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Gaia Online was launched on February 18, 2003 as Go-Gaia.com by Studio XD employees Derek Liu (also known on the site by his username: lanzer), Josh Gainsbrugh (username: L0cke), Rosann Yip (username: Ling), and Long Vo (username: VO). It acquired its current name, Gaia Online, by June 29, 2004. In an interview on the Big Boards discussion forum site, Liu revealed that the site was initially an anime linklist before it developed into a community based around social gaming and discussion forums.
On June 18, 2007, Gaia Online won the Webaware Community award. On December 28, the official Gaia Online Facebook page was launched, which accumulated upwards of 545,000 likes in the next five years.
By 2008, Gaia Online was named by Time Magazine as 39th on that year's list of 50 Best Websites. On October 28, 2009, the /r/gaiaonline subreddit was created. On January 6, 2011, the site won the Mashable Best Website User Experience Award. As of January 2017, the @GaiaOnline Twitter feed has received more than 16,900 followers.
New CEO Controversy
In March 2013, Gaia Online appointed Gary Schofield as its new CEO. Since then, Schofield has been met with negative feedback from users and staff, quickly gaining a reputation of prioritizing income above the Gaia community.
Negative feedback started during August 2013, when the Cash Shop began selling gold generators (items that gave users a random amount of Gaia Gold). First was the gold generator known as "Flynn's Booty". The release of the item resulted into hyperinflation in the virtual marketplace, making it nigh impossible for players to keep up with the over-inflated item prices. Next came the announcement for "Club Verge" (shown below), a guild where users would be invited to if they exceeded 9999 Gaia Cash worth of purchases; giving them access to the "Verge Shop", an exclusive shop selling items of higher value than that of the normal cash shop. These releases were met with large amounts of negative feedback from the Gaia community, and has led users to tie everything back up to Schofield. Since then, the community has regarded both him and Jason Loia, the COO, with an intense dislike, and constantly called for their resignation.
Anonymous reviews for Schofield can also be found on Glassdoor.com, a job and career site where employees can anonymously dish on the pros and cons of their companies. In these reviews, Schofield is mostly met with negative reviews from former site staff (shown below), and had an approval rating of as low as 25% in April 2014.
…Atmosphere is pleasant aside from common disdain RE: the CEO.
"The creative, nerf-gun shooting office culture was let go along with many talented individuals during layoffs and a reserved and timid culture lacking in morale or motivation replaced it. The new management killed off all of the worthwhile projects in favor of focusing solely on milking all the money they can from virtual item sales"
"With new management this year, the vibe immediately became unpleasant. Exhibiting unabashed cronyism, new managers hired additional managers they'd worked with in the past to assist in gutting the company of its talent. Together, they've turned what was once a pleasant, enjoyable workplace into a humiliating grind to either drink the kool-aid and remain employed for another month, or just throw your hands up and openly apply for other jobs during work hours. I don't believe any of the remaining employees (sans management) are under the impression that positive change is occurring, or that Gaia will ever return to the intensely creative and unique studio it once was."
It's really a shame, this place used to be such a fun place to work. Unfortunately, it wasn't always productive.
…Ultimately, not many pros left. Though I fondly remember my early years there, I unfortunately now share many sentiments with the other negative reviews here.
"Currently managed by money-hungry suits and incompetent yes-men. An entirely different company, literally almost an entirely new staff with little regard for its clients, even less for adequately compensating new, underpaid staff.
Members of the site's community are known as Gaians and each is represented on the site by an avatar that can be customized with different skin tones, facial characteristics, hair style, gender, race and clothing. Through their avatars, members can interact with each others in Gaia Towns, Rally, and other Flash spaces, some of which have been created for paid sponsors. The site contains a variety of different subforums, including boards for general discussion, news, lifestyle, role-playing, entertainment, games and art. Users receive "Gaia Gold" that can be used to purchase items on the site by posting and replying on the message boards, browsing the site and playing games. "Gaia Cash" is a virtual currency introduced in 2007 that can be purchased for $0.01 each. Users can buy items with both gold and cash at virtual shops on the site and can trade among each other in a virtual marketplace. Gaia Online holds site-wide annual events for users to play special games and receive unique items.
The site hosts several Flash games that users can play to acquire gold and items. The browser-based MMORPG zOMG allows Gaia Online users to battle monsters and complete quests. The breakout game Smashblox features boards that must be cleared of blocks by players to advance to the next level. The site also features several mini-games, including virtual fishing, a lottery, casino games and pinball.
In late 2003, a Gaia user named Cigarette said in the forums that she was dying of terminal brain cancer. Fellow Gaia user Cycon, however, found out that Cigarette was lying and jokingly called her out. By February 2004, she mysteriously reappeared and Cycon uploaded the Flash cartoon "Ode to Cigarette" to Newgrounds in response, where it gained around 295,000 views:
On September 3, 2004, Cycon referenced the incident in another Flash cartoon entitled "A Day in the Life of Cycon", where it gained around 189,000 views and a 2nd Place daily trophy at Newgrounds despite both cartoons being banned from Gaia.
Million Page Thread
On March 28, 2004, Luigi Seno (known in Gaia as Lupig) started in the Chatterbox forum (the only area in the Gaia Online forums that allows spam) a thread that aimed to gather a million pages worth of posts (with each page consisting of fifteen posts each). It has reached it goal on January 19, 2019 p. 1000000, and since then, it has gathered over 15 million posts across 1.03 million pages, and it's often cited by other forums as the longest forum thread in existence.
Loli-Chan is the nickname given to an anonymous camgirl from Florida who gained notoriety on 4chan sometime in 2006 at the age of 13. By her own account, Loli began making friends on the Internet via Gaia Online in 2005, and subsequently began experimenting with cybersex through Yahoo! Messenger and trading nude photos of herself for Gaia Gold.
Rules of the Internet
Rules of the Internet is a list of protocols and conventions, originally written to serve as a guide for those who identified themselves with the Internet group Anonymous. In 2007, 4chan’s founder Christopher Poole, better known as moot, was asked about the rules during a question-and-answer session at ROFLcon, where he claimed that they were invented on Gaia Online.
Clementine Hacking Incident
Clementine, also known by her Gaia username of "Bluebird", was a member who lost her account after falling to a phishing attempt sometime in September 2007. Her account was not recovered until after Jack Myers of Jack Myers Media Business Report intervened. On November 12, 2007, Myers published a news report about the hacking incident, which Gaians ridiculed for being misleading. Thanksgiving Day was subsequently declared as Clementine Day in reference to the incident.
Second Longcat Crusade
On March 2008, almost one year after Anonymous successfully pressured Subeta into removing items related to Longcat, Gaia Online released the Infinity Hat, a random item generator that can generate random items named after Internet memes. The Longcat Scarf, in particular, bore the following description in allusion to the attack at Subeta:
"Once a cat that was long was owned by a man
Who posted its photo on the net from Japan
From 2 then to 4, it was smuggled 'twixt 'chans,
Doomed to be stolen again and again."
Anonymous thus launched the Second Longcat Crusade, an ultimately-unsuccessful raid that sought to repeat their success at Subeta.
To this day, the Longcat Scarf and all other items from the Infinity Hat remain at the site.
The YouTube celebrity Boxxy joined GaiaOnline in 2006 as M o l d yLunchboxx. By January 2008, she began amassing gold for some items she wanted, and some of her friends donated to her quest. To thank one of her donors, she made the video "FOAR 4DD1 FRUM BOXXY" (shown below).
On November 18, 2009, Gaia Online announced a ban on the sale of tobacco-related items. This immediately invited complaints from users. A copy of the announcement on Gaia Online's official Facebook account, for example, garnered more than 600 comments (with most of them criticizing Gaia on the issue). The site's weekly avatar-making contests were flooded with entries that allude to the event (with at least one user submitting an avatar closely-resembling a cigarette butt). A few days later, Liu himself apologized for the removal of tobacco-related items and restored them.
Idiot Nerd Girl
Idiot Nerd Girl is an advice animal image macro series featuring a photo of a teenage girl wearing thick rimmed glasses with the word “NERD” written on the palm of her left hand. On May 8th, 2010, an unedited version of the photo was posted on the Gaia Online Forums (shown below).
On May 12, 2010, Gaia Online released the "Bento Bunny" virtual item. The next day, however, it was removed after a complaint from Claire "Queen of Dorks" Belton, who noticed similarities between it and the Onigiri Bunny icon (as illustrated above) that she made on February 14. Following heated debates both in Gaia Online and deviantART, Liu and Belton agreed on the restoration of Bento Bunny as long as Belton is credited.
Shellmac was a regular poster at Gaia Online's General Discussion board (also known as GD). She regularly posted pictures of herself in the GD and commented on the appearance of others who do similarly. She posted a video which eventually attracted threats from 4chan, to which she responded on August 1, 2010 that "they aren't gonna do s**t". Hours later, she removed the video due to "trolling of mass destruction". However, someone managed to save a copy before the video went down and reuploaded it under the username of anon4chanbtard.
Her original account was hacked, but she created one account after another to continue posting as other users began reporting her posts for trolling. On October 3, she gained an entry in the Urban Dictionary, where she is described as a "recently popular troll in the GD, occasionally flirting with hot guys, but mostly calling everyone else names."
She was last active on Gaia in 2012 with her 104th account.
Hyperinflation in Gaia Online began in August 2013, after the release of items known as "gold generators" several months after Gary Schofield became CEO of Gaia Interactive. In August 22, 2013, Gaia released a gold generator called "Flynn's Booty.". In the accompanying FAQ, the staff said that "it is not predicted to have any long-term negative effect on the economy". By September 10, Flynn's Booty was offered to those who would buy at least $5 worth of Gaia Cash. By September 26, Flynn's Booty returned in the cash shop. Thirty minutes after the announcement, users started gathering evidence to prove that Flynn's Booty is the biggest source of inflation on the site.
In September 19, Jason Loia, the COO of Gaia Interactive, made a presentation about gamification for Manos Accelerator, a mentorship program for Latino entrepreneurs. One of the slides displayed Flynn's Booty as an example, while another elaborated on the application of Skinner's Box to games. By October 6, pictures of Loia's presentation began circulating within Gaia's forums, and users were angered over being compared to lab rats and began seeing the management as the ones responsible for the hyperinflation. Yip announced her resignation shortly, leaving Liu as the last remaining founder.
Users were already demanding the discontinuation of Flynn's Booty and the termination of both Schofield and Loia, and the discovery of Loia's presentation fueled the users' efforts even further. The staff responded through discontinuing the weekly "Ask the Admins" threads where users can submit questions for the staff to answer, deleting threads and posts that mentioned Schofield and/or Loia, and banning those who insist on posting their names. By December 16, Gaia made an unannounced update to its Terms of Service to prevent the recurrence of the events that led to the closure of the "Ask the Admins" threads. In comparison to the previous version, the newly-amended version contained provisions against disparaging, ridiculing, and scorning Gaia, its employees, and officers [Sec. 4a]; and posting personal information (such as names) of Gaia employees [Sec. 4q]. In addition, Gaia added an amendment to allow them to revise the Terms of Service without notifying its users, reversing their previous stance of sending notices when updates are made [Sec. 3]. To circumvent censorship, users began giving Schofield nicknames like "Goldemort" and "he-who-must-not-be-named".
As a result, some users have left Gaia and went to other avatar-based forum sites where they shared their grievances over the site's operation, while others resorted to vandalizing Gary Schofield's Crunchbase entry, which sporadically persisted until November 2014, when Schofield's profile was deleted.
On April 22nd, 2007, the tech news blog Giga Om reported that Gaia Online averaged one million posts per day. On September 11th, 2008, the Internet news blog Virtual World News published an article revealing that the site was receiving more than seven million monthly users. According to a list of Internet Forums on Wikipedia, Gaia Online has accumulated the most posts of any Internet forum with over 2.145 billion.
 Virtual Worlds News – Virtual Greats Snoop Dogg and Incredible Hulk Goods Launch in Gaia (Archived from original)
 Jack Myers Media Business Report – Avatar Identity Theft Prompts Review of Gaia and Virtual World Rules
 Gaia Online Community Discussion Forum – Just wanted you all to know about some changes in the management (Archived from now-deleted original)
 Gaia Online Official Facebook – We're Gettin' Healthy: No More Tobacco Items in Shops!
 eBaum's World Forum – What is the most active/popular thread you have ever seen?
 Gaia Online Site Feedback – This upsets me greatly, Gaia – now including an AtA response
 Gaia Online Site Feedback – New Strategy: I would PAY for you to fire the CEO.
 Gaia Online Site Feedback – You just deleted my thread about the CEO ******** YOU
 Gaia Online General Discussion – I DON'T GIVE A S**T IF I'VE BEEN 4CHANED, THEY AREN'T GONNA (archived from deleted original)
 Gaia Online General Discussion – DUE TO TROLLING OF MASS DESTRUCTION I DELETED MY VIDEO
 Gaia Online Petitions – The Original Bento Bunny Reinstation/Revision Petition!