Why I'm giving up on FanFiction.net

FanFiction.net is increasingly hostile to the very users who allow it to exist in the first place. This is a review of the reasons why I'm leaving.


I'll start with a confidence: I don't like AO3's tagging system, and despite a superior underlying search engine, I find it much harder to discover content I enjoy than on FanFiction.net. Moreover, in part due to the lack of private messages and forums, I don't get a sense of community here.

However, and although I've been a FanFiction.net user and writer for more than eight years (since 11 May 2012...), I'm leaving it.

Javascript requirement

Javascript basically allows the site you visit to execute arbitrary code on your computer. Although there are some safeguards, security holes abound. It is thus a good idea to disable javascript except for a few trustworthy sites (and then, possibly not to allow it all the time). Again, refusing to execute javascript is a protection against abuse by poorly managed or even malicious websites.

Moreover, text web browsers like lynx or w3m don't understand javascript at all. Yet they're also incredibly lightweight and offer a much faster browsing experience than conventional bloated graphical browsers.

Because it displays ads, FanFiction.net has worked for years to make its site less usable without javascript, forgetting that they wouldn't exist without writers offering them content entirely for free.

Going from + to -

Several years ago now, Fanfiction.net decided out of the blue to forbid the character + in their users' email addresses. Please note that one, email addresses serve as users' logins on their site, and two, addresses with + are perfectly valid and had worked for years, including to receive notifications and all.

They didn't even bother to warn their users in advance. I discovered it when I suddenly became incapable of logging in again after my session had expired. Thankfully, I had another active session in a different browser, so I was able to change my address in the settings. Otherwise, I would've been locked out of my account for good.

Captcha hell

Fanfiction.net's early captchas were annoying, but they were reasonably easy to complete, and worked without javascript.

Then they moved to the version of reCaptcha that wants you to click on a series of pictures, which has a heap of problems, such as:

The move to CloudFlare

To make matters even worse, Fanfiction.net has now moved behind CloudFlare, which is incredibly problematic.

For starters, are you fine with CloudFlare reading your Fanfiction.net password in clear text? Because they do. To work, they break the safety that should be provided by https. Instead of going straight to Fanfiction.net, your email address and password input on the login form are intercepted by CloudFlare and then sent to Fanfiction.net. They claim they don't actually read the contents of users' requests. Maybe they don't, but you have no way of knowing. And maybe they don't today, but will tomorrow without warning.

Secondly, as if Fanfiction.net's login captcha wasn't infuriating enough, CloudFlare now adds its own arbitrary rounds of barriers against accessing the site. Now, you can't even access public pages without activating javascript and filling another captcha. Never mind that it breaks atom feeds that allow you to be notified of newly published stories, as feed readers are "robots" by conception, and also breaks independent web crawlers.

If CloudFlare decides, without explanation nor possibility for appeal, that they don't like your country or your use of alternative web browsers, they will just send you endless series of captchas without ever accepting that you solved them.

Patronising contempt

To add insult to injury, when a user reports a bug or otherwise broken feature, FanFiction.net's admins demand that they give up their usual web browser for a bloated piece of security nightmare software. Not only would it potentially open the user's computer to hacking (see the section about javascript above), it may be a much more inefficient way to browse the web.

To understand the arrogance of it, consider the individually wasted time by filling endless captchas and/or installing an unfamiliar browser, which will be slow, unconfigured and hard to use, and multiply it by the number of affected users. Then remember, again, that many of these users are the ones offering FanFiction.net the means to exist in the first place.

Not worth the time and effort

Ultimately, all this leads up to more and more waste of my time, and a demand for me to waste even more. The difference between machines and humans is that humans' time is scarce and valuable.

I'm not a robot, therefore I have too much self-respect and too little time to waste to bother continuing to post my stories on FanFiction.net.


My fan fictions.
My home page (in French).
Last update: December 29, 2020.