It's been, now, 2 months short of a year since the December 27th Crash, and even if the site does come back, the community has been severely damaged and dissipated. People are moving on with their lives and dropping the pastimes of drawing "Clean Funny Animal Art", and moving to other pursuits, or fading off the scene in general due to school, jobs or other reasons.
Comments both Public and private express the thought the Yerf is dead, and if it's not, it should be, simply for the false hopes is has engendered since the crash. Most people are Hoping for a Yerf replacement, thinking that Yerf isn't coming back. They hope for a site that is clean, has quality control, is easy to navigate, doesn't force you to click three times on a progressively slightly larger thumbnails to show you the picture, and doesn't have ads, pop ups, or have the page subdivided and chopped up so that everything is laid out in obscure little lined boxes or frames. Comments with the art, or on a separate forum is still in debate, but I personally would rather have comments on the forum rather than tagged to the art, as it's easier to police. The need for such a gallery may still be out there...
But then again, after nearly a year, the need may be fading away. Many people I have communicated with have expressed the sentiment that they are moving on. Yerf was fun, but they are into other things now. Also in leaving the field to Galleries without content and quality control has pretty much left the fandom to the baser elements. Convention art sales are down, while the population of fursuits has exploded. The motive to improve one's art seems no longer be a "community" (Well, "Yerf Community") imperative, and those improving individually are doing so, away, in small groups, or at school, or in private. The Inspiration to improve has been lost to the community, if not the "fandom". It's not about the art, anymore, it's about hanging around other "furs".
I'm not sure the posish is quite as bleak as all that, but he does have a point. Right now the furry fandom, at least the parts of it I frequent, is pretty darn quiet. Con attendance is continually growing, which is a good sign, but there doesn't seem to be any particular nexus of activity that one can point to and say, "Heyre theyre be furries -- go ye!"
When I first became interested and involved in the furry fandom myself, it was already well-established, and I would hear of these things ... Yarf! and so on, that seemingly everybody had heard of (except me), and everybody involved with them knew everybody else involved with them. Yerf, in particular, was the hangout of choice for many of these people when it came to art-related matters. (There was also the horror of alt.fan.furry, but that's a topic that can happily be shelved for some other time.)
The loss of Yerf is therefore a big deal, in as much as it was a nexus. Yerf was something to aspire to, and in a way, it was the common standard for furry art ... sorta the Motion Picture Academy of the furry art scene. If the Oscars went away tomorrow, there would still be movies ... but there would definitely be a sense of something missing, y'know?
So any site that tries to fill that space, assuming one does, is going to have some mighty big shoes to step into -- even if it's just a resurrected Yerf. Because Yerf was more than just a website hosting art, Yerf was a history, a set of values, and a core group of people (even if individuals came or went, the "group" had continuity). That's not something that can be recaptured with a technological fix, that's something that individual people are going to have to come together, agree on, and work toward. Even if the site was completely fixed today, it would take a concentrated effort on the part of both the users and the fans to rebuild what made Yerf important.
PS: For the record, my applications to Yerf were always rejected sans comment. So my relationship and attitudes towards Yerf are possibly colored by my status as a wannabe. But I also know what it's like to have a fanbase -- and the importance of having "energy" and "buzz" within that fanbase.
(x-posted to anti_yerf)