SAN FRANCISCO—Noveller, the online macroblogging service that lets users post their impromptu narrative ruminations on modern life, society, and the nature of existence itself, celebrated its millionth post late last week, officially making it the world's most popular prose-sharing tool.
Social media experts said they're not surprised so many people have subscribed to the exciting new site, as it's the only online service in which users can post a major multivolume epic in the morning, and have it read, critiqued, and reNovelled by thousands of other people around the world before lunch.
"You know, before we came up with Noveller, we had all these friends creating these great 75,000- to 300,000-word works of fiction, but there was no quick, easy, fun way to share them," cofounder Chuck Gregory said. "To be honest, we were stunned there wasn't already anything like it out there. It seemed so obvious."
At 10 a.m. Pacific time on Mar. 13, Gregory and his team of programmers launched Noveller. By 10:03 a.m., the first-ever Noveller post—a primitive but vigorous account of an insurance salesman who becomes obsessed with his father's boyhood on a Philippines naval base—was put up by user johnnyK_67.
Within an hour, more than 300 user-generated "Novels" had been posted.
"I love it," said Sheena Wulf, a Novellist from Kansas City, MO. "If I'm ever sitting in a coffee shop and my sense of alienation and utter detachment from contemporary life provides me with sudden insight into the world that helped shape my family, I just grab my phone and Novel it out to people."
Added Wulf, "It's so simple."
Just months after its release, Noveller has become a cultural touchstone, despite countless jibes from critics who claim it has broken no new literary ground and oversimplifies the narrative form. Those who Novel on a daily basis claim to love the challenge of the utility's 140-page minimum, and popular Novellists such as TheRealJayDeeSalinger, no_i_am_not_thomas_pynchon, and aplusk soon boasted hundreds of thousands of followers.
"It makes me wonder how I ever kept track of my friends and their symbolic prose examinations of universal human experiences before this," user Joyce Carol Oates said. "I'm like, did we really ever actually go to libraries? Weird, right?"
But not everyone is so taken with the intricate-social-allegory-networking tool. In July, a University of Iowa graduate student died in a car accident while Novelling and driving, and Time magazine's "Death of the Noveller?" cover story last month cast doubts on the medium's long-term prospects.
"Nobody wants to go to their computer and read about what you had for breakfast and how it called to mind your boyhood, which morphed into a meditation on the relationship between life and art and, by extension, a metaphor for all social interaction," said Sam Alger, 24, who claimed to be "disgusted" by his friends' constant Novelling. "But some of them, it's all they do. It's like no one just talks to you for hours and hours on end any more."
"We get it: It's not just your story, but through its striving to explore basic human commonalities, it's everyone's story," Houston gas station manager Angie Ordway said. "That doesn't mean I want to go through hundreds of them whenever I open my phone."
Some, however, like MIT computer networking expert Rod Baines, argues that Noveller, which has been growing at a rate of roughly 10,000 users a day since its introduction, seems to have tapped into a previously undiscovered human need to take one's thoughts and feelings and transmute them into full-length narratives for hundreds or thousands of others to instantly see.
"I think everyone has at least one Noveller post in them," said Baines, who noted that he had just posted a sprawling, nuanced, multigenerational family saga while shopping that afternoon. "And half the fun is just following other people's Novels. Of course, that can become a problem if your employer ever finds out that he figures heavily in your satirical roman à clef."
"I've got to be especially careful," Baines added. "Mom follows my Noveller posts, and she just hates my use of the second person."