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Many people I speak with about deviantART immediately form opinions about the site based only on the domain name. I think the initial reaction for most people (and interestingly enough, especially those people above the age of 30) goes something like, “Deviant? Hmm.. I wonder what that site is about..”

After many conversations in which I found myself trying to convince a person that the site does not focus on or dedicate itself to deviant sexual behavior or images (one of the more common meaning of the word, “deviant”), I decided to write about how I perceive the meaning behind the name of the site (And it is important to note that I write not as a founder of DeviantART but as a member of the community. The founders/staff may or may not agree with what I have to say).

I wasn’t in the room when jark and matteo came up with the name, “deviantART” but as a part of the community, as someone who has watched it grow from day 1, I think I have a pretty good grasp of what it means. Let’s take a look at some definitions.

"Deviant" adjective: Differing from a norm or from the accepted standards of a society. noun: One that differs from a norm, especially a person whose behavior and attitudes differ from accepted social standards.

"Devious" adjective: 1. Not straightforward; shifty: a devious character. 2. Departing from the correct or accepted way; erring: achieved success by devious means. 3. Deviating from the straight or direct course; roundabout: a devious route. 4. Away from a main road or course; distant or removed.

"Deviate" verb: 1. To turn aside from a course or way. 2. To depart, as from a norm, purpose, or subject; stray.

Now, in the case of deviantART.com, I think the site/community conform to the definitions above very well except when it comes to the standard definition of, “devious.” Look, we’re not about being evil in any way, shape, or form. We’re about deviating from the norm on the Internet. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Rock n Roll is dead?” Well, for many of us who were around when the Internet first became a phenomenon – before the “bubble” burst, we feel that the Internet died there for a while. Even now, very few businesses have been able to succeed. Even the sites on the Internet that weren’t about making money, the sites that were all about spreading information and building community, even most of those sites have long since been forgotten. In the post-bubble-burst days, in a time where the Internet is considered by many to be worthless, DeviantART grew to become something truly amazing. And it continues to grow – exponentially!

Having spent the last few years building Internet Companies, and as a member of the devART Community, I have a certain perspective about the site, the community and what it stands for.

A quick glance at the Forums and some userpages should demonstrate for you the diversity of the community. Thousands upon thousands of deviants (as we are called) hail from hundreds of different cultures and climates, each with our own distinct political, religious, spiritual and economic backgrounds. Fierce debating takes place on forums, userpages, shoutboxes and chat rooms. Sometimes we exchange harsh words; sometimes we share our most intimate thoughts and feelings. On many things we agree, but on many more I think we strongly disagree. In the offline world, hundreds of wars are being fought as we speak. In the United States where I live, we sometimes can’t even go to the store without yelling at someone who we feel is driving like an idiot. Yet at DeviantART we come together to form perhaps the fastest growing community in the world. And why? Well, we may not agree on everything, but we share some common bonds. In short, it’s amazing.

I have always considered deviantART with the idea that the word stemmed from a root word “deviate” rather than the word “devious” because I think that with DMusic.com (which I helped to build) and with deviantART, the idea always was to deviate from traditional methods of building communities. And I really believe that because of our deviation from the normal paths one might take to build a site, because the technology was build from the ground up, because of all the original ideas that were put into motion here, we have seen DeviantART reach levels of success that only a handful of sites have ever seen.

Change hurts. Pushing and pulling and molding; breaking down and building up; bleeding, healing, and moving forward; these make up the ingredients of growth and these things must happen in order to truly live. And deviantART has become a living organism; in that, it grows when you feed it and it dies if you do not. Further, it is grown by the community. Everything is dynamic; everything changes on a day to day basis. In that sense, the site truly deviates from the norm.