AcFun, a pioneer of Chinese danmu ('bullet screens'), can't pay its bills | Society News | SupChina

AcFun, a pioneer of Chinese danmu (‘bullet screens’), can’t pay its bills

Video streaming site AcFun, Bilibili’s biggest rival in the world of online anime content and “danmu” (弹幕) — a feature that allows users to leave real-time comments while watching videos, similar to Twitch chat — appeared to be down on February 1. When attempting to access the site, users are currently greeted with a message that says, “This site can’t be reached.”

The news is not terribly surprising, given that there have been rumors swirling about the website’s potential shutdown since January 31. According to QQ.com, the servers used by Acfun were provided by Alibaba Cloud, and since their monthly contract was set to expire by the end of January, the website was facing the possibility of going offline if it couldn’t pay its February fee on schedule.

On early Thursday morning, just as the month turned, AcFun teased its followers on Weibo with a mysterious cat-face emoji. The post was interpreted by its users as a good sign because the website was still available at that moment. However, only one day after, AcFun made another post on Weibo that read, “[Crying emoji] I want to live another 500 years!”

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Shortly after, the website went down, though it still remains unknown whether the site is temporarily or permanently gone.

Saddened by the news, longtime users of AcFun flooded to the post’s comment section to voice their agony. “I love you. Please don’t go,” the most upvoted comment reads.

Launched in 2007, AcFun was a pioneer in tailoring its content and features to a young generation of Chinese internet users, who grew up under the deep influence of Japanese animation and craved new ways to interact with videos. Inspired by the Japanese site Niconico, AcFun was the first video streaming website in China that allowed users to interact in real-time; users’ “danmu” would float across the screen as videos played.

However, as other websites such as Bilibili copied that function, AcFun began losing popularity and slipping into financial difficulty.

According to Alibaba Cloud’s rules, if AcFun doesn’t renew its contract within seven days at the beginning of each month, the service provider has the right to delete all saved data and stop offering its servers for the site. AcFun has five days left; the clock is ticking.

Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.

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