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Type of site
The DataLounge is an Internet forum for LGBT news and gossip with approximately 6.5 million page views each month according to its Webmaster (as of June 2006[update]). Mediapolis, a New York City interactive media company, created the site in May 1995.
The DataLounge's style stems from a core community of predominantly anonymous posters who share news, opinions, gossip, personal histories and political views from a gay and lesbian perspective. While the forum guidelines formally require posters to respect others, much of the site's fun revolves around its appreciation of wit and satire, as well as its shared history and in-jokes.
History and site policies
DataLounge was launched by Mediapolis, Inc. in May, 1995. During the site's early years, content included GLBT-oriented news, gossip, links to other sites/services, and editorial content that made it a gay Web portal. Content contributors included New York drag queen Trudy and journalist Chris Barillas. DataLounge affiliated itself via the DataLounge Network with other web sites such as the gay dating site Edwina.com, gay Web guide Homorama, and GLBT health information site Gay Health, offering information and services to GLBTs. A weekly e-mail was also offered to users. The site evolved to have several discussion forums covering topics such as lesbian, religious and sexual issues, and also created a "Flames and Freaks" forum to house threads that site administrators determined to be disruptive to general forum discussion. Forums created for subpopulations such as The Lord of the Rings fans and U.S. daytime drama aficionados were subsequently closed. The most popular forum was the Gossip Forum, which dwarfed all others in both traffic and number of discussion threads created.
A portion of DataLounge and the DataLounge Network's content came as a result of the integration of some of the 1995-97 content of Out.com from Out Magazine, which announced in March 1997 that it was closing its Web site to focus on print content. Out.com users were redirected to DataLounge, and DataLounge administrators adopted Out.com's discussion forums, dating service, and weekly survey.
In 2003, DataLounge instituted a subscription service which blocked all web banner and pop-up advertising for a $12 annual fee (this fee was subsequently raised to $15, then to the present price of $18).
In 2005, DataLounge was given a major redesign. All forum topics were collapsed into one general discussion forum called "The DataLounge Forum," and all news content, most references to the other sites in the DataLounge Network, and other features were discontinued. Editorial commentary discussing events continues to appear on the site. Users were also given the option to control aspects of the site's layout, including filtration of political, gossip, and/or "Flames and Freaks" threads.
With this redesign came a policy change that limited access to the DataLounge Forum during high-traffic "primetime" periods to fee-paying subscribers. This move was met with controversy amongst DataLounge users, as non-subscribers were blocked from the DataLounge Forum during these periods. Though Mediapolis has received complaints about the policy, specifically that "primetime" periods are irregular and can often occur at times when site traffic should be at its slowest (e.g., North American overnight hours), DataLounge administrators assert that the "primetime" is necessary to prevent slowdowns of the other sites which Mediapolis hosts on the same servers, and preserves the existence of the DataLounge forum by generating revenue to cover DataLounge's hosting, bandwidth and maintenance expenses.
In the summer of 2007 DataLounge instituted a policy that only paying members may start new threads, but in May 2009 DataLounge launched another comprehensive redesign of the site, dubbed "V6," one that allows users to embed photos and YouTube videos, as well as mark specific threads to watch. The new site is auto-refreshed in real-time as new posts are written, and nonpaying members were at first permitted to start threads, but that quickly changed. The DataLounge Webmaster explained in introducing the redesigned site that the transition was largely dictated by the effect of tabbed Web browsing, which resulted in users constantly using their browsers' refresh function and overloading the servers, sending the site into constant primetime mode. However, shortly after launching V6, the Webmaster reinstituted primetime, in part due to the quick proliferation of racist troll posts.
Members, moderation and rules
Some named posters are authenticated, meaning that they have verified their username and obtained a password so no other users can post under their name, but most of the site's authenticated posters have gradually disappeared over time, often due to weariness of constant attacks from anonymous posters.
Anonymous visitors can insert any arbitrary name into the "username" field. This is often used to great comedic effect. Many posts will list the name of "Cheryl," a past DL poster who was notable for being at the core of many debates and controversies.
DataLounge has many "trolls", defined in the DataLounge context as a poster obsessed with a certain subject.
The DataLounge forum is largely self-moderated via debates amongst posters. Some threads are closed or deleted by the Webmaster.
Notable names on DataLounge
Marcia Cross controversy
DataLounge was in the news in February 2005, when a "friendly spy" claiming to work at the ABC television network, posted that actress Marcia Cross would come out as gay in an upcoming issue of The Advocate. Within days the rumor had spread like wildfire and garnered mentions in the media including CNN and Fox Television's Los Angeles affiliate, before Cross denied the rumors in an interview with Barbara Walters and her co-hosts on The View. The Advocate published an article chronicling this incident.  Less than six months later, Cross announced her engagement to stockbroker Tom Mahoney, leading to widespread speculation on DataLounge that Cross -- believed by most posters to be a closeted lesbian, owing to both direct accusations made by gossip columnist and DataLounge user Michael Musto and the fact that she had not, to anyone's public knowledge, dated a man since her then-boyfriend Richard Jordan died of a brain tumor in 1993 -- had entered into a relationship of convenience at the urging of her PR team in order to squash the gay rumors about her.
- http://www.datalounge.com/cgi-bin/iowa/forum/thread/gossip/3554951/page-6.html[dead link]
- Wired, "Out Kills Its Online Zine," March 3, 1997
- Advocate.com, "Marcia Cross: Desperate Rumors", March 15, 2005
- Planet out, "Rosie and me", March 27, 2002