First Sight: Pottermore.com, the internet
Millions of Harry fans want more, and Pottermore – sort of – delivers
Tuesday 16 August 2011
It's what weeping children and sullen teens have been waiting for since the author J K Rowling unveiled the project in June; the official Harry Potter website, Pottermore.com, came online yesterday, to the relief of a select group of fans among those left broken-hearted by the conclusion of the film franchise this summer.
More than a million early doors "beta" accounts were released to fans around the world. We waited for more than two hours to receive our secret login information as the launch was delayed until 4pm.
There has been drama off and on the site, with high-tech conmen selling fraudulent Pottermore accounts on eBay for as much as £100. There have been more than 22 million views of the homepage, which contains only a registration form and welcome blurb.
Rowling and her developers said the site is designed for users of all ages and is free to join when it officially opens in October. Once they enter, visitors can participate in challenges, collect trinkets, and generally immerse themselves in the fictional realm that has captivated generations since the first of the seven books was published in 1997.
The site is supposed to be a sort of add-on rather than a standalone entity and it is laid out in a way that prioritises reading the books rather than just logging on. Essentially an interactive theatre set, it takes visitors through the story, scene by scene, allowing them to click on frames and features to learn more. Soon I find myself reading a comment from Rowling herself on exactly why she named Harry's childhood home 4 Privet Drive.
"I have never been fond of the number 4, which has always struck me as a rather hard and unforgiving number," she explains in a side-bar that unfurls like parchment and has her signature at the bottom.
It's a sort of interactive York Notes, should the Potter books ever find themselves on the syllabus and one can't help wondering how it would be to navigate, say, The Waste Land in this format, with T S Eliot's spidery notes laid alongside a barren landscape of stony rubbish and red rock.
Within five minutes of entering the site, I have received four friendship requests from other fans – all of whom have given themselves rather more adventurous names than mine (my email address), names that plumb the depths of Pottermania, referencing obscure mythical creatures and rarefied spells.
In only a few seconds, an entire community has blossomed, with message boards detailing every minute reaction to each scene and revelation. "This is all so wonderful!" says one. "I'm shaking right now," says another. I can only presume these are children since, despite the catch-all age range, the visuals and facts are very firmly of the sort enjoyed only by 2ft pedants. Judging by its first showing, Pottermore will not change the world. It will not bring back that feeling of excitement before each of the books was released – but it might just add an extra layer to reading, encourage a few to explore a little further. It's the modern equivalent of all those extraneous hobbit maps and elfin dictionaries that a groaning J R R Tolkien found himself under pressure to produce.
And it's comforting somehow to know that a modern, mass-multimedia movement such as this could have started on a bookshelf – which would be a far better place to look for entertainment and inspiration.
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