This entry does not have any novelty value. I simply need a placeholder for information that is otherwise difficult to find. To be completely clear, it was assumed by veteran members on FanFiction.Net that the information previously available on the front page in 2004 is long lost. For a while, I was inclined to agree till I found reference to the ban and a purge that followed in an old review. I found links to petitions to bring script format back to the site, with dates, and continued my search from there, hoping to find the exact text the site used, to finally get the deal over with.
You see, a change in policy on FFN is something that affects many people, and the changes should be documented, so researchers like me wouldn't have to dig through buckets of useless pages with opinions instead of facts. Cutting to the chase, here it is:
'July 27th -- FanFiction.Net Content Guidelines have been updated to reduce the apparent confusion of two rules:
1. Chat and script format are the same. We have not allowed chat/script format for years.
2. Choose your adventure and second person/you based are interactive entries. We do not accept interactive stories.'
This is the original text as explained in the Literate Union's announcement thread with a reference to this site. I couldn't find a screenshot of the page, but the text is sure to be legitimate for the following reasons: the post dates back to 2004 with petitions and discontent, the exact words are quoted all over the net, which (only) becomes apparent when you look for the phrase, and it is how I remember the announcement. The thing that was left in my memory from back then was that the ban was done to "prevent confusion". A misquote, I suppose, because the exact formulation was more complex "to reduce the apparent confusion". It's sad Fan History closed to editors and their source mentions it done in November. I've attained a plain text HTML document of FFN's front page as of 2005, with the last entries being November 2004, and didn't see the announcement there. Right now, the source FH has is defunct, was deleted from the source's website. Personally, I would have guessed the ban took place in September - August, which was when the fandom backlash about the rule took place. Sure, as always, members have said "FFN has changed, and we're not going to post there anymore," but the collective "we" was a silly generalisation that had no effect, and the site grew. Just as it did in 2002 and 2010.
Now, this is where the factuality ends. You probably may want to know where the idea of the "ban" comes from. The site was different in 2004 and admins were closer to its users, so communication was more open and easier to get the juice from the top. There was a group called The Author Alliance, later referred to as The Alliance (they're on FH, by the way) back in the day. They were notorious for flaming and later removal of stories on the site. One of the 13 core members...I don't recall the name (could have been Super Solus, ReactionX or someone else) researched that script format (then allowed) as used in practice on FFN was no different from chat format, as used in IRC, IM (not allowed since the guidelines were created). Basically, before the announcement, members would contest that their work is scripted, not a roleplay session from online chatrooms. It was a common excuse, which caused bickering between opposing camps. Once the announcement, supposedly, based on that member's research, has been made, the site put a big fat cross on everything in similar formats. Three lines of script/chat in the author's note got your story down. Two lines, I'm guessing, could be considered as someone being daft with punctuation rather than a format issue.
The announcement set things straight very nicely, and the site made a big purge. For example, Sonic the Hedgehog lost some 30% of its weight in August. Dropping from over 5000 stories to about 3400. Stunning. Now, I actually wonder what the announcement entailed in theory. If chat = script, and chat was banned since the first guidelines (last months of 1998), script format was also banned. Then again, if it was banned, why was there arguing and unremoved stories? Why was Sonic the Hedgehog allowed to have 30% of its bulk being against the rules? It's really an interesting record when nearly a third of an archive is in violation of one rule, while you have numerous rules up. This reminds me of making a law with a backwards date. As in, you sign the legislation in 2004, and it starts taking effect in 1998. That's how patents work, but the situation gives off a confusing glow, considering its background and consequences.
I hope those of you wandering the web for info on the ban are now happy and able to carry on your research. Hopefully, I'll find other missing links in FFN's evolution, so those looking into the subject of fan fiction and its gargantuan representative FFN, can work on solid grounds instead of rolling in the clouds of unknown.