TEXT OF TIMELINE:
20 years of webcomics and Internet culture.
This timeline explores changes in Internet cultures of funding and content dissemination, as demonstrated through the world of webcomics.
1993: Emergence of Webcomics.
Early webcomics rise to prominence through forums and personalized websites. One example is David Farley’s Doctor Fun, which has been called the first popular episodic webcomic strip and was uploaded in September of 1993.
2003: The early 2000s webcomics world.
2004: Topatoco founded.
Cartoonist Jeffrey Rowland founds merchandising website Topatoco, which, while it’s decreased in prominence, continues to sell merchandise for a variety of media today, is created with the intent of distributing webcomics merchandise, thus generating revenue for webcomics artists.
2006: Project Wonderful Founded
Artist Ryan North founds the advertising service Project Wonderful, intended to improve webcomic artists’ (and eventually others’) experiences of running ads on their websites. Together with merchandise, banner ads formed the source of successful webcomics’ income for the majority of the 2010s.
The crowdfunding website Kickstarter launches in 2009, with a stated mission to “help bring creative projects to life.” Over the next few years, Kickstarter will become the most common way that expensive webcomic projects, such as printed book runs, are brought to life. Years later, in 2016, The Guardian will call it “one of the biggest powers in publishing.”
Crowdfunding is reeimagined into small-dollar donations given by “patrons” when Jack Comte and Sam Yam found Patreon, due in part to Comte’s dissatisfaction with the ad revenue he receives from Youtube. Webcomic projects and artists, including the established artists that have been working in webcomics since the early 2000s, go on to join the site for a steady source of monthly support.
2015: Ad blockers
In 2015, ad blocker usage reaches 20% across the United States, a number that’s been climbing and continues to steadily climb per year. While ads aren’t dead, they’ve become an increasingly inefficient way for webcomic artists to generate revenue.