If you asked the owners of the website IKEAFANS.com what the site was about, you’d learn about what it was not. The website’s About Us page said, “Well, I can tell you who we are not. We are not affiliated with IKEA in any way; we are not IKEA co-workers, partners, affiliates, sales representatives, nor are we sponsored, financially or otherwise, by IKEA – we do this for fun!”
Over the years, IKEAFANS.com would snowball, amassing an active community of DIY enthusiasts who shared home improvement stories and ideas. Even though the community that congregated on the website called itself Ikea fans, Ikea was not always a fan of the website.
Today, when you attempt to access IKEAFANS.com, you’ll get a short message: “This site can’t be reached.” What could have happened to the website that once called itself “the Mecca for IKEA’s Most Devoted Aficionados”? We took some time to find out.
The History Of IKEAFANS.com
IKEAFANS.com was established by the couple Susan and James Martin in 2005 and incorporated in Virginia in the US in 2007. Susan Martin assumed the position of president. She holds a degree in Graphic Arts and taught herself web development.
James Martin was vice president. He was responsible for the website’s technical engineering, server maintenance, troubleshooting, and software implementation. After working in the US Navy, he moved into computers, where he gained experience in application and web development.
A Global Appeal
Over the years, IKEAFANS.com would attract a sizeable following. A press release published by PRWeb.com gives an idea as to why the website was popular. The press release calls the website “an independent website which brings answers to confused IKEA customers, instructions and missing parts to victims of mis-packed flat-packs and comfort and assistance to those frustrated with IKEA’s hands-off approach to customer service.”
According to IKEAFANS.com, “In the period January 1, 2008 to July 31, 2008, IKEAFANS had visitors from 192 countries around the world.” Most of the website’s visitors came “from the United States (72.02%), Canada (9.51%) and the United Kingdom (5.68%).” It was also getting a substantial proportion of its visitors from Italy, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Germany.
Most IKEAFANS.com members were in the 21 to 40-year age group, constituting 72% of the total membership. As can be expected, members aged below 21 years were the smallest proportion followed by the over 50 age group. There were more females (56%) than males (44%).
IKEAFANS members with an annual income of less than $10,000 constituted the most prominent group at 22% of the total membership. Consumers with incomes above $100,000 per year made up 21% of the website’s membership.
IKEAFANS.com mainly focused on assisting users with decoding complicated IKEA manuals. The website accomplished this task through several categories:
Forums: This section, with more than 175,000 discussions and 15,000 photos, allowed visitors to download IKEA instructions, view photos of IKEA furniture, and post about IKEA kitchens.
Assembly and Installation: Contained posts about assembly and installation.
Ikea Instructions: Had PDF versions of IKEA instructions. Instructions were categorized using an alphabetic order.
Real-Life Projects: Showcased stories of real-life projects completed by members of the IKEA community.
IKEAFANS.com had several other sections, including blogs, a marketplace, and galleries.
The IKEApedia was a repository of IKEA downloads, directories, and a host of other information about the home store giant. In this section, visitors could learn about the story of “how a young man named Ingvar Kamprad began the largest furniture store in the world and became one of the richest men in the world.”
IKEAFANS.com also functioned as the social media of IKEA fans. For instance, members could access the member list and send private messages to other members.
The Ultimatum From IKEA
For nine years, IKEAFANS.com seemed to enjoy the tacit approval of the home store giant it was dedicated to. For instance, in 2010, the website published a press release about an IKEA-sponsored event.
The press release quotes Susan Martin saying, “IKEA is finally recognizing the value of brand evangelists, and we’re honored to be participating in the first IKEA-sponsored fan event.”
If things seemed to be working well between IKEA and IKEAFANS.com in 2010, by 2012, they had taken a drastic turn for the worst. IKEA suddenly wanted the website to either shut down or be handed over to the home store giant.
In an article published on the Conde Nast-owned website, ArsTechnica.com, Joe Mullin reports that in January 2012, IKEAFANS received a letter from IKEA containing the bombshell. Part of the letter read, “[U]se of the IKEA name and mark in a third party’s business name cannot continue.”
Susan Martin’s lawyer seemed to know why IKEA suddenly had a problem with IKEAFANS.com after the fan site had operated for nine years in peace. Mullin quotes the lawyer saying, “After trying to launch its own community, Ikea decided to take for itself what IKEAFANS had built.”
IKEAFANS.com Files Lawsuit
In David and Goliath fashion, the dispute between IKEA and IKEAFANS.com ended up in court. The latter filed a lawsuit against the former.
The owners of IKEAFANS.com told visitors to the website, “To protect IKEAFANS.com and our livelihood, and to lift the cloud of uncertainty that has been hanging over our heads since IKEA assumed its current adversarial stance, we regretfully filed a lawsuit against IKEA on May 20, 2014.”
The news left some IKEAFANS.com members fuming. One says, “IKEAFANS has driven millions of dollars to IKEA. I can certainly testify that without the community support found here on IKEAFANS, I would never have dared purchase an IKEA kitchen or to encourage others to do so as well.”
As expected, IKEA opposed the lawsuit, arguing that the judge should dismiss the entire case because “the complaint did not state a valid claim as to why it could not enforce its trademark.” The judge refused to dismiss the case. However, IKEAFANS.com would not survive for long after that.
What Then Happened To IKEAFANS.com?
In October 2014, James and Susan Martin signed off from IKEAFANS.com, informing users that they were shutting down the website. On October 31, 2014, the website went offline. A quick search on Google shows that some fans are still championing the website to this day.
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