The demand for AO3 accounts has recently exploded! Unfortunately, the rapid increase in users has also created some site performance issues (you can read more about these and what we're doing about them in our post on Performance and Growth).
We use an invitation system in order to help manage the expansion of the site, and to help guard against spam accounts. Until recently, demand for invitations was low enough that the system didn't result in people waiting for a long time. However, because so many people signed up at the same time, the queue is now really long, and the waiting times are months rather than days or weeks. We know this really sucks for the people waiting for accounts (especially those who are concerned that their work may be deleted from other sites).
We really really want to cut down on waiting times, but we also need to ensure the site remains stable. It's a bit difficult to tell exactly how much difference more registered users will make, because we know that many of the people waiting for an account are already using the site as logged-out users, so to some extent we're already dealing with their extra load, However, every time someone new creates an account, it is a little bit more load on the servers, both because account holders have access to more features (personalisation, subscriptions, history, etc) and because if they're posting works, they also tend to attract more new people to the site who want to access their fanworks! Logged-in users also have more personalised pages, which makes it harder for us to serve them pages from the cache (which puts less load on the site.) At the moment of writing, there are 56,203 registered users on the site and 28,863 requests in the queue: this means we're looking at adding more than half as many users again. That's a pretty massive potential increase, so much as we'd love to, we can't issue invitations to everyone who wants one right away.
What's the plan for issuing more invitations?
Once we got our big performance issues under control, we cautiously increased the number of new invitations being issued every day from 100 to 150. We didn't make an announcement about this right away in case we needed to decrease it again (although lots of people noticed their wait time had decreased!). However, we've been keeping on eye on the site and it seems to be coping happily with the increase.
We need to install some more RAM (see our post on performance) which should be happening very shortly. Once we've done that we'll increase the numbers being issued to the queue again - by another 50 per day initially, and possibly more after that if we don't see any warning signs that it's causing problems.
Even if we up the number of invitations to 300 per day, it's still going to mean that some people will have to wait up to three months. Unfortunately, because we're looking at so much demand, there's a limit to how far we can tackle this. :(
What about invitations for friends?
We used to allow users to request invitations to give out to their friends (just to clear up one source of confusion - user accounts never came with a 'friend invitation' by default, although we did give out some unsolicited ones on our first birthday). However, as the demand increased, we were getting more and more requests of this nature, and it became difficult to keep track of it in a fair way. We decided that in order to make sure we knew exactly how many invitations were being issued, and in order to make it as fair as possible, we'd restrict invitations to the queue only for now. This means that it's 'first come, first served', whether or not you know anyone on the AO3. We know people would really like to build their communities on the site, and we will reenable the option in the future, but only when we're sure the performance situation will allow it.
Can I pay to get an account quicker?
No, not at this time. The AO3 is funded by donations to our parent, the Organization for Transformative Works, but donating doesn't give you an account on the Archive.
When we started the AO3, we decided not to have paid accounts for a few reasons. First of all, we wanted to make it something that you could use whether or not you had any financial resources: we know many fans can't afford paid services or don't have a way of paying for them. Secondly, we wanted to add a layer of protection for fans' real life identities: if you pay for your fan name account with a real name credit card, there is an increased chance that the two identities could be linked (either by accident or via a legal demand for our records; we are committed to fighting for your privacy but can't guarantee that we'd win such a battle). Finally, adding paid features to the Archive itself would have increased the complexity of what our coders had to code, especially if we had some features available only to paid accounts. For all these reasons, we decided to fund the AO3 indirectly via donations to the OTW, which couldn't be linked to your account on the Archive, allowed us to provide the site to everyone whether or not they could pay, and made it easier for us to use existing payment systems which we didn't have to code ourselves.
It's possible that in the future we may consider some form of paid service, if we developed other ways of dealing with the above concerns. However, it's not something we're considering right now - if it does become a more real possibility in the future, we'll post and ask for discussions about it.
I'm worried my works on another site are at risk! What can I do?
We've recently had a lot of direct requests for invitations from users who are worried about their works being deleted from Fanfiction.net. This creates a dilemma for us, because protecting at-risk fanworks is a fundamental part of what we do. However, right now the volume of those requests is so high that there's simply no fair way to prioritise them, which is why we're only issuing invitations via the queue. We're very sorry about this. If you're worried your work is at risk, we recommend you back it up to your own computer (Fanfiction.net has a 'download as HTML' option, or you may wish to use a a tool such as Fanfiction Downloader or Flagfic), so that you can upload it to the AO3 or any other site at a later date. You may also wish to manually back up your reviews and comments - sadly these can't be transferred to the AO3 even if you have an account, but you may want to keep a record of this important part of your fan life for yourself.
We're pleased that so many people want to be here, but very sorry we can't accommodate everyone right away. Thank you for your patience and support.