Over the eight years I've been in cosplay, I've seen a number of cosplay community websites come and go. Cosplay.com had its day, followed by ACParadise and even the Japanese cosplay website Cure. With the rise of social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, however, these have fallen by the wayside. French website Cosplay-it is giving the cosplay social network another shot, however -- following five years of success in the Francophone community, with over 2700 cosplayers on their database. In September, they launched an international version of the site, throwing it open to cosplayers across the world.
The Competition (Or Lack Of)
Browsing through Cosplay-it in the process of researching this story had me wondering how all my forsaken cosplay accounts across the internet were going. Cosplay.com, despite the addition of a marketplace a few years ago, looks like it hasn't updated its interface since I joined in 2007. This includes the incredibly slow photo uploading system, which was a major consideration for my move from the website to Facebook a couple of years ago. Indeed Google Trends for Cosplay.com shows a steady decline ever since it peaked in late 2009. ACParadise remains similarly dated, although its American focus and odd decision to split male and female cosplayers into two different websites meant it never got as big as Cosplay.com once was.
Photo by Nikita on Cosplay-it
One of the only other sites I signed up for was Cure, a Japanese website that launched their English site a couple of years after I started cosplaying. While Cure was fun simply for the interesting fanmail that came through ("Nice to meet you. Your picuture was watched to mail was sent. It is very glad when can international exchange.") it suffered from the same problems as the other two, and ultimately most of the English users stopped visiting. Cosplay-it's first iteration may be five years old, but its new site is nowhere near as dated as the other pedigreed cosplay sites around. So is it worth a look?
So What Is It?
Photo by Clef on Cosplay-it
Cosplay-it is a cosplay website that was founded for the Francophone cosplay community over five years ago. It recently closed up shop to do a number of upgrades (you can see what it used to look like here) and finally re-open to international audiences. At the moment it's highly Euro-centric -- far from being a downside, this fact means it's great for cosplayers and cosplay fans who want to discover amazing talent from a side of the globe that we rarely see. Indeed one of the most prevalent cosplayers showcased on Cosplay-it's front page is Clef, one of France's most internationally well-known cosplayers.
The concept of the site is nothing new -- cosplayers upload their photos, collected in albums under the character and series they belong to. However they're also given the chance to add videos from YouTube, Vimeo or Dailymotion, a feature which not many cosplay sites have integrated before this.
The interface is sleek, user-friendly and one of the most modern site designs for a cosplay page that I've seen to date. All in all, it looked promising enough that I decided to take Cosplay-it for a test drive.
How Does It Work?
To begin with, as with most sites, you have to create an account -- although you can also browse through Cosplay-it's growing database of cosplayers, cosplays and photos without signing in, if that's more to your style. Sign up is simple, you can customise your profile page with a bio, a cover photo and links back to any of your other pages.
As I mentioned earlier, the photo uploading system is a huge consideration for me when setting up new cosplay pages. Cosplay.com's photo uploader was stuck in the early 2000s, taking more than 15 minutes to upload just five photos. Deviantart's process was long and drawn out -- made for individual pieces of chosen artwork, not for uploading whole galleries at once. With some of my costumes having more than 50 photos attached to them, I was glad to learn that Cosplay-it lets you just drag a whole album full of photos into its uploader without requiring individual photo titles, descriptions or tags -- though it would be nice to have a comment section in which to credit photographers or make notes on specific photos. In just a couple of minutes, however, I was able to set up a basic page for one of my cosplays from PAX, complete with a short 'story' about the costume, a handful of photos and a video:
While I'm admittedly pretty attached to my Facebook page as my preferred method of sharing my cosplays, my favourite part of Cosplay-it in the short time I've been on it is just how easy it is to browse through pages and pages of gorgeous costumes. Trying to do the same on Facebook relies on having followed a number of cosplayers' pages already -- and also relies on Facebook actually showing you said pictures on a regular basis. The explore page has a number of options, with more yet to come, and allows you to search by country, series or character, or even for specific cosplayers. Australia only has seven users on the site at the last time I checked -- but with five of those having joined within the last two days I imagine that number will continue to grow.
Being in a beta stage at the moment, a number of options are still greyed out throughout the site to be implemented at a later phase. This includes what I assume is an alternate browsing mode called 'Discover', a Tutorial database and the ability to follow certain cosplayers to keep up with their work. Another option that is 'coming soon' is the ability to comment on cosplayer's costumes -- which also happens to be the reason I'm so attached to my Facebook cosplay pages. Giving and getting feedback and even starting conversations about the series depicted or the techniques used is one of the best things about cosplay -- and also what makes it a community. Hopefully Cosplay-it will be able to integrate more community features in future builds.
Although the international site is still small at the moment, Cosplay-it could be a great change for the community, especially as more and more cosplayers become disillusioned with Facebook and its unforgiving lack of reach for unpaid posts. Even more so, the site is great for enthusiasts who are always on the lookout for great cosplay -- jump in and search for your favourite series, or just set the explore feature to 'most recent' and see what comes up.
Will you be using Cosplay-it to showcase your cosplays, or do you use a different website to upload all your photos? Tell us in the comments!