom for new hosting, Fandom typically continues to operate the abandoned ("forked") wiki using its original name and content for advertising revenue as long as editing and viewership remains. This can adversely affect the new wiki's search rankings,[114] potentially also resulting in outdated or incorrect information being present and viewed more often than the information on the new wiki. Fandom allows only a message directing viewers to a discussion about whether to fork for as long as the discussion is active before the message is removed, and any administrators involved in the new wiki have their rights on the Fandom wiki removed.

Relationship with Wikipedia

In the 2000s, Fandom, then called Wikia, was accused of unduly profiting from a perceived association with Wikipedia.[115][116] Although Fandom has been referred to in the media as "the commercial counterpart to the non-profit Wikipedia",[117][118] Wikimedia[119] and Fandom staff[120] call this description inaccurate.

In 2006, the Wikimedia Foundation shared hosting and bandwidth costs with Wikia, and received some donated office space from Wikia during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006. At the end of the fiscal year 2007, Wikia owed the foundation $6,000. In June 2007, two members of the foundation's board of directors also served as employees, officers, or directors of Wikia.[121] In January 2009, Wikia subleased two conference rooms to the Wikimedia Foundation for the Wikipedia Usability Initiative.[122] According to a 2009 email by Erik Möller, deputy director of the Wikimedia Foundation:

We obtained about a dozen bids... We used averaging as a way to arrive at a fair market rate to neither advantage nor disadvantage Wikia when suggesting a rate. The averaging also resulted in a rate that was roughly equivalent to the most comparable space in the running.[123]

Fandom, Inc.

Fandom's former headquarters at 500 3rd Street in San Francisco

The overall parent company, Fandom, Inc., is headquartered at the Hallidie Building on 130 Sutter Street[124] in San Francisco, California.[125] The company was incorporated in Florida in December 2004 and re-incorporated in Delaware as Wikia, Inc. on January 10, 2006.[126]

Fandom has technical staff in the US, but also has an office in Poznań, Poland, where the primary engineering functions are performed.[20]

Fandom derives income from advertising. The company initially used Google AdSense[127] but moved on to Federated Media before bringing ad management in-house.[128] Alongside Fandom's in-house advertising, they continue to use AdSense as well as Amazon Ads and several other third-party advertising services. Fandom also gains income from various partnerships oriented around various sweepstake sponsorships on related wikis.

Fandom has several other offices.[129] International operations are based in Germany, and Asian operations and sales are conducted in Tokyo. Other sales offices are located in Chicago, Latin America, Los Angeles (marketing programming and content), New York City, and London.[130]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Stylized in all capital letters as FANDOM from 2017 to 2021.[8]
  2. ^ Officially from 2006 to 2016; fully phasing out between 2018 and 2021.
  3. ^ Most content on Wikia was licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License until June 19, 2009, at which point most wikis were relicensed to CC BY-SA.
  4. ^ The name was derived from the Hawaiian word for "quick" and asari, stem of the Japanese verb asaru, "to rummage".[96]

References

Attribution

Citations

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