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:pointr: :t::h::e: :bulletgreen: :f::a::i::r::y: :bulletgreen: :t::a::l::e:

The story of deviantART, as most know it, goes like this. Once upon a time the yellow alien :jark: and a pug :matteo: were sitting around thinking, hey it would be great to create a massive online art community wouldn't it? And then the yellow alien went off and wrote thousands of lines of alien code, and the pug ran around telling all his friends about this great new art site they had to check out. And when the alien was done coding, he told all his alien friends to come too! Once they'd all arrived, this heavenly new community came about and we all lived happily ever after. Until people started "first posting" and what not. But that's another story.

The end.
But not quite.

Actually, there was a lot more to it that couldn't be discussed until now. Like the fact that there were always three deviantART co-founders, not two. That deviantART was wholly owned by DMusic Network, LLC, and then Lynx Technology Group, LLC which, to  begin with, owned DMusic Network, LLC. A gentleman by the name of Michael Ovitz (former President of the Walt Disney Company. Founder of the Creative Artists Agency and a Hollywood legend to boot.) was the owner of all three of these companies. And also the little  known fact that deviantART was nearly shut down before it reached its first birthday, and was saved by this mysterious third co-founder ( :ninja: ) by the skin of his teeth.

Here's that story, which is quite a bit different from the fairy tale we all remember.


:pointr: :t::h::e: :bulletgreen: :s::t::a::g::e:

[Rewind :pointl:  5X playback]: I founded a company called "Dimension Music" in 1997, which was later renamed to "DMusic" - it was huge,  tons of traffic, lots of money. In 1999 it was acquired by Michael Ovitz, a very powerful Hollywood "super" agent and his Lynx  Technology Group. I went to work for Ovitz right out of high school, and while there I worked with all divisions of his new  management company (Artists Management Group) to help them make their projects more appealing to the tech generation.  Throughout this time I continued to run the DMusic Network on behalf of Lynx Technology Group, and in early 2000 I went out  and acquired a handful of other similar online music sites, and the management teams behind those sites. One of these  acquisitions was Cybertropix, run by the now infamous jark - soon after Cybertropix was transitioned in to the DMusic  Network, jark approached me about an idea he felt strongly about. And so we agreed, he would create  deviantART which would be an art community, run off of the DMusic Platform, and would also power our much needed skin section for DMusic.

Skinning wasn't a new concept to me or to DMusic. In cooperation with Mark Streich (Gllen), DMusic created the very first skin site in late 1997 early 1998. WinAMP Facelift was an extensive database of skins for WinAMP, the only popular skinnable application that existed at the time. After WinAMP Facelift was complete, Mark Streich saw an opportunity to open up a website that enabled artists to submit skins for all skinnable applications, it was called Customize .org and it was developed and launched on DMusic 's servers, and resided there for about six months before it needed its own servers. I'm sure many of you remember it as the grandfather of all skin sites. Customize later sold to a company called Rare Medium in New York - I had negotiated to sell DMusic to them as well, along with numerous other MP3 sites, but fortunately I chose to work with Michael Ovitz instead.

A bit later in 1999, jark built a site called Screenphuck which was very similar to Customize .org but with many interesting innovations. The project didn't go far because soon after this the DMusic Network bought Cybertropix and many new opportunities were on the horizon for jark.

Under contract with DMusic Network, LLC, jark built and launched deviantART on August 7th, 2000. Soon afterwards,  jark realized that he'd need his own staff, because the management of deviantART was a task he couldn't take on by  himself, so he found matteo to help him out. And matteo was awesome, he knew many talented artists, more  artists than even jark knew, and he was great at spreading the word about deviantART. Soon afterwards, I officially hired matteo as a consultant to the DMusic Network to help jark - and the magic began to happen.

Interesting note; six months after deviantARTs launch, I began discussions with David Gorman and Clark Temple to bring their many talents and DeskMod .com in to the DMusic Network, specifically to help jark. deviantART was very young at the time, and needed quite a bit of programming work; David Gorman would have been a major score for the team. After reaching an agreement to complete this aquisition, the deal was terminated due to "late-term-jitters" on signature day. This happened again after we reached a hand-shake agreement a few months later. We've always had much respect for DeskMod and its founders, and looked forward to working with them; it's unfortunate that this never came to be.


:pointr: :t::r::o::u::b::l::e: :bulletgreen: :i::n: :bulletgreen: :n::e::v::e::r::l::a::n::d:

It was around this time that the Internet bubble had burst, and soon the Lynx TG lawyers were on me like bees. deviantART was still small, and wasn't generating nearly any revenues to cover its many costs. DMusic on the other hand was quite a bit larger at the time, so I focused on expanding it to bring in more cash to compensate for the dramatic changes in advertising rates, and so that we could keep both deviantART and DMusic going. Companies in the digital music space were going out of business left and right and with every competitor around us filing for bankruptcy, things weren't looking good. Dream land soon turned in to a bit of a nightmare, but the worst was still to come.

The only part of this story I still cannot reveal has to do with a legal matter that faced deviantART in its early days. Skipping over the details, that are almost irrelevant; due to this issue I was directly instructed to shut deviantART down. And rightfully so, because not only was there a serious legal blunder that had been made (which has since been corrected) but deviantART was very young, so it needed quite a bit of investment and time in order to begin cash flowing positive.  The bubble had burst and, regardless of how fantastic I knew deviantART could be, it certainly did sound like a very dot-bomby idea to anyone not as close to the project as I was. I also needed to find a buyer for DMusic .com, but I was not permitted to find a buyer for deviantART. And, I was also not permitted to purchase deviantART back from Lynx Technology Group myself, due to this legal issue.

The struggle to save deviantART in the months that followed this were not enjoyable. I will say, it was by the skin of my  teeth that we walked away with an amicable agreement to both sides. The problems were side effects of the times, mostly a crashing economy. With that came a sense of urgency - a rush to secure businesses that could pull in significant revenues, a rush to stop the bleeding (of money) going in to projects that didn't fit in to this first category, and a rush to terminate businesses that couldn't stop the bleeding.

For me, AMG was college, an MBA and a tornado of wordly experience. I was 18 when I began working with some of the most successful people in the world. Harvard educated attorneys, MBA's and experienced movie, music, television and sports executives. I met 3,000 people, took high level and many times investor level meetings with nearly 100 companies. Essentially, it was the opportunity of a life time. So while saving deviantART may have been a bit of a nightmare, believe you me it was a small and understandable price to pay.


:pointr: :e::v::e::r::y: :bulletgreen: :p::r::o::b::l::e::m: :bulletgreen: :h::a::s: :bulletgreen: :a: :bulletgreen: :s::o::l::u::t::i::o::n:

I soon found three interested buyers for DMusic, and it sold to a gentleman named Larry Feldman, ESQ. I'm proud to say that DMusic is still alive and kicking to this day. In fact, Michelle Robertson, twin sister of Michael Robertson (the founder and former CEO of MP3 .com) is now the President of the DMusic Network. Michelle built the DAM CD system at MP3 .com, and being a Robertson I feel confident that DMusic is in great hands with her.

After the DMusic sale, I was finally given permission to find a buyer for deviantART. Up until that point I was still under the impression that I was not going to be allowed to do so. What changed? We patched up the aforementioned legal matters, in the nick of time. The trick to all of this was, I had 3 days to find a buyer. I'm sure you can imagine the stress of these circumstances.

I had a number of folks in mind that we could bring on as partners. In the end, we were fortunate enough to partner with two very good friends of mine. They made the best offer, and coincidentally they were our first choice. Andrew McCann and Ian Lyman were the two extremely talented individuals behind the popular MP3 player Sonique, which they sold to <a  href="www.lycos.com">Lycos in 1999. Having built the most visual media player ever, I knew they would be the best fit for deviantART. Within a day, we had reached an agreement and deviantART was saved.

Too close.

My partner jark was sick throughout this entire process, and is on medication to this day from the stress this caused him. I took two months off, and went to visit family in Greece the moment all of these issues came to a close so that I could piece together the parts of my brain that were still able to function. We felt like we had come out of a meat grinder, to put things in to perspective. Not to mention we had gone through all of this alone, we hadn't told the rest of the team ( tack, arc and matteo at the time) what was going on so that we wouldn't worry anybody, or let them feel the stress we were feeling so that they could focus on keeping the site running.

In retrospect, it was a bit like a fairy tale in that we all lived happily ever after. Well almost, because deviantART still couldn't support itself when we finally had control of it. The strength we've built since is a credit to the powerful team we've assembled here and the love of deviantART that binds us.

I quickly went to work part-time on business development a few months after I returned from Greece, eventually I took that entrepreneurial risk and began working on deviantART full time. Everyone else was a volunteer, jark had (and has) a full time job with a consulting company to the Navy, not to mention a family. For deviantART to stabalize, someone needed to jump on board and take control or it faced the possibility of bankruptcy once more.

That was a year ago, and the results so far have been the development of our printing service, strong advertising relationships and our subscription program. In addition, I brought DMusic's CTO ( chris ) over to deviantART, who is currently the lead engineer on the dA version 3 project. He is an invaluable solution to our scalability troubles.

Like any seasoned team we know that the road ahead will continue to be bumpy, but we've overcome the turbulance of our first few years. We're proud of this, and we're especially proud to announce that deviantART is here to stay; in regards to online art, you officially have a place you can count on to be there, serving your creativity, for many years to come.


:pointr: :c::r::e::d::i::t::s:

jark spyed matteo
tack arc attila
chris dj-designs dygel
spot realitysquared euphoria
mccann MikeyLove TheRyanFord ekud
:pointr: And the rest of the deviantART team


Angelo Sotira
CEO, deviantART, Inc., Co-Founder

Add a Comment:
 
:iconstarryfire89:
StarryFire89 Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2017  Student Writer
You guys are amazing. From a business major perspective, I say that you were able to come together when the time was running short. I, myself, have been a member of dA off and on for the past 4 years, and have met some awesome people whom I call my amazing pen-pals. If it wasn't for having dA, I would have not been able to come to my "happy place" and talking with such awesome artists.
Reply
:iconsususketches:
SusuSketches Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Very interesting !!! :>
Reply
:iconkirbygamer12:
KirbyGamer12 Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wow...
Reply
:iconjs-studio:
JS-Studio Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2016   Digital Artist
Wow. I didnt know all of these.
I'm really glad to be here.
Reply
:iconjustdevpn:
JustDevpn Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
this was a very interesting and emitional read. i am so happy and grateful that deviantart exsists and i am part of it. I needed this site in my life. Thank you for being there and keep up the fabulous work!
Reply
:iconmoonlight-fox:
moonlight-fox Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2015  Student Digital Artist
I'm a 10 year member in DeviantART now HOORAY TO YOU GUYSSSS <333
dA is strong and a great site definitely a big foundation of posting art on the internet!
Reply
:icon7soc7:
7SoC7 Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2015
Very interesting article - Love the history & commitment of the team.
Reply
:iconminklie:
Minklie Featured By Owner May 1, 2015  Student Photographer
Anyone know what was the first deviation on deviantART? 
Reply
:iconm-a-r-k-y:
m-a-r-k-y Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Reply
:iconlaserraptorcoderman:
LaserraptorCoderman Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Would be fun to see!
Reply
:iconwidyadk:
Widyadk Featured By Owner May 16, 2015  Student Artist
idk:?
Reply
:iconthevistas2004:
TheVistas2004 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2015  Student Interface Designer
no pr:o (Eek)blem. :o (Eek)ne s:o (Eek)luti:o (Eek)n
Reply
:iconyellowroseart:
yellowroseart Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
it's great when a plan works out in the end! respect and blessings. goes to show that you can come out smelling of roses, roses grow even in manure.
Reply
:iconphnghue:
Phnghue Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I love deviantART!:squee:OMG MOAR POEMS!deviantART
Reply
:iconmichilauke:
MichiLauke Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2014   Photographer
Reply
:iconpixelartamy:
PixelArtAmy Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2014  Student Digital Artist
woh!!! AMAZING!!!!! -wheatley approves-
Reply
:icondashing-grey:
Dashing-Grey Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Reply
:iconshannonkaiser:
Shannonkaiser Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2014  Professional General Artist
Very interesting.  Its nice to know the history of things you belong to.
Reply
:iconjenny345:
Jenny345 Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2014
I wonder why Deviant Art was called Deviant Art.
Reply
:iconserrara:
Serrara Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
What would happen if DevART closed? We'd all be screwed? I don't know? Ugh...
Reply
:iconmredison:
MrEdison Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2014
I'm supposed to be working... yet I've read the history of deviantART instead. Reading this kinda makes me wish I didn't read it and just kept working... but only due to the nature of inspiration to work harder... if that makes sense.
Reply
:icondaggerman2009:
Daggerman2009 Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Pretty much the exact same story here! XD
Reply
:icondragonzephyr:
DragonZephyr Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2013
I'm so glad that you made it through all this alive and with DeviantArt intact. :)
Reply
:iconpalmystyle:
palmystyle Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you to all deviantART teams for the hard work. Heart Heart Heart
Reply
:iconone-eyehitomi:
One-eyeHitomi Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2013  Student General Artist
I admire the perseverance of the whole team. ^^
Reply
:iconfrost-life:
Frost-life Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
thank god deviantart didn't shut down! thanks to that clever guy who saved it for it's birthday! thats amazing :3
Reply
:iconsweet-naivety:
sweet-naivety Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I came here hoping to find a reason for the use of the word "deviant" in deviantart, because every time I mention this site to my mom she says she doesn't like it solely because of the use of the word "deviant" without her even looking at the website or knowing what it is, resulting in an argument over the meaning of the word "deviant" and it's connotations.  I'm trying to find the exact intentions of choosing the word "deviant" in the name of this website so that I can show her the intentions of the actual creators of the website are not bad or negative, despite her biased negative connotation of the word, which I am guessing is because when she was growing up, anyone who deviated from the norm and was called a deviant was considered bad, and also because she is religious.  When I first asked her what she thought the word deviant meant, her instinctual reply was "liar."  I had to correct her on the definition, which she then looked up in the dictionary, and explain to her that it does not always mean something negative, but she never seems thoroughly convinced.  =(
Reply
:iconamaya-k-lilium:
Amaya-K-Lilium Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Not sure if you're still looking for an answer but this might help: jark.deviantart.com/journal/de…

"I started hunting for ideas; a way to make a unique vision that incorporated some fun in the name and the ideals of this newfound site.  After some hard thinking, and some hard-fought domain name locating, the name deviantART was the name I settled on.

Initially I wanted to use deviate.com but that was taken.  The idea of using .org, which was open at the time, did not appeal to me.  deviantART.com was open so that is what I selected.

The thought pattern was as such, since the roots of deviantART were with the skinning community.  When you skin an application you eventually end up "deviating" from the normal look and feel of Windows.  Skins are, at the end of the day, works of art.  By putting these two thoughts together, I surmised, that deviantART was the ideal name.

To make things even more fun and exciting I thought that calling the visitors "deviants" and the submissions "deviations," as opposed to skin, would be a nice play on the name.  A kind of branding, if you will."
Reply
:iconperegrin72:
Peregrin72 Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
Just the explanation I've been looking for, too, for similar reasons (except that I'm the mom in this case :) ).  Thanks!
Reply
:iconsweet-naivety:
sweet-naivety Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you!
Reply
:iconreywas360:
Reywas360 Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2013
I do not have any facts, but Deviant just means something different from normal, and as Deviantart is very different from the old method of exhibiting and selling art in galleries, it fits pretty well.
Reply
:iconsweet-naivety:
sweet-naivety Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yeah, I told her these things, but she still feels very strongly that there is only a negative connotation to the word, which is why I was hoping I could find something that was said by the actual creators of the site, who chose the name, as to why they picked the word "deviant," so that I could tell my mom what the intentions were behind the word.
Reply
:iconbirdnerd23:
birdnerd23 Featured By Owner Edited Aug 9, 2014  Hobbyist
I have the same problem my mom always reacts badly to the name of this website whenever she is talking about it to a friend. I keep on looking up the meaning of the word "deviant" expecting it to change into some really awful thing when it really isn't. When I look it up online I get "departing from usual or accepted standards, especially in social or sexual behavior.". I guess the fact that the departing from usual or accepted standards for the sex part is purely what my mother thinks the word means. This is rather unfortunate because when you think about it, this is an art website and artists are rather known for not fitting into usual standards, so otherwise it seems like an appropriate name.
I know this is really late on this conversation but I just felt the need to add that bit on
Reply
:iconsweet-naivety:
sweet-naivety Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
yeah that is also how I feel about artists not fitting into usual standards so that the word deviant fits, but my mom just can't let go of that negative connotation of the word, no matter how much I explain it to her.
Reply
:iconrevolucci:
Revolucci Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow 13 years now... and still going strong.... my compliments to the whole team
Reply
:iconanyazalia:
anyazalia Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
DA FOR LIFE!!
Reply
:iconenderwomanmc:
EnderWomanMC Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Deviant art isn't allowed to be here on deviant art yet...
Reply
:iconserrara:
Serrara Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Umm...
:lol:
Reply
:iconenderwomanmc:
EnderWomanMC Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
oh god i posted this when i was like 11 i am so sorry
(im 13)
Reply
:iconserrara:
Serrara Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
It's ok... :hug:
Reply
:iconmikuware789:
MikuWare789 Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Oh wow such an emotional story
Reply
:iconbabypeachblossom:
babypeachblossom Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2013  Student Artisan Crafter
this site rocks! dA forever!
Reply
:iconmaganneal:
MAGANNEAL Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
THANKS CREATOR OD DA!!!!!! :D FOR GIVING US THIS AWESOME SIGHT :D
Reply
:iconporphii:
porphii Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for all the hard work that you've invested here on devainArt. A great compassion and determination was needed for you to survive all the hardships this site had faced before. I think all the efforts have been paid now. You can see the results now.
Reply
:icontsukiyomi98tenshi:
Tsukiyomi98Tenshi Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Damn. That was one intense battle. But, you fought until the end, and the fruits of your labor have shown, and now look at what deviantart is today!! It's amazing of how much hard work was put into this site, and realize that what started so small is now an international community where people all over the world can talk, bond, and make friends with each other over this site.
Reply
:iconp3rsh1ng:
p3rsh1ng Featured By Owner Oct 18, 2012
Whoa, that was quite a battle. I dont have much knowledge about legal regulations of running commercial websites. So the more it seems like a purgatory to me. This cause had to squeeze the nerves out of you. I d be already dead.
Reply
:iconlyricalmedley:
LyricalMedley Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Fast forward to September 22nd of 2012 and... :omg: I had...:cries: no idea that so much "blood, sweat, and :tears: tears" went into the creation of this wonderful site!

From the bottom of my lil' heart.... Thank you for persevering, and stickin' to it no matter thuh squalls!! (Only a slight Treasure Planet reference</i> there! ;) )
Reply
:iconemolg:
Emolg Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow, I have been wondering about dA for a while, after being directed here by my art teacher X3 but this is quite a read, I had no idea that deviantART had to go through all this, but, I suppose by having a tough start, it strengthened the resolve of all the staff to keep it alive and ticking, (or beeping in the servers sense) and who knows, without the struggle perhaps dA would not even be here right now!!
Reply
:iconprenncooder:
PrennCooder Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
cool!
Reply
:iconstacey104201:
Stacey104201 Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2012  Student Writer
Amazing.
Reply
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