EGL – The Rise, The Fall, and Why It Still Matters

Fourteen years ago, on the 29th of December, 2001, something very important happened. A user going only by the handle moonfullofstars created a community called “EGL” on the diary-style social website Livejournal. The first post, made by the same person a few hours later, read:
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Their optimism may have seemed naive, but within the space of a few years, EGL became the online hub for the wider Western Lolita Community.

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A glimpse of the EGL header, c. 2006

If you were new to Lolita Fashion, or wanted to keep up with current events, EGL was the place to watch. It exploded because Lolitas outside of Japan had very few resources available to them before about 2010, and people jumped at the opportunity to be part of something that celebrated a fashion they admired or wore. Everything from brand news to sewing and craft tutorials could be found on one site. Eventually, the community grew larger than ever anticipated, boasting thousands of members, and sister communities such as EGL Community Sales, Daily Lolita, and many which were substyle or brand specific popped up and helped to keep EGL from becoming cluttered.

Livejournal was the only website you really needed to join for Lolita Fashion online, and in an era before social media really came into its own and where many people were new to the internet and many still had very slow connections, that convenience was really appealing.

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EGL Banner, January 2010

The Livejournal community sounds as though it was perfect (spoiler: it wasn’t), so it might come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with it that it fell out of use almost completely. Posts in the community went from up to 10 a day or more to maybe one or two a week at the worst point. Banner art contests stopped happening. Posts on the sister communities slowed down significantly at the same time, and at the time of writing, it has been two and half weeks since the last post to Daily Lolita. So what caused the decline?

Livejournal Instability

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How could anyone forget that face?

Simply put, Livejournal wasn’t ideal. Or, rather, Livejournal’s servers weren’t ideal. The first problem anyone will tell you about when talking about EGL and the “good old days” is usually how awful and unreliable LJ servers were. It hasn’t changed much, either. While writing this post, I encountered the good ol’ 503 error a few times when digging through EGL.

The layout of the site was great, the way the site worked was fantastic for the community, but LJ’s shaky nature eventually sparked discussions of finding an alternative website, which ultimately never happened. The stability issues were especially frustrating when it came to EGL Sales, as communication with buyers would be slowed down significantly. As Livejournal blackouts became more frequent, people lost patience, and began to go elsewhere. This brings us to…

Facebook Stability
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As mentioned, social media as we know it hadn’t come into its own when EGL was at the peak of its popularity. It made sense that people wanted to migrate to such a universal platform as Facebook when it had proved itself to have staying power, unlike many of its predecessors. While using Facebook for Lolita groups doesn’t appeal to everyone, it can’t be denied that many of the groups made were successful. Lolita Updates, where new releases and news are posted, boasts over 10,000 members, and has new releases posted every day, or often several times a day.

There is a Facebook group for almost every aspect of the community and every interest, such as sewing, plus-size shopping, oldschool, and local comms. For coord sharing groups, the instant gratification of the like system was tantalising and drew people in from Daily_Lolita. The sense of community overall is looser, however, and the “bump” system means that discussions or topics in groups can be kept current indefinitely while other, newer items go unseen.

A lot of people feel odd about having their Facebook profile tied to the Lolita community, especially those used to LJ. Despite this, many of these groups are going from strength to strength, don’t show signs of slowing, and are definitely worth joining.

Newbies Didn’t Want To Use Livejournal
While the website itself had a heyday, it quickly became outdated, lost out to other platforms, and fell out of common use. This meant that newer generations of Lolitas had to learn how to use the site from scratch. Initially, this was great, because those unwilling to put in the small effort to learn how to use the website were often the same people who wouldn’t put in any more effort beyond that.

Eventually, however, it became clear that a lot of newbies just really didn’t want to make an account on a platform that was in decline, and for only one interest that they may or may not stay interested in for very long. When Facebook groups started popping up, prospective EGL members simply joined those instead, and the amount of young blood replacing older members who had fallen off the map or left EGL started decreasing rapidly.

There were a lot of other factors, but the bottom line is that the platform simply couldn’t keep up. Even those who used to maintain their personal Livejournal accounts moved on to other platforms. There were attempts to move the community to different sites, there was even an independent EGL website briefly, but nothing really came of it.

Why Does EGL Still Matter?
After all of this, you might be wondering how or why EGL would still be of use to the community. In short, it’s steeped in history. Browsing back through the community archive can be really educational, giving insights into how the fashion evolved in the West, how attitudes changed (or stayed the very same), and even what meetups looked like in 2005.

As well as that, having a thorough read through topics and old comment threads can help to discourage people from looking at EGL through rose-tinted glasses. There have always been stirrers, drama-mongers, obtuse newbies, and people looking for an argument, and the fact that LJ wasn’t connected to a social media account meant that these types came out of the woodwork much easier. If you put those spectacles away, you’ll learn much more from a dig through than you would otherwise.

I feel that this might be the last time to give some very old EGL advice, so check the Memories!

fefwfw.pngMemories
Memories is a function that Livejournal has which is similar to marking favourites. You can make lists for different topics of memories, which is exactly what EGL has. Located in the sidebar on the left side of the EGL front page, you can find links to lists of memories for sewing tutorials, reviews, DIY, lifestyle ideas, and even baking and cooking. EGL Moderators would either pick posts to add to the memories, or respond to member requests to add them, so there is very little in the way of junk posts here. In fact, most, if not all, of these are as useful as ever, and are definitely worth looking through if you haven’t already.


Is It Worth Going Back to EGL?

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EGL Banner as of December 2015

This has been a burning question for a long time now. If I’m honest, there’s no definite answer, because everyone wants something different from an online community. Many people have started using it or returned after long absences, and the posts on the main community page have picked up.

It’s no coincidence that the rise of the oldschool aesthetic and interest in the Lolita Lifestyle came about at the at the same time as the question started being thrown around, and there’s the problem that many people wish to revive it out of pure nostalgia. I’m guilty of this wish, but I’ve come to realise that it isn’t feasible, especially if people start using it for that reason alone.

I occasionally comment there, and there is an active user base on EGL still, so if you want to post, you should definitely give it a go, but don’t be disheartened if it’s not as active as you might like.

Conclusion
It’s interesting, if a little sad, to see how the community began to unravel, but EGL has been a real trooper of a community. It saw the Lolita community through the dark days of homemade satin dresses being the norm and brands not shipping overseas when shopping services were rare as hen’s teeth. Even if it never picks up again, let’s never forget this little place, and let’s benefit from the wealth of history it has to offer us.

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4 Responses to EGL – The Rise, The Fall, and Why It Still Matters

  1. One thing you did not mention is in 2011, EGL and egl_comm_sales were temporarily “closed” due to some moderator issues – after that closure, people moved to tumblr, twitter, and facebook and didn’t really look back. Mod Announcement Post: http://egl.livejournal.com/17809854.html

    Liked by 1 person

    • josiephone says:

      I completely forgot about that! The decline had definitely started before that, but it was a pretty big shove. Thanks for sharing!

      Like

  2. rainedragon says:

    You mention that LJ was perfect, besides being unreliable, but honestly, it really wasn’t. Search sucked. Keeping feedback by hand was tedious and took the moderation team a lot of time. Formatting was tedious, and required a level of technical knowledge that not everyone had.

    The reason LJ worked was because it was free, and it could handle the traffic, and in the beginning a large percentage of people had LJ accounts, because it had such a high market saturation.

    Facebook is also free and also has a huge market saturation, but is has a lot of the same flaws that LJ had.

    I feel like, unless someone puts in the skilled time and a lot of money, lolita communities are going to continue to exist on imperfect platforms like LJ and FB.

    I think the re-launched lace-book has potential, but with that we get back into the whole cost issue. Same with HelloLace (gone), Lacemarket and Lolibrary. It’s just hard to find people who have the skill, time and money to create something and keep it afloat.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love(d) EGL, but at the same time, I feel like the lolita community at the time was so in love with EGL, that they were blind to it’s problems, so when solutions were proposed, a lot of people rejected them outright. Then, of course, the inevitable happened and EGL started to really decline, and there wasn’t a better solution other than whatever platform everyone was already on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • josiephone says:

      I thought I mentioned that Livejournal seemed perfect, but wasn’t at all. That’s what I get for not proof-reading enough! Admittedly I wasn’t sure of the details of what the moderators had to deal with, so I chose to omit it instead of risk posting something that wasn’t true. I feel it would be fitting to edit in a little paragraph about it, since it is definitely worth mentioning the struggles they went through. I’ll throw it in just as soon as I can feel my hands again!

      I’m really hoping Lacebook can work. I only just joined today and I really love the layout and overall feel. I have my fingers crossed that it’ll be manageable for the mod team!

      Like

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