Archive of Our Own

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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
FoundedSeptember 2008; 10 years ago (2008-09)
OwnerOrganization for Transformative Works
Alexa rankDecrease #733 (Global 02/2019)
LaunchedNovember 15, 2009 (2009-11-15) (Open beta)
Written inRuby

Archive of Our Own (AO3) is a nonprofit open source repository for fanfiction (fic) 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. As of 2019, Archive of Our Own hosted 4.5 million works in over 31,100 fandoms. The site has received positive reception for its curation, organization and design, mostly done by readers and writers of fanfiction.

History and operations[edit]

In 2007, a site 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 sought to record and archive fan cultures and works.[1] OTW created Archive of Our Own (abbreviated AO3) in October 2008 and established it as an open beta on November 14, 2009.[2][3][4] 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".[1] The name is inspired by the essay A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf.[5] AO3 defines itself primarily as archive and not an online community.[5]

By 2013, the site's annual expenses were about $70,000. Fic 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.[2] In 2018, the site's expenses were budgeted at ~$260,000.[6]

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 Trello board.[1]


Stories on Archive of Our Own can be sorted into categories and tagged based on elements of the stories, including characters and ships involved and other more specific tags.[7] Volunteers called "tag wranglers" 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, for example.[1] Archive of Our Own allows users to rate their stories by intended age ("General audience", "Teen and up audiences", "Mature", and "Explicit"), relationships, orientations and pairings ("F/F", "M/M", "F/M", "Multi", "Other", and "Gen"), and to supply content warnings for their works (e.g. "Major Character Death", "Graphic Depictions of Violence", "Underage", and "Rape/Non-Con").[7] Archive of Our Own allows writers to publish any content, so long as it is legal. 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.[1][5] Readers can give stories kudos, which function similarly to likes on other sites.[8] The site does not require real names from its users, who may identify themselves by one or more pseudonyms linked to their central account.[1]


Archive of Our Own reached one million fanworks (including stories, artpieces, and podcast fic recordings or podfics) in February 2014. At that time, the site hosted works representing 14,353 fandoms, the largest of which were the Marvel universe, Supernatural, Sherlock, and Harry Potter.[3] By 2016, the site hosted over two million fanworks and had almost 750,000 users.[1] 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.[9] In 2016, about 14% of fic hosted on the site took place in an alternative universe in which characters from a particular canon are transplanted into a different context.[10] AO3 maintains a policy of "maximum inclusiveness" and minimal content censorship, which has led to the hosting of controversial content including works depicting rape, incest, and pedophilia.[5] 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".[5] Organization for Transformative Works Legal Committee volunteer Stacey Lantagne stated that: "The OTW’s mission is to advocate on behalf of transformative works, not just the ones we like."[5]

The length of a story on Archive of Our Own tends to correlate with its popularity. Stories of 1,000 words received less than 150 hits on average while stories that were closer in length to a novel were viewed closer to 1,500 times apiece.[7] As of June 2015, the most popular story on the site was reportedly "I Am Groot", a "masterpiece of hardcore Guardians of the Galaxy erotica"[8] that consists of the words "I am Groot" and no others.[11][12]


Aja Romano and Gavia Baker-Whitelaw of The Daily Dot described Archive of Our Own as "a cornerstone of the fanfic community" by 2012, writing that it hosted content that other sites like FanFiction.Net and Wattpad deemed inappropriate and was more easily navigable than Tumblr.[13] 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".[14] 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 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.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h 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. closed access publication – behind paywall
  2. ^ a b Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (May 3, 2013). "Fans raise $16,000 in auction to help popular fic archive". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on September 19, 2016. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (February 27, 2014). "This is what 1 million fanfics looks like". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on October 29, 2015. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  4. ^ 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. closed access publication – behind paywall
  5. ^ a b c d e f Minkel, Elizabeth (November 8, 2018). "Fan fiction site AO3 is dealing with a free speech debate of its own". The Verge. Archived from the original on November 6, 2018.
  6. ^ "OTW Finance: 2018 Budget". Organization for Transformative Works. April 16, 2018. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (July 15, 2013). "Unpacking the unofficial fanfiction census". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on June 27, 2016. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  8. ^ Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (July 21, 2014). "'Sherlock,' 'Teen Wolf,' 'Supernatural' among top targets for fanfic writers". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on September 19, 2016. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  9. ^ Romano, Aja (January 30, 2016). "Is it possible to quantify fandom? Here's one statistician who's crunching the numbers". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on September 19, 2016. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  10. ^ Hughes, William (August 8, 2014). "Behold the subtle sensuality of erotic fan-fiction written in the voice of Groot". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on October 17, 2014. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  11. ^ sherlocksmyth (August 4, 2014). "I Am Groot". Archive of Our Own. Archived from the original on October 5, 2015.
  12. ^ Romano, Aja; Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (August 17, 2012). "Where to find the good fanfiction porn". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on September 19, 2016. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  13. ^ Grossman, Lev (May 1, 2013). "Archive of Our Own". Time. Archived from the original on March 13, 2016. Retrieved September 19, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

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