I previously wrote up a post comparing my experiences with Fanfiction.net vs Archive Of Our Own (also known as AO3 for short), but it was more reflective of my experience as a reader due to not having an Archive Of Our Own account at the time. Now that it’s been about a year since I started my Archive Of Our Own account, I feel like I have a better way of comparing the experience of using both, particularly from the point of view as a writer (but some points apply to me as a reader).
So, here are my discoveries of the differences (or similarities) between both platforms as well as which one I think is overall better:
1. Bookmarks/Favourites and Alerts.
Alerts are the same overall for both platforms; much like alerts on fanfiction.net, you can also subscribe to fanfics on AO3 to get email notifications about fanfic updates. They work the same way so it’s overall a tie in that category.
For Bookmarks, what I like about AO3 is that upon bookmarking a fic, you can add your own tags to it to remind yourself what the fic is about or what you love about it (or a reminder as of which chapter you left it on once you bookmarked it, assuming you haven’t finished reading it yet). I also like that when you open the bookmarks page, it shows all the fics you bookmarked in order of the most recently-bookmarked fics so you can reread them rightaway. You can also change that option to sort out the most recently-updated fic, so you can easily keep up with your fanfic updates.
Fanfiction.net, in comparison when opening the favourites (equivalent of bookmarks) page, automatically lists the ones that were most recently updated first and currently (at the time of this post) does not have a ‘recently favourited’ option, so if you favourited a fic and want to read it again, you have to filter through the fandom and rating tags given at the top to find it as opposed to just changing one filter to ‘most recently favourited’ and the fic appearing at the top of the page.
Winner: AO3 for adding your own tags as well as the ‘most-recently bookmarked’ option to sort out bookmarked fics.
2. Formatting fics for posting.
In terms of formatting fics for posting, it’s much easier to just format them first on Fanfiction.net and then copy/paste them into the text box for AO3. Trying to format them on your own on AO3 is harder to do and can get messed up easily if you’re not careful. If you do attempt to format on AO3 alone the ‘preview’ button exists to check how it looks before posting and I recommend you do, or else it’s a bigger hassle to post your fic, see that the formatting sucks, and then go back to fix it. Because of how much easier formatting is on Fanfiction.net, it takes the prize for better formatting of fic content overall. I do appreciate that AO3 has the option to import fics from other sites (sadly not from Fanfiction.net yet, so crossposting is a bit harder to do in my experience), but formatting fics directly on their site could use some improvement.
In terms of posting ‘author notes’ before the text or after the text of the fic, I like how AO3 made those into separate sections for you to post into and show a clear separation from the fic content. In comparison on Fanfiction.net, you have to separate it all by line breaks due to having no separate sections to place your summary, author’s notes, and so on. Given this, AO3 is definitely better in terms of organizing that other than the messy format problems for separating the author notes from your actual fic content.
Winner: Tie (AO3 gets it for organizing author notes and fic content into separate sections, but FF.Net wins for easier formatting of the fic content itself)
Moderating comments can be easily turned on or turned off for individual fics on AO3, which is convenient. You can also do the same on Fanfiction.net, so I think it’s pretty even here as of which one is better. From my experience, I haven’t really had any ‘flames’ or harassing comments on fics so I can’t comment on how well they’re handled on either platform, but the amount of comments I get on fanfics really is fandom-dependent overall for both platforms, no matter what platform you’re in. For instance, an “Escape The Night” fanfic is much more likely to get comments than a “The Last Story” fanfic due to the size of the fandoms, and so the amount of comments I get on a fic are largely dependent on that (as well as other factors like whether the reader liked the fic, etc). Overall, I think both AO3 and Fanfiction.net are even in this category.
However, there is another thing that separates them: You can give a ‘kudos’ on AO3 to indicate that you liked the fic, but you don’t need to comment. Fanfiction.net does not have this same feature, sadly.
Another thing that separates them from each other is that when you as the writer reply to comments, your replies can be seen in the comments section on AO3, while on Fanfiction.net the replies are just private messages to the commenters. For those that prefer privacy (which in this case I do), Fanfiction.net might be better for you.
Winner: Tie (AO3 for the extra ‘kudos’ option, but Fanfiction.net has better privacy in replies to comments)
4. Fandom tags/categories
Speaking of fandoms, category tags for fandoms on AO3 get made a lot faster than they do on Fanfiction.net. For example, I have yet to see a category for “Escape The Night” on Fanfiction.net, but AO3 did a good job of establishing an official fandom tag quickly just last year (up until then, everyone used Video Blogging RPF and/or escape the night-fandom as tags from what I saw). Unless the fanfics you’re writing for are for bigger fandoms, category tags on Fanfiction.net are slower to be created compared to ones on AO3 overall.
Winner: AO3. New Category Tags appear faster than on Fanfiction.net.
One major feature I enjoy of AO3, as a user, is the “History” page. Ever read a fic but forgot to bookmark it or give it a kudos? Just check the History immediately to find it! Fanfiction.net does not have such a function, so it’s clearly easier for me on AO3 to find the fanfic all over again.
Also, what if you just found a fic but need to read it later? You can ‘Mark For Later’ and find it in your History as well. This is definitely where AO3 shines for the reader experience, in my opinion. Overall, AO3 wins this category over Fanfiction.net.
Winner: AO3. Fanfiction.net has no ‘history’ or ‘mark for later’ options.
In terms of tracking statistics, however, Fanfiction.net lists all the stats of people reading your fic on a daily basis, meaning you can see how much daily traffic you get. They also have their own separate category called ‘Legacy Story Stats,’ which shows off the overall amount of views, reviews, favourites, bookmarks, etc per fic. Unfortunately, these stats can’t be organized into fandom categories, but the fics are instead listed via alphabetical order.
AO3 currently does not list daily statistics at the time of this post. I find this a bit difficult as a writer, because I want to see and track how many people are reading my fics and see which fics catch the most attention every day. However, the AO3 stats do track the overall stats of every fic and list them all, in order of highest number of hits, bookmarks, etc. to the lowest per fandom. There is also a flat view option where you can just compare all the fics in one go to see how their stats are, like Fanfiction.net does.
Because both have their flaws and their strengths, they have a tie in my opinion. If both were combined into a super-stat-tracking system, I think they would create the best stat-tracker for fanfics.
Winner: Tie (FF.Net has daily statistics but AO3 stats can be organized and listed in order of highest number to lowest per fandom or flat view)
7. Creating A Series
Speaking of organization, I also enjoy how you can easily organize your fanfics into a series on AO3 easily. Given that I write a lot of fanfic continuums (and I started quite a few of them last year), this was easy for me to organize all my fics in chronological order (meaning that if I wrote a prequel to something that I posted a while ago, I can organize it in the series so that it comes before that particular fic for example). On Fanfiction.net, they do not have such a function, so at best you can do is mention in the author notes that it’s part of a series of fics and list the entire series on your Profile page.
8. Traffic for fanfics overall
This category has to be split into two sub-categories that I call “Non-Crossovers” and “Crossovers.” The ‘non-crossovers’ are the fanfics that exclusively are for one fandom only (so, just a fic for Harry Potter for example), while the “crossovers” are, well, fanfics that feature more than one fandom (for example, let’s say The Last Story and Escape the Night). When it comes to both Fanfiction.net and Archive Of Our Own, how much overall traffic (views or hits) for both non-crossovers and crossovers get will hugely vary depending on what fandoms they are for. If it’s a popular fandom like Harry Potter, your fic is likely going to get tons of traffic as is. If it’s a smaller fandom like The Last Story, it’s not likely to get tons of views in one night. Given how this is the case for both platforms for “non-crossover” fanfics, they both tie here in terms of traffic.
The deciding factor for fics is when it comes to actual “crossover” fanfics. In my experience, it’s very easy for them to get more traffic in Archive Of Our Own. Why is this? I believe it’s due to how both platforms organize their crossover and non-crossover fanfics. Fanfiction.net organizes the fics in a way that all crossovers are separated into their own section from the non-crossover fics. This makes all the non-crossover fics much easier to find first than the crossover fics.
When it comes to AO3, however, their tagging system automatically combines both non-crossover and actual crossover fanfics into one category. So, if you were to click on “Harry Potter,” you might find “Harry Potter” fics that are also crossovers with other fandoms like the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” or “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” It’s also very easy to label your mutli-crossover fics due to the tagging system, because you can just fit as many fandoms as you want in the fandom tag before posting, making it incredibly easy for all the readers of all those fandoms to find your fic and read it. Because of this, AO3 wins the “crossover” category.
Winner: Tie for “non-crossover” fanfics, but AO3 wins for “crossover” fanfics.
Given how I compared both Fanfiction.net and Archive Of Our Own, it seems that Archive Of Our Own is a much better experience in a variety of ways, in my experience, especially when it comes to gaining more views for your crossovers and creating fanfic series. However, my experience does not speak for all that write on either or both platforms, and I would be happy to hear about which platform you prefer (or even learn about other platforms where you post your fanfics). Do you have a preference already? Let me know in the comments! I’m also curious about how effectively either platform deals with ‘flames’ and/or harassing comments as I haven’t had such an experience yet (not that I want to, but I’m interested in knowing).
For those interested in reading my fanfics, most of my fanfics still remain on Fanfiction.net due to starting there first. However, all my non-crossover “Escape The Night” fanfics are on Archive Of Our Own, and my most current fics (as in 2018-present time) are crossposted on both platforms. Whichever platform you choose to write and/or read on, I wish you all the best.
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