AOL is on fire! Circavie and Ficlets will die on Jan. 15th, 2009.

Updated 12-7-08 with more information for Ficlets users and 1-13-09 with new information on importing Circavie timelines to Dipity.

OK, I’ll admit it: I feel bad for my readers. Some of them are already feeling down over the loss of their small but beloved community and their old photo, video and storage sites. Breaking more bad news for them all the time – which is all I do anymore – is not fun for me, either.

The title of the post was inspired by Twitter’s mringlein, who does not give the phrase “on fire” too pleasant a connotation.

The latest victim’s of AOL’s cost-cutting and streamlining measures are two AOL-branded websites: Circavie and Ficlets, which both have devoted, if not huge, fan bases.

AOL is posting about all shut down sites and services on the AIM-branded People Connection Blog so you can simply check it each day for the status of your favorite AOL website or service – not that there’s many of either left to choose from.

If you look closely at the stats you’ll see the true story behind these shutdowns. It’s not just that AOL is cutting costs, but that traffic year-over-year at these sites was never good in the first place and is not good enough now to keep these sites viable.

In the case of Circavie, a website where you create pictorial timelines of personal events, traffic is exactly the same as it was one year ago (roughly 2,000 uniques daily), but that’s down from an all-time high of 13,000 daily visitors last November – in other words, Circavie has never done too well for an AOL-branded website since it’s launch in July of 2007, and is doing much worse now.

The stats for Ficlets, a website where users work together to create short fictional stories, which launched in March of 2007, tell us pretty much the same story: a peak of 13,700 visits in March of 2007, with traffic hovering today at the 10,000 daily uniques mark – much better than the 4,000 uniques the site saw around this time last year, but still rather dismal for an AOL-branded property.

Update: Unfortunately AOL is telling Ficlets users to simply copy and paste all their entries into Word. People are complaining on the PeopleConnection blog that with perhaps hundreds of entries to back up and save it’s going to be a time-consuming, tedious process, but as another commenter suggested, AOL has gotten “too lazy” to get a developer to whip up a simple exporter for Ficlets users.

Fortunately, the person who created Ficlets, Kevin Lawver, created his own Ficlets exporter, and will work on getting the existing content back online by Jan. 16, 2009.

Update #2, 1-13-09: A comment to this post informs us that Dipity (see next paragraph for more info), a service similar to Circavie, now has a free importer you can use to save your Circavie timelines on the Dipity website.

An excellent alternative to Circavie might be Dipity, which lets you create your own timelines pretty much however you want. For group fic writing, LiveJournal actually has tons of communities devoted to it (there’s plenty of mature adult content on LiveJournal, though, so check for that before you join any community – if that sort of content bothers you). One way to explore the communities on LJ is to use the site explore page.