The FootGuys fiasco

If any of you are members of, I don’t have to tell you what’s been happening there.

For the rest on you, a brief history.  FootGuys is a social network for gay feet guys.  It originally began as another free social network called many years ago.  Then the site owner decided to leave, and abruptly he sold it off to, who basically assimilated it into their own site and then tried to charge for it, ultimately decimating everything the original site stood for.  It caused quite a bit of bad blood.

Enter FootGuys.  Run by different people, they used a platform very similar to the original, keeping it social and free.  Everyone has been happy and humming along for a number of years as membership continued to grow.  The site owners had announced a lot of new, exciting features coming up in what was sounding like a major site upgrade.

Then they announced it was becoming a pay site.

Now, they did explain their reasoning.  And all things considered, the price seems fairly low.

Still, I was amazed at how quickly things degenerated.  Members instantly began expressing their anger.  Now, they have a right to express their anger.  But 1) they declared it via global bulletins, which are the equivalent of a text message sent to every single member that has no opportunity for response or discussion–it’s basically on par with shouting in a crowded room–and 2) the comments quickly became vicious, cruel, and mean spirited attacks to the site owners, calling them greedy, selfish, wanting to destroy a community & separate friends, repeating history with the previous owner, etc.  Very few words of gratitude for all the years they did provide as a free site.  In fact, quite the opposite:  many members accused them of a bait and switch, and that they had been planning this all along!

Members declared they would be leaving in droves.  It was almost comical (although more sad) to see the huge lists of people sending global bulletins of farewells and desperate contact info being given out in their anticipation of removing themselves from the group.

After a bit of reflection, I do agree with one criticism… the site owners did bring some of this upon themselves by announcing fees so suddenly and without any real warning.  Yes, they tried to defend their reasoning in their original message, but all people saw were the $$$ of a pay site, and that was it.  There really had been no hint whatsoever that they were even thinking about charging.  So in that sense, I can’t blame people for being shocked and being upset.  Still… the reactions were so ugly, I was practically ashamed.  While a few raised some good points, most responded with mob-like mentalities.

I know enough from running just this blog that it does take time and money to run a site.  I can’t imagine running a full social network with as many members as FootGuys has (which now numbers over 7,000).  Personally, I wouldn’t mind paying a bit for quality.  I (along with a few others) did suggest that much like GearFetish & Recon had/have done for a very long time, there should be a free version of the site with limited features, and that only full paying members would have access to all features (including a mobile version, which I think is fantastic!). Which they have now proposed.

In my opinion, a lot of those 7,000 members were pretty flaky.  Many did not list a location (and what’s the point of being on a social site–especially if you’re looking to meet people, as most claimed–if we don’t have a clue where in the world you are?), write a description, post many pics, or engage in any real sort of conversation.  If we lose a lot of those members… so what?  I’d rather have a smaller, more engaged community, and I’d be willing to pay a small price ($25.95 for a year, with option for 6 and 3 month memberships) for it.

Fortunately by now, the fever seems to have died down.  Either people have gotten used to the idea, come to terms with how they feel about it (it’s suspected many members already left), or the free plan has calmed people down a bit.  Whatever the case may be, I hope it lasts once the change actually occurs.  It was a shocking to have a community turn so ugly and nasty so quickly. 

Update:  There is a small coda to this story.  It seems that all threads on FootGuys that were started regarding this change have been deleted.  While it’s possible they were censored, I hope that isn’t the case.  I’m wondering if the site owners are now rethinking the changes, and took it down in the meantime.  Time will tell, as the changes were originally supposed to occur half-way through this month.  At the moment, things are going on as before at the site, almost as if nothing had even happened.  Which I think is good.  But I will never forget how quickly it all changed, even if it was for only a few days.

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