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Name: Dreamwidth
Owner/Maintainer: Synecdochic
Dates: April 30, 2009–present, with open beta: April 30, 2009–April 30, 2011
Type: Social Networking Site, Blogging Platform
Fandom: Multifandom
URL: http://dreamwidth.org/
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Dreamwidth is a fandom-friendly LiveJournal code fork site (rather than a clone), which implements some changes to the LJ codebase to offer improved and new features.

Launched as invite-only, after a period of closed beta[1], it entered 'open beta' on 2009 April 30, offering paid accounts for the first time. Two years later, the open beta period ended on April 30, 2011[2].

Dreamwidth is staffed by experienced former LiveJournal employees and has Guiding Principles, a Diversity Statement and an Operating Agreement publicly visible.

A few of the many implemented changes include [3]:

  • full import of an account and its contents from any other LiveJournal-based service
  • splitting the friendslist into 'access' and 'subscribe' functions
  • increased length limits on entries, comments and usernames
  • more control over adult content warnings without site-forced adult content settings
  • additional post formatting and content warning controls for community maintainers
  • reworked journal style system and user icon interfaces

Currently there are lists, a wiki and an IRC channel to discuss Dreamwidth and its development.

Origin of the Name

From 2012: The origin of the name Dreamwidth. [4]

From 2017:

People sometimes ask us what our name means! It was a silly suggestion during the brainstorming process that we wound up falling in love with. We decided that if bandwidth is a measure of how much data you can transfer, dreamwidth is a measure of how much creativity you can transfer. (Okay, and it wound up being one of our only ideas that we could still get the domain for. We couldn't afford to buy a domain off someone.) As a style note for those of you who care about that sort of thing, it's all one word, with no capital letter in the middle: Dreamwidth, not DreamWidth or Dream Width. (We won't beat you with wet noodles if you stick the capital or space in, though.) [5]

Fandom on Dreamwidth

Before the site was out of closed beta and only a very few accounts had been handed out, synecdochic hosted The Inaugural Dreamwidth Comment Porn Meme beginning on March 29, 2009[6]. Fans got to experience the larger comment size limits and many people had to navigate Open ID login since they didn't have Dreamwidth accounts yet.

Homegrown Dreamwidth fannish sites

Controversy around early migration from Livejournal

Dreamwidth has been a source of both widespread squee and significant controversy within fandom. Some of the arguments within fandom have touched on the following points:

Arguments against Dreamwidth:

  • Fandom should not abandon LiveJournal altogether in favour of Dreamwidth as some proponents suggest.
  • Dreamwidth is "elitist" (an invite code was required to set up an account during closed beta, and is required to set up a free account during open beta; various BNFs have moved to, or plan to move to, Dreamwidth);
  • Dreamwidth users are "forcing" LJ users to comment on their posts on Dreamwidth, rather than on LJ;
  • Subscribing and granting access on Dreamwidth is more hurtful and confusing than LJ's "Friends List." [7] [8];
  • Some fans argued that importing comments from LJ to Dreamwidth is a copyright violation.[9].

Arguments in favor of Dreamwidth:

  • LiveJournal is not a safe space for fandom thanks to events like Strikethrough; Dreamwidth is more fan-friendly because one of its founders is a fan;
  • Dreamwidth has taken pains to be interoperable with LJ and other journaling services, and also to be accessible to those with disabilities;[10]
  • The initial invite code phase is not a sign of elitism, but was a natural way to keep account growth reasonable, and a variety of invite-code-sharing communities and opportunities are available;
  • With OpenID, DW users can easily give access to those who choose to remain on LJ.[11]
  • For some fans, the language of "access" is less fraught than "friending" and "de-friending," and it's good to be able to separate between who one wants to read and who one wants one's locked posts to be read by;
  • On the comment-importing issue, some fans argued that there's value in keeping conversations intact when journals are moved; also that once someone makes a comment in someone else's journal, the original commentor no longer "owns" the comment (the person in whose journal a comment was made can choose to delete the comment, lock down the journal, and/or move the journal to a new journaling site without disturbing fannish norms of communication.)
  • There was an "open account creation week" from February 21, 2011 to February 28, 2011, during which an invite code was not needed to create a free account. If growth during this period is sustainable, and it does not lead to increased spam and abuse, it may be repeated as often as monthly. [12]

Various fans have pointed out that the backlash against Dreamwidth is similar to that experienced by LiveJournal when (parts of) fandom first began to shift over from mailing lists and message boards.[13][14]

Some fans have asserted that the presence of Dreamwidth is helping to "save" LiveJournal, by providing a stable and workable alternative for those who'd been wanting to leave LJ or mirror their journals elsewhere, and also by their commitment to interoperability.[15]

Development of Dreamwidth features and growth of its fannish users

LiveJournal offers most of its code as Open Source code, available for anyone to use to make a clone or fork[16]. When LiveJournal develops new code, some of it is added to that Open Source section, but some of their features and developments remain LiveJournal only. Dreamwidth developers can choose to adopt any code out of the Open Source pool they wish. They also develop many features and enhancements that are unique to the site. As time goes on, the two sites become more and more distinct as they each develop on their own paths.

Two key features the Dreamwidth developers had hoped to implement have not borne fruit. One, the ability to import communities may yet be implemented (this was initially implemented for paid communities, and was opened up to all communities in February 2012), but the ability to read your LJ friends list on Dreamwidth itself will almost certainly not be able to be implemented.[17] These two features may be must haves for some fans to consider a move of their primary fannish home from LJ to Dreamwidth.

Dreamwidth emphasizes interoperability with Livejournal and other sites. As fandom splinters away from Livejournal, fans on Dreamwidth take advantage of this in many ways. All account levels can make RSS feeds, and fannish use of feeds of Livejournal, InsaneJournal, Journalfen, Tumblr, Twitter and blog accounts is widespread. Fanfic Flamingo[18], a Tumblr account, has over 50 subscribers and some newsletters have over 100 subscribers[19]. Misha Collins twitter feed has 25 subscribers.[20]

Many fans use the crossposting and link-back features to post their fannish content to other sites. While communities cannot use the crossposting feature, many fannish comms do a manual mirroring or crossposting to serve fans on both Dreamwidth and Livejournal. Polyamory Big Bang and McShep Match are two examples of fic challenges that post to both sites. Metafandom posts to LJ, Dreamwidth and Journalfen.

Tumblr vs Dreamwidth

In some corners of fannish Tumblr, a migration back to Dreamwidth has been suggested as a solution to some of the perceived problems with Tumblr as a platform for fandom communities. On December 20, 2016, Tumblr user pythiaspeaks posted on their blog:

I would love it if fandom would fundamentally change in 2017. I love the private meta discussions where people share their ideas and are completely comfortable with disagreeing with other perspectives.

When we engage public fandom discussions, the conversations devolve into a shit show where everyone “has to take a side.”

These sides largely consist of multiple text posts that are some opinion that’s entirely derivative of whatever the loudest person said in that once vibrant, interesting discussion.

I largely say nothing meta on here, as others have said it better than I or I know that I’ll be silenced for having a dissenting opinion.

So many of you seem to be the very sort of person that I genuinely lose sleep over. You are more concerned with “rightness” or “wrongness” of an answer, than understanding the underlying reasoning behind them.[21]

The post was reblogged by the Tag Wrangling-focused blog wrangletangle, who wrote:

I hear you, and I have a practical solution. This is in large part a format problem. Tumblr is non-functional for conversation (so is Twitter). If you want to see fandom have real meta conversations, and I very much do, we have to move to a platform that supports that. Or rather, I should say, we have to move back to a platform that supports that.

Dreamwidth is a fan-owned and -operated platform that allows threaded conversation in-line, puts everyone’s comments in the same broad context, and offers free accounts. If you want to see decent meta conversations, look no further than DW’s still-vibrant communities centering on disability, for example.

Yahoo’s sale makes Tumblr’s position already tenuous. I urge anyone who wants to engage in actual conversations that may be preserved for later fans to move those over to communities on DW. I will be reposting most of my text posts there, under the same name as here. If there’s a particular topic you want to discuss, I’m happy to start a community for it.

Platform design has a very important effect on how participants interact. This is so well-known in the industry that there are classes on it. We should take a hard look at how that design has affected our communities and our relationships.[22]

Additionally, Tumblr user deadcatwithaflamethrower wrote in November 2015 that, "I will be seriously amused if Tumblr managed to do what Livejournal could not do in its entirety- drive everyone completely onto Dreamwidth and make the company’s stats fucking SOAR." adding that Dreamwidth is free with no ads, and that "Unlike Tumblr, Tags on Dreamwidth are fucking useful."

They suggested keeping Tumblr for image hosting, which is one function that Dreamwidth doesn't have, and concluded by saying, "If everyone gets serious about this Fuck You Tumblr thing…well. DW is what LJ used to be, and has no intention of ever changing that."[23]

Other arguments made by users who favour Dreamwidth over Tumblr include:

  • A single, all-inclusive posting setup ("not several restrictive sub-mechanisms (TEXT, IMAGE, etc.) that don’t always suit what you want to do") and a fully-fledged Rich Text Editor[24]
  • A more logical, integrated comment system instead of scattered reblogs[24]
  • Up to 15 free icons, of which different icons can be used for different posts[24]
  • The Dreamwidth diversity statement and guiding principles[24]

Arguments made in favour of Tumblr over Dreamwidth (or LiveJournal) include:

  • Its strength as a platform for spreading information, memes, ideas and jokes[25]
  • Its strength as a hosting platform for image-based content[25] (Tumblr user sfingosella-old theorised that the reluctance to move platforms comes largely from fanartists for this reason[26])
  • The ability to search the site for posts within a specific tag from multiple blogs[25]
  • Its comparatively low barrier for participation, and the ability to more easily see posts from users outside your personal fandom bubble[27]

Later migrations from LJ to Dreamwidth

Additional Reading/Meta


  1. ^ Dreamwidth FAQ How do I create an account?(accessed 25 April 2009)
  2. ^ Happy birthday to my baby!(accessed August 30, 2011)
  3. ^ http://wiki.dwscoalition.org/notes/Dreamwidth_changes_from_LJ
  4. ^ archive link (August 28, 2012)
  5. ^ "Dreamwidth News (and welcome!), 14 April 2017", admin post made on Dreamwidth by Denise on 14 April 2017
  6. ^ The Inaugural Dreamwidth Comment Porn Meme, accessed August 28, 2011
  7. ^ Metafandom's "dreamwidth" bookmarks on Delicious. (Accessed April 25, 2009)
  8. ^ Looking at the bigger picture (Or, "Oh look, fandom is throwing a hissy again."), by bzzinglikeneon. (Accessed April 26, 2009)
  9. ^ telesilla, it's like rain on your wedding day (Accessed May 7, 2009)
  10. ^ Jade, dreamwidth -- it's not all or nothing, posted April 27, 2009
  11. ^ Zvi, Crossposting and Locked Posts: A very careful operation, posted April 23, 2009.
  12. ^ Denise, dw_news: Weekly update: 10 February 2011: Open Account Creation Week
  13. ^ see for example: April 21st 2009. gerrisullivan. My thoughts about Dreamwidth. (Accessed April 26, 2009)
  14. ^ Seperis, fandom and migration, posted April 17, 2009
  15. ^ Azurelunatic, How Dreamwidth is saving LiveJournal, posted August 1, 2009.
  16. ^ [LiveJournal offers most of its code as Open Source code, available for anyone to use to make a clone or fork. LiveJournal Code in About LiveJournal](accessed August 30, 2011)
  17. ^ Weekly update: 24 December, "Sad Project News"
  18. ^ Profile page for Fanfic Falmingo feed which has 50 subscribers on August 31, 2011
  19. ^ Profile page for Trek News which shows 147 subscribers on August 31, 2011
  20. ^ Profile page of Misha Collins twitter feed which shows 25 subscribers on August 31, 2011
  21. ^ Blog post by pythiaspeaks on Tumblr, posted December 20, 2016 (Accessed December 29, 2016).
  22. ^ Blog post by wrangletangle on Tumblr, posted December 29, 2016 (Accessed December 29, 2016).
  23. ^ Blog post by deadcatwithaflamethrower on Tumblr, posted November 1, 2015 (Accessed December 29, 2016).
  24. ^ a b c d Blog post by janglingargot on Tumblr, posted July 19, 2013 (Accessed December 29, 2016).
  25. ^ a b c Blog post by schafudel, posted June 1, 2013 (Accessed December 29, 2016).
  26. ^ Blog post by pluckyminna on Tumblr, posted July 21, 2013 (Accessed December 29, 2016).
  27. ^ Blog post by amara, posted December 30, 2016 (Accessed December 30, 2016).
  28. ^ Dreamwidth Raw Statistics (Accessed 16 April 2017)