“Polyvore is Not Coming Back,” confirmed Racked less than one week after the popular platform for creating online collages and inspiration boards was shut down. After its closure in early April 2018, Polyvore’s shut down catalyzed confusion, distress, and anger throughout the “#PolyFam.”
Claiming to have the “largest style community on the web,” Polyvore allowed users to create collages of clothing & accessories from a variety of online retailers, such as Asos and Net-a-Porter. Users said that this feature allowed them to find and explore designers and trends that were either out of their comfort zone, or were too expensive for their lifestyle. Allowing users to interact with aspirational goods strengthened Polyvore’s user base; in 2016, the website attracted “more than 20 million unique users per month.”
Following its acquisition by Ssense, Polyvore users were only given one month – from April 5th through May 10th, 2018 – to download their collages representing years (for some, over a decade) of inspiration. In this time period, users also had the opportunity to opt out of a data transfer of their usernames, email addresses, and “other Polyvore data.” Yet, in their apology to the Polyvore community, Ssense declared that they do not “have the ability to bring the website or its functionalities back.”
The PolyFam – the name bestowed upon the Polyvore community – continues to question why and how Ssense could have been so careless with their community. Though each member is able to download their personal collages, Polyvore users lose the context of each creation as well as the comments and discussions surrounding them. Ssense’s dismantling of an active, longstanding community and their insistence that there is no way to get it back destroys the larger context in which each individual creation is made.
This leads me to question how we, as librarians, can support born-digital communities such as Polyvore that host creative works which are dependent on a website’s existing structures. Is it possible to offer archival support to living communities that change minute-by-minute? Especially because, in the case of Polyvore, we’d want to preserve the communities themselves in addition to the content. And, most importantly, who is going to pay for it?
We must remember that we are often hired as support systems for physical communities (public institutions, universities, museums, etc.), but we do not normally have the opportunity to operate in the same capacity for online communities. As we consider these questions – for which there may not be strict answers – I end with one more question: how can we move toward supporting online communities in the future, and what opportunities can we create for ourselves?
“Online Retailer Ssense Acquires Polyvore and Immediately Shuts It Down,” Sourcing Journal
“Polyvore is Not Coming Back,” Racked.
“Polyvore Users Mourn One of Fashion’s Most Creative Online Communities,” Dazed.
“SSENSE Apologizes to Polyvore Users Over Recent Acquisition,” Hypebeast.
“Some Big News for our Polyfam,” Polyvore.