Jump to content

Archive of Our Own

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Archive of Our Own
A stylized red logo consisting of three lines: a V, an O, and a sideways V that resolves on its right end as a 3
Archive of Our Own's homepage.
Type of site
FoundedOctober 2008; 15 years ago (2008-10)
OwnerOrganization for Transformative Works
Launched14 November 2009 (2009-11-14) (Open beta)
Written inRuby

Archive of Our Own (AO3) is a nonprofit open source repository for fanfiction and other fanworks contributed by users. The site was created in 2008 by the Organization for Transformative Works and went into open beta in 2009 and continues to be in beta.[2] As of 1 July 2024, Archive of Our Own hosts 13,200,000 works in over 66,180 fandoms including those related to real people.[1] The site has received generally positive reception for its curation, organization, and design, mostly done by readers and writers of fanfiction.[3][4]


In 2007, a website called FanLib was created with the goal of monetizing fanfiction. Fanfiction was authored primarily by women, and FanLib, which was run entirely by men, drew criticism. This ultimately led to the creation of the nonprofit Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) which purported to record and archive fan cultures and works.[3] OTW created Archive of Our Own in October 2008 and established it as an open beta on 14 November 2009.[5][6][7] The site's name was derived from a blog post by the writer Naomi Novik who, responding to FanLib's lack of interest in fostering a "fannish" community, called for the creation of "An Archive of One's Own."[3] The name is inspired by the essay A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf, in which Woolf said that a writer needed space, time, and resources in order to create.[8][9] AO3 defines itself primarily as an archive and not an online community.[9]

By 2013, the site's annual expenses were about $70,000. Fanfiction authors from the site held an auction via Tumblr that year to raise money for Archive of Our Own, bringing in $16,729 with commissions for original works from bidders.[5] In 2018, the site's expenses were budgeted at approximately $260,000.[10] In 2022, the actual yearly expenses of AO3 were $290,688.25, most of which was used for server hosting and maintenance, and revenue from fundraising efforts reached a reported $512,358.90.[11][12] Fundraising for the platform is accomplished through multiple means. Primary fundraising efforts such as their April and October drives as well as other non-drive donations have raised $621,454.87 as of 30 September 2023.[13]  Some revenue is also collected in the form of royalties from books written by some of the initial OTW members.[14]

On 10 July 2023, an unnamed hacker group attacked the site with a DDOS attack or Denial-of-service attack. Anonymous Sudan (likely Russian-backed according to cybersecurity company CyberCX[15]) claimed responsibility in a Telegram post, saying it was motivated over the website's United States registration as well as its sexual and LGBT content.[16][17] The group then demanded $30,000 worth of Bitcoin within 24 hours to end the attack.[16][17] The site came back online the next day with Cloudflare protection added.[18]


Archive of Our Own runs on open source code programmed almost exclusively by volunteers in the Ruby on Rails web framework. The developers of the site allow users to submit requests for features on the site via a Jira dashboard.[3] AO3 has approximately 700 volunteers[8] who help the organization by working on volunteer committees. Each of these committees, which include AO3 Documentation, Communications, Policy & Abuse, and Tag Wrangling, manages a part of the site.


Archive of Our Own has a system for labeling and categorizing uploaded works, referred to as tags. The tagging system allows users to sort content based on intended audiences, included content, fandom, characters, relationship pairings, and additional tags.[19] Writers are generally free to choose whatever tags they like for their stories without restrictions on tag length, spaces, characters, or non-Roman characters.[20] The maximum number of tags was capped to 75 for works created after September 2021;[21] previously, authors used to be able to add an unlimited amount of tags to their work, which resulted in a The Untamed fanfic titled Sexy times with Wangxian creating issues with site navigation due to its over 1,700 tags.[22] When browsing or searching for a tag, any work which has used the tag, or determined related tags, will appear in the search in a curated folksonomy.[23]

All uploaded works on Archive of Our Own are required to use Rating Tags, Archive Warnings, and Fandom Tags. Rating Tags are self-appointed by writers and allow users to rate their stories by intended reader age ("General Audiences", "Teen And Up Audiences", "Mature", and "Explicit"), which are depicted as G, T, M, and E icons when searching. If the Not Rated tag is chosen, an empty icon is displayed.[24] Archive Warnings are used to alert readers about certain content warnings such as "Graphic Descriptions of Violence", "Major Character Death", "Rape/Non-Con" and "Underage"; there's also the option to tag "Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings".[25] Fandom Tags are used to sort the work into the appropriate fanbase. Multiple Fandom Tags can be used which is frequently used for crossovers.

Additional tags can range from indicating the type of relationship, character pairings or ships, individual characters, and a space for open tags.[25] Tags that indicate the type of relationships depicted in the work are called Category Tags and are of six types ("F/F", "M/M", "F/M", "Multi", "Other", and "Gen").[26] Some of these tags use a slash to depict a romantic and or sexual relationship pair. This style of depicting relationships with a slash traces its origin to slash fiction.[27][28] While slash fiction previously only indicated homosexual pairings, it has since been adapted as a shorthand for all types of relationships.[29] If there are non-romantic relationships within the work, the slash can be replaced with an "&" symbol.

The tagging system is maintained by volunteers called "Tag Wranglers". Approximately 300 of them manually connect synonymous tags to bolster the site's search system, allowing it to understand "mermaids", "mermen", and "merfolk" as constituents of the "merpeople" tag, as an example.[30]


The site does not require users to sign up using their legal names, allowing the use of usernames. In addition, users may identify themselves by one or more pseudonyms, referred to as "pseuds", linked to their central account.[3] In order to sign up, users must request an invitation which will be sent to their email addresses.[31] Receiving an Invitation can take a few days to weeks because there are only a few Invitations sent out per day. The invitation system is a metered signup queue to protect the website from spammers and mass influxes of users.[32] An account is not required to view posted content as long as the author has not chosen to show their works only to registered users.[33]

Only those with an account can publish works, participate in writing challenges, create a reading queue, follow authors and stories to receive notifications of updates, and bookmark their favourite works.[33][34]

Kudos and comments[edit]

In addition to sharing certain allowed fanfiction and works,[35] Archive of Our Own users can interact with posted materials. Like many other online platforms, readers with AO3 accounts can leave comments on publications which have not had comments deactivated.[36][37]

Readers can give stories kudos which function similarly to likes on other sites. Kudos are permanent and cannot be taken back. Added in 2010, the kudos feature, however, has been negatively received by various AO3 authors who claim that the simple act of leaving a 'like' discourages the reader from interacting further with the author's work through leaving comments or reviews.[36] In fact, in 2012, a number of authors banded together with the shared goal of creating an 'opt out' feature that allows authors on AO3 to remove the kudos feature from their published works.[36]


The legal team working on behalf of Organization for Transformative Works believes that the publication of fan fiction on AO3 is legal under the Fair Use doctrine, meaning that they need to be "transformative", which they interpret as giving new meaning to the original work.[38]

AO3 hosts controversial content including works depicting rape, incest and pedophilia.[8][9] This allowance was developed as a reaction to the policies of other popular fanfiction hosts such as LiveJournal, which at one time began deleting the accounts of fic writers who wrote what the site considered to be pornography, and FanFiction.Net, which disallows numerous types of stories including any that repurpose characters originally created by authors who disapprove of fanfiction.[3][9] According to AO3 Policy and Abuse Chair Matty Bowers, a small fraction (1,150) stories submitted to the Archive were flagged by users as "offensive".[9] Organization for Transformative Works Legal Committee volunteer Stacey Lantagne has stated that: "The OTW's mission is to advocate on behalf of transformative works, not just the ones we like."[9]

The OTW's Open Doors project, which launched in 2012, invited maintainers of older and defunct fic archives to import their stories into Archive of Our Own with the aim of preserving fandom history.[39] The site is also open to certain original, non-fanfiction works,[40] hosting over 250,000 such original works as of 27 January 2024.[41]

A chart of some of the largest fandoms (as of March 11, 2024).

AO3 reached one million works (including stories, art pieces, and podcast fic recordings, referred to as podfics) in February 2014. At that time, the site hosted works representing 14,353 fandoms, the largest of which were the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Supernatural, Sherlock, and Harry Potter.[6] In July 2019 it was announced that the site had 2 million registered users and 5 million posted works.[42] Of the top 100 character pairings written about in fic on the site in 2014, 71 were male/male slash fiction and the majority of character pairings featured white characters.[43] In 2016, about 14% of fics hosted on the site took place in an alternative universe (often shortened to AU) in which characters from a particular canon are transplanted into a different context.[44] The length of a story on Archive of Our Own tends to correlate with its popularity. Stories of 1,000 words often received fewer than 150 hits on average while stories that were closer in length to a novel were viewed closer to 1,500 times apiece.[25]

AO3 does not allow social media posts, prompts or requests, and any works that AO3 moderators consider to be spam or non-transformative. The decision to delete works for alleged violations of their Terms of Service (TOS) is handled on a case-by-case basis and users (not merely accounts) can be banned for it.[45] Furthermore, fan fiction published on AO3 is expected to be "noncommercial" – the author cannot legally make any money off of their fan fiction because they are using another author's characters, setting, etc.[38] AO3's nonprofit status prohibits it from commercializing works of fan fiction.


In 2012, in an article entitled "Where to find the good fanfiction porn", Aja Romano and Gavia Baker-Whitelaw of The Daily Dot described Archive of Our Own as "a cornerstone of the fanfic community", writing that it hosted content that other sites like FanFiction.Net and Wattpad didn't allow and was more easily navigable than Tumblr.[46]

Time listed Archive of Our Own as one of the 50 best websites of 2013, describing it as "the most carefully curated, sanely organized, easily browsable and searchable nonprofit collection of fan fiction on the Web".[4]

According to Casey Fiesler, Shannon Morrison, and Amy S. Bruckman, Archive of Our Own is a rare example of a value-sensitive design that was developed and coded by its target audience, namely writers and readers of fanfiction. They wrote that the site serves as a realization of feminist HCI (an area of human–computer interaction) in practice, despite the fact that the developers of Archive of Our Own had not been conscious of feminist HCI principles when designing the site.[3]

In 2019, Archive of Our Own was awarded a Hugo Award in the category of Best Related Work, a category whose purpose is to recognize science fiction–related work that is notable for reasons other than fictional text.[47][48] Fiesler wrote positively of the nomination: "...its nomination signals a greater respect for both fan fiction as an art form and for the creators and users of this remarkable platform. It's a recognition of the power of these diverse spaces and voices that have, for so long, been marginalized—both in genre fiction and in computing."[23]


Xiao Zhan controversy[edit]

On 29 February 2020, Archive of Our Own was blocked in China, after fans of Chinese actor Xiao Zhan reported the website for hosting an explicit fan fiction novel about Xiao Zhan.[49] The banning of the site led to several incidents and controversies online, in the Chinese entertainment industry, as well as to professional enterprises, due to heavy backlash from mainland Chinese users of Archive of Our Own.[50] Users called for a boycott against Xiao Zhan, his fans, endorsed products, luxury brands, and other Chinese celebrities involved with the actor.[51][52]


On 13 December 2022, the site was indexed by the German Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons due to "child pornography content", temporarily removing it from Google search results.[53] In January 2023, the restrictions were lifted since the agency had committed administrative errors in the indexing process.[54]


In March 2023, Roskomnadzor had requested Archive of Our Own to delete 16 fics, containing "child pornography".[55] The site was subsequently blocked in Russia on 14 April 2023, after failing to comply with the request. A Ukrainian Twitter user claimed responsibility for the report in a deleted tweet.[56]


  1. ^ a b "AO3 Home Page (via Wayback Machine)". Archive of Our Own. 1 July 2024. Archived from the original on 1 July 2024.
  2. ^ "Announcing Open Beta!". Organization for Transformative Works. 13 November 2009. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Fiesler, Casey; Morrison, Shannon; Bruckman, Amy S. (2016). An Archive of Their Own: A Case Study of Feminist HCI and Values in Design. CHI 2016. San Jose, CA: Association for Computing Machinery. pp. 2574–2585. doi:10.1145/2858036.2858409. ISBN 978-1-4503-3362-7.
  4. ^ a b Grossman, Lev (1 May 2013). "50 Best Websites 2013: Archive of Our Own". Time. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  5. ^ a b Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (3 May 2013). "Fans raise $16,000 in auction to help popular fic archive". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on 19 September 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  6. ^ a b Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (27 February 2014). "This is what 1 million fanfics looks like". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on 29 October 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  7. ^ Lothian, Alexis (2012). "Archival anarchies: Online fandom, subcultural conservation, and the transformative work of digital ephemera". International Journal of Cultural Studies. 16 (6): 541–556. doi:10.1177/1367877912459132. S2CID 145568162. Closed access icon
  8. ^ a b c Busch, Caitlin (12 February 2019). "An Archive of Our Own: How AO3 built a nonprofit fanfiction empire and safe haven". SyfyWire. Archived from the original on 19 February 2019. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Minkel, Elizabeth (8 November 2018). "Fan fiction site AO3 is dealing with a free speech debate of its own". The Verge. Archived from the original on 8 November 2018.
  10. ^ "OTW Finance: 2018 Budget". Organization for Transformative Works. 16 April 2018. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  11. ^ "OTW Finance: 2022 Budget Update". Archive of Our Own. Retrieved 31 October 2023.
  12. ^ "Organization for Transformative Works - 2022 Budget Update". Google Docs. Retrieved 31 October 2023.
  13. ^ "OTW Finance: 2023 Budget Update". Archive of Our Own. Retrieved 2 November 2023.
  14. ^ Rebaza, Claudia. "Support the OTW by Reading!". Organization for Transformative Works. Retrieved 2 November 2023.
  15. ^ Taylor, Josh (19 June 2023). "Hackers behind Microsoft outage most likely Russian-backed group aiming to 'drive division' in the west". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 11 July 2023.
  16. ^ a b Hollingworth, David (11 July 2023). "Fanfic Writers Targeted by Anonymous Sudan in Apparent DDOS Attack on AO3". Cyber Security Connect. Retrieved 11 July 2023.
  17. ^ a b Diaz, Ana (10 July 2023). "Archive of Our Own is down due to a DDoS attack". Polygon. Retrieved 11 July 2023.
  18. ^ Weatherbed, Jess (11 July 2023). "The massive fanfic archive AO3 is back after a wave of DDoS attacks". The Verge. Retrieved 11 July 2023.
  19. ^ "Tags FAQ". Archive of Our Own Beta. Organization for Transformative Works. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  20. ^ Price, Ludi (2019). "Fandom, Folksonomies and Creativity: the case of the Archive of Our Own" (PDF). In Haynes, David; Vernau, Judi (eds.). The Human Position in an Artificial World: Creativity, Ethics and AI in Knowledge Organization. Germany: Ergon Verlag. pp. 11–37. doi:10.5771/9783956505508-11. ISBN 9783956505508. S2CID 201388266.
  21. ^ "August 2021 Newsletter, Volume 160". Archive of Our Own. Organization for Transformative Works. 21 September 2021. Retrieved 26 July 2023. Accessibility, Design, & Technology deployed a code update to limit how many tags you can add to a work. Although this change will limit the number of fandom, character, relationship, and additional tags on each work to a maximum of 75, works that already have over 75 tags will keep all of their tags unless the creator tries to update it, and they should not be reported to the Support or Policy & Abuse teams.
  22. ^ Romano, Aja (26 February 2021). "The internet's most beloved fanfiction site is undergoing a reckoning". Vox. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  23. ^ a b Fiesler, Casey (9 April 2019). "Why This Fan Fiction Site's Surprise Hugo Nomination Is Such a Big Deal". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
  24. ^ "Tag Search". Archive of Our Own Beta. Organization for Transformative Works. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  25. ^ a b c Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (15 July 2013). "Unpacking the unofficial fanfiction census". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on 27 June 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  26. ^ "Tag FAQ". Archive of Our Own Beta. Organization for Transformative Works. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  27. ^ Bryson, Norman; Ann Holly, Michael; P.F., Keith (15 May 1994). Visual Culture: Images and Interpretations (1 ed.). CT: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 9780819562678.
  28. ^ Döring, Nicola (2 December 2020). "Erotic Fan Fiction". In Lykins, Amy (ed.). Encyclopedia of Sexuality and Gender. New York City: Springer. pp. 1–8. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-59531-3_65-1. ISBN 978-3-319-59531-3. S2CID 229183598.
  29. ^ Tosenberger, Catherine (2008). "Homoesexuality at the Online Hogwarts: Harry Potter Slash Fanfiction". Children's Literature. 36: 185–207. doi:10.1353/chl.0.0017. S2CID 143937185.
  30. ^ McCulloch, Gretchen (11 June 2019). "Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online". Wired. Archived from the original on 11 June 2019. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  31. ^ Hale-Stern, Kaila (18 August 2015). "How To Find The Best Fanfiction On the Internet". Gizmodo. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  32. ^ Rebaza, Claudia (30 March 2022). "Episode 64: Claudia Rebaza from the Organization for Transformative Works" (PDF). Hybrid Pub Scout Podcast (Interview). Interviewed by Einolander, Emily. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  33. ^ a b Jaehnig, Johnathan (1 March 2021). "How to Use Archive of Our Own to Become a Better Writer". MUO. Retrieved 1 May 2023.
  34. ^ Jenkins, Henry (2019). "'Art Happens not in Isolation, But in Community': The Collective Literacies of Media Fandom". Cultural Science Journal. 11 (1): 78–88. doi:10.5334/csci.125.
  35. ^ "TOS Home | Archive of Our Own". archiveofourown.org. Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  36. ^ a b c Fathallah, Judith (August 2020). "Digital fanfic in negotiation: LiveJournal, Archive of Our Own, and the affordances of read–write platforms". Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. 26 (4): 857–873. doi:10.1177/1354856518806674. ISSN 1354-8565. S2CID 149863814.
  37. ^ a b D'Angel, Liz (23 February 2022). "Fair Use and Fanfiction (3 OF 4)". Library News. Retrieved 31 October 2023.
  38. ^ Coker, Catherine (2017). "The margins of print? Fan fiction as book history". Transformative Works and Cultures. 25. doi:10.3983/twc.2017.01053. In 2012, the OTW launched the Open Doors project, which, together with other efforts at digital and print media preservation, invited maintainers of at-risk fan archives to import them into the AO3. First to be preserved was the Smallville Slash Archive, and the effort has since included over two dozen sites, including the Henneth Annûn Story Archive, a hub of Lord of the Rings fandom in the early 2000s, in 2015, and the Due South Archive in 2016.
  39. ^ "TOS FAQ Home | Archive of Our Own". archiveofourown.org. Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  40. ^ "Original Work - Works | Archive of Our Own". archiveofourown.org. Retrieved 27 January 2024.
  41. ^ Burgess, Janita (20 July 2019). "AO3 Reaches 5 Million Fanworks!". Organization for Transformative Works. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  42. ^ Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (21 July 2014). "'Sherlock,' 'Teen Wolf,' 'Supernatural' among top targets for fanfic writers". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on 19 September 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  43. ^ Romano, Aja (30 January 2016). "Is it possible to quantify fandom? Here's one statistician who's crunching the numbers". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on 19 September 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  44. ^ "TOS Home | Archive of Our Own". archiveofourown.org. Retrieved 20 April 2024.
  45. ^ Romano, Aja; Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (17 August 2012). "Where to find the good fanfiction porn". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on 19 September 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  46. ^ Worldcon. "2019 Hugo Results" (PDF). Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  47. ^ Whitbrook, James (20 August 2019). "Here Are Your Hugo 2019 Award Winners". Gizmodo.
  48. ^ 陈圣雅, ed. (1 March 2020). 同人小说平台ao3被举报,肖战深陷抵制风波 [The fanfiction platform ao3 was tip-offed, Xiao Zhan was deeply involved in the boycott storm]. ifeng.com (in Chinese). Phoenix New Media. Archived from the original on 1 March 2020. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  49. ^ 李湘文 (1 March 2020). 不爽偶像被寫進同人文…肖戰粉絲「聯手滅掉AO3」用戶怒炸! 工作室道歉了. ETtoday.net (in Chinese). Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  50. ^ 李红笛 (11 March 2020). 肖战事件:是非曲直如何评说. 检察日报 [Procuratorial Daily] (in Chinese). Beijing: Supreme People's Procuratorate. p. 005. doi:10.28407/n.cnki.njcrb.2020.000877. Archived from the original on 12 March 2020.
  51. ^ Romano, Aja (1 March 2020). "China has censored the Archive of Our Own, one of the internet's largest fanfiction websites". Vox. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  52. ^ "Filterung der Website "archiveofourown.org" bei Google Deutschland". fragdenstaat.de (in German). Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  53. ^ Dachwitz, Ingo (12 January 2023). "Archive of Our Own: Prüfstelle muss Indizierung von Fan-Fiction-Portal zurücknehmen" [Archive of Our Own: Testing agency must withdraw indexing of fan-fiction portal]. Netzpolitik.org (in German). Retrieved 13 January 2023.
  54. ^ "Роскомнадзор нашел детское порно в американских фанфиках по мотивам "Гарри Поттера" и "Звездных войн"" [Roskomnadzor found child porn in American fanfics on "Harry Potter" and "Star Wars"]. Ведомости (in Russian). 6 April 2023. Retrieved 13 July 2023.
  55. ^ "РКН заблокировал один из крупнейших порталов с фанфиками Archive of Our Own". Afisha (in Russian). 18 April 2023. Retrieved 13 July 2023.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]