In 2002, YiffStar was born. Run and mainly supported out of pocket by Toumal, It stood for Yiffy Story Archive and functioned as a site for mainly adult themed stories, art and music, housing some 25,000 entries by fall of 2007. In 2008, Alex Vance was working on his own concept for a “Social Content Platform” called “Anthropad”.
Toumal and Alex had already worked together on Alex’s own furry story archive, FurRag, and being friends had no problems working together on other projects. Toumal was excited about some of the concepts Alex had for his “Anthropad” concept, and through discussion, they both reached an agreement that instead of building a new site from scratch, using off the shelf software, they would instead use some of those very same concepts to rebuild Yiffstar, which was in need of a refresh after 8 years of service.
It took a year and a half, a”Cadre” of coders and extensive work, but YiffStar was relaunched as SoFurry on December 26, 2009.
SoFurry kept the adult stories and art, but added non adult categories, as well as extended forums, and community integration, becoming much more a community than just a story or art archive. Featuring art, music, journals, forums, chat, groups and a commission market place, SoFurry began a quick climb in popularity.
In April 2010, Toumal and Alex started development of SoFurry 2.0. The new look and feel dubbed “Espresso” was designed by Alex. Many of the new features and functions coming to SoFurry 2.0 are a direct response to user and community request.
The new design is clean, less visually noisy and more standards compliant so it will function and look good, no matter what browser you happen to use, or what device (for example, a tablet) you happen to be viewing the site on.
When asked about feedback and reception of the new design, Alex told us “what was most gratifying is that most of the people who’ve seen the previews don’t just say it’s ‘better than 1.0′ but that they simply can’t wait to start using it. The majority are very much in favor of a more restful, consistent interface for SoFurry”
There have been a couple of comments on the “coffee” inspired color theme. ”Some have their reservations about the coffee-inspired color scheme, but I’ve assured them that Espresso was never meant to be the only available option. Once the site’s interface is locked down and the CSS cleaned up we can very quickly deploy alternate color schemes.”
In March 2011, the site began a private beta phase. As summer approaches, SoFurry is getting ready to move out of private beta and into public beta. At this writing, Toumal, expects to enter public beta in a few weeks.
Once the public beta is deemed successful, the site will operate with both the SoFurry 1.0 front end, as well as the “Espresso” front end. It is estimated that the old front end will be phased completely out by the end of the summer.
There are screen shots posted of the new look and feel – You can browse them here: SoFurry Espresso Preview
Along with the expected launch of the new interface, SoFurry hit a new milestone. In 17 months, it has more than doubled its active membership from 70,000 users in 2009 to 150,000 as of June 1, 2011.
We asked Toumal a for thoughts on the relaunch:
How excited are you over the relaunch of SoFurry?
“I myself am extremely excited about it – and my team of coders, designers and supporters are also very eager to finally let the furry fandom see what we have been working on day and night for the past year.”
How much personal time do you put into SoFurry every day?
“Anywhere between 4 and 8 hours a day. It’s currently quite a lot 2.0 is not just a layout refresh – it is really a complete rewrite from the bottom up. And in contrast to other sites, SoFurry is not just an art and story site, but also has its own forums, chat, group system, commission marketplace, etc. – all developed in-house.”
Toumal also had high praise for the SoFurry team (http://wiki.sofurry.com/wiki/The_SoFurry_Team) “these people all work for free and putting up their spare time and sweat for something that started out as a furry story archive back in 2002.”
He continued, addressing the donors that help offset the cost of running the site and the beta testers who have helped test the new code: “Then there’s all the supporters at http://wiki.sofurry.com/wiki/Donate who not only help offset the running cost of the site, but also let us developers and mods know that they care so much about what we do, that they are willing to chip in. I am also grateful for the time our betatesters put in.”
He also thanks the artists, writers and community: “And finally, all the artists, writers, musicians etc. who trust us with their works, and just about every user offering comments and feedback to us or other artists. Everytime someone posts a journal celebrating 500 watchers, or 100.000 views, or 100 group members in their group, that’s what makes us happy because it makes YOU happy.”
We asked both Alex and Toumal about final thoughts on the relaunch:
Alex: “It’s been a lot of work, and these last months the burden has laid predominantly on the shoulders of the development team. I’ve seen the work they’ve put into the site, and frankly I’m astonished. These people have used their spare time to wrangle stunningly complex code to benefit a massive furry audience.Most of all, though, I’m impressed with Toumal. He ran Yiffstar (and now SoFurry) primarily out of his own pocket, and he leads both the moderator team and the developer team with attention, patience and enthusiasm. And he leads by example, picking up tickets out of the dev tracker by the handful. That’s how you do it ”
Toumal: “We are running SoFurry for the furry writers, artists, musicians and all the creative furs out there, we believe every kind of furry creativity is important, we believe in choice instead of restrictions, we believe in openness instead of putting up fences. That belief has gained us the trust of over 150.000 furs who are registered on SoFurry. You people are the reason we’re doing things like the 2.0 relaunch, investing the effort in mobile apps for android and other activities. And I hope 2.0 will make SoFurry the place of choice for the daily visit of every fur ^_^
Please feel free to comment on the 2.0 screenshots and give feedback or request features. We got many of our best features not from our own ideas, they were kicked off by a user offering up an idea in a comment or the forums. We’re listening to you folks.
SoFurry 2.0 will launch the public beta in a few weeks, and will run in parallel with 1.0 for some time, during which we implement additional features (and additional designs!) and work on refinements based on real-world usage feedback. I can’t wait to let you folks get your paws on 2.0 – but we want to make the first impression a solid one, so we will spend whatever time is needed to iron out the kinks first. SF 1.0 is alive and kicking in the meantime and I encourage everyone to not wait for 2.0 but to register today. All the content and data of 1.0 will automagically be in 2.0 too!”
You can check out the preview here: SoFurry Espresso Preview
On a related note, Toumal has also rolled out a new Furry URL service. If you have used bit.ly or is.gd, then you know the concept Give it a try! - http://rga.la, the furry URL shortener. It has QR code support and SoFurry/FurAffinity/InkBunny integration.