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alt.lifestyle.furry, also known as ALF, and sometimes as The Homestead, is a Usenet newsgroup that discusses furry lifestyles, and issues pertinent to lifestylers. Often, issues of furry spirituality surface, which can make for intense theological and philosophical debates.
A.l.f was suggested, virtually simultaneously, as a breakaway group from alt.fan.furry by Tirran (Ron Orr), and Tim Gadd (Lupercal) in June 1996. Its impetus was a vitriolic flamewar on alt.fan.furry, during which the furry community was largely divided into those who believed the term furry applied only to art, and those who believed it applied to anything which the individual wanted it to.
The actual origins of alt.lifestyle.furry were in a series of emails on the PML (Plush Mailing List) in mid 1996, though it soon migrated into a standalone 'ALF' mailing list, whose members numbered between 12 and 14, and who created the charter and FAQ with painstaking attention to detail - not finishing until January 1997. During this period, however, the concept of the newsgroup was introduced and discussed on alt.fan.furry, particularly in the threads 'What's Furry About Your Lifestyle' and ' In Defence of a Furry Lifestyle Group' (both June-July 1996).
|'Furry lifestyle' as a definition encompasses a broad range of activities, interests and beliefs. Such topics include, but are not limited to animal identities, alter-ego's and spirit guides, the wearing and making of fursuits, collars and other furry clothing, plush toys, theriomorphosis, and general philosophical discussion - and to the personal experience of _being_ furry - socially, sexually, and psychologically|
|These latter concerns are related only tenuously to artwork, film and literature, and attempts to discuss lifestyle topics on alt.fan.furry have led to ongoing and frequently criticism. For the past several months the debates, and often outright flames on this subject have continued virtually without interruption. Furs interested in discussing lifestyle issues now acknowledge that a.f.f is not a suitable venue; indeed that 'lifestyle' and 'fandom' topics are so semantically distinct as to require separate newsgroups. alt.lifestyle.furry has therefore been conceived, as an alternative furry forum|
The newsgroup first appeared after a newgroup message was sent by Peter da Silva in late august 1996. Peter had no other involvement whatsoever with alt.lifestyle.furry, but was impartially helpful at this point of its creation, as he carried influence in the Usenet community, at a time when it used to matter. Ironically he is the same person who originally started alt.fan.furry (as alt.fan.albedo).
At this early stage the group was difficult to read, due to the conventions and architecture of Usenet at the time. At the start of 1997 the 'backbone' servers picked up the group, and the traffic began increasing exponentially, overtaking alt.fan.furry by the late 90's, though declining by the mid 00's due to political factors and the advent of LiveJournal and similar fora.
Unlike alt.fan.furry, roleplaying a fursona and posting in character is common and many people in the newsgroup make their posts as much interactive roleplaying as messages. However this has been the source of conflict when flippant roleplaying occurs in a serious debate, resulting in various attempts to separate roleplaying and debate.
This pushed some of its denizens to give the idea of an LiveJournal version of a.l.f a try, with the aptly named "Homestead" LJ community. The name "Homestead" itself derives from a now defunct role-play section of a.l.f which was popular for a time.
The newsgroup shared the fate of the rest of Usenet after the advent of modern social networks like Facebook, and as of the time of writing (May 2015) is effectively dead; its subject matter and ideology balkanised now across individual new fora.
As of the same present date Tim Gadd sill adheres to the original maxims of the group, and railed against the direction the group was taking as long ago as 1997. He is ambivalent about the term furry to describe himself today, considering its meaning too open to misunderstanding.
In 2007 he commented in his blog:
"ALF was a product of its time: a bold Usenet experiment which broke or ignored all the rules, and 'believed' that a community's members could really tolerate each other and be non-judgmental. To invoke a soppy metaphor, it was like Woodstock: you had to be there at the time. It might have resulted in a lot of flatulent and nasty posts eventually, but for a few years in the mid to late 90's, and maybe beyond, it made a big, positive difference to many, many people's lives. I can't be bothered with what it's become, but for a time there it mattered, and in a way it achieved its purpose. Nothing lasts forever."