First, changing the name of the site will do absolutely nothing to improve the quality of commentary. If that were the case, we could cut crime in this nation by half simply by renaming every "Martin Luther King Boulevard" in the country to "Park Avenue", "Roselawn", or "Bull Connor Memorial Parkway".
Maybe it will, maybe it won't. It's worth a shot. This site was an experiment in free speech. I like to experiment, test the waters, see what happens. If it doesn't work out, it's easy enough to change back.
Second, every significant change to the site since I first began participating in 2005 has been either unpopular or, at best, no one cared. For example, the change in the karma rules several years ago did nothing to improve the quality of comments, although that was the stated aim. It only pissed people off and we probably lost a few active members each change we made. And new members are a VERY rare event, even before we started charging for the privilege.
I would argue that everybody has selectively fonder memories of the past. Also, progress can't be made if one is unwilling to try to improve. Sometimes one step forward, two steps back, but as in life, everything can be learned and incorporated into the next decision.
Third, is there an expectation that a change in name, and a (highly unlikely) change in the quality that is expected to result is going to attract "fresh blood" while you're charging $10 to join? That's ludicrous. There are literally tens of thousands of sites where you can debate politics. Hell, every commentary section of every news outlet on Drudge is nothing but a political debate arena. And it's free to do so! What makes "Unrealpolitics.com" so attractive that somebody would pay $10 just to contribute?
The forum website somethingawful.com charges money to participate, and it did wonders to improve their participation and customer loyalty. They have since added additional subscription offers even above the entry fee. Ten bucks is really not a lot of money to someone who values the freedom and community that thrives here, really. It keeps out the riff raff who like to create fake accounts. It helps pay for some of the hosting. And now with the name change, it is perhaps a bit easier to support the site publicly.
The simple fact of the matter is: I'm paying over a hundred bucks a month in hosting fees alone to provide a forum for everybody else's free speech. And you know what? It's a thankless job, and I'm tired of it. So going forward, this site either pays for itself, or the whiners can just fuck off to their own little hideouts and complete their circle jerks there. It'll last all of two weeks until they figure out that only allowing people who agree with your viewpoint is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Then the owner will realize that free speech isn't free especially if you try to host with a cheap-ass shared server hosting company that won't protect unpopular free speech. That is the majority of them out there. Then they realize that they need to bring in the "other" side so it won't just be an echo chamber. (At this point, they usually try to give themselves free advertising at FF.) So they manage to get a few outsiders to join, and the owner then realizes it's really fucking hard to manage a site full of boisterous teen-men. And it suddenly dawns on them, that for all the shit that the moderators at FF have put up with, FF really does allow dissenting views and is even-handed, and hell, even fair in how it treats people. (Notice I haven't banned all the people calling me names all these years. It's been fun watching them try to figure out who I really am, and not surprisingly, fail badly at it.)
The main reason FF has survived and sometimes thrived all these years is our devotion to the principle of free speech. All other imitators will invariably fail because their founders do not whole-heartedly believe in this uniquely American right. They only see the fame and power that might come with running something as risque as fuckfrance. They don't realize that this power will only corrupt unless you live your life by this principle.
It's the owner's call. He's paying the bills. I don't dispute his right to make changes as he sees fit, and I appreciate the venue. But I don't see where these changes will be successful. On the contrary, I think they'll just lead to a continuation of the trend we've seen in the last few years of lessened participation and a dearth of new members to replace those that move on.
The news of our death has been greatly exaggerated and repeated ad infinitum. And yet, here we are, years later. My guess is this: the name of the site doesn't really matter. It's the content, the freedom that brings people here. Fuckfrance was novel at the time, which helped people find the site. But they stayed because their speech was allowed, and great friendships and rivalries occurred that could never have happened anywhere else. If I'm wrong, then I'll be happy to be wrong and not have to shell out monthly for that mistake. Either way, it's a win-win for me.