📆 July 8, 2023 | ⏱️ 4 minutes read | 🏷️ computing

Explore Neocities!

This story starts with GeoCities. I’ll let Wikipedia do the explaining:

“GeoCities, later Yahoo! GeoCities, was a Web hosting service that allowed users to create and publish websites for free and to browse user-created websites by their theme or interest. GeoCities was started in November 1994 by David Bohnett and John Rezner, and was named Beverly Hills Internet briefly before being renamed GeoCities. On January 28, 1999, it was acquired by Yahoo!, at which time it was reportedly the third-most visited website on the World Wide Web.

In its original form, site users selected a “city” in which to list the hyperlinks to their Web pages. The “cities” were named after real cities or regions according to their content: For example, computer-related sites were placed in “SiliconValley” and those dealing with entertainment were assigned to “Hollywood”, hence the name of the site. Soon after its acquisition by Yahoo!, this practice was abandoned in favour of using the Yahoo! member names in the URLs.

In April 2009, the company announced that it would end the United States GeoCities service on October 26, 2009.

There were at least 38 million pages displayed by GeoCities before it was terminated, most user-written. The GeoCities Japan version of the service endured until March 31, 2019.”

The third most visited website on the World Wide Web. 38 million mostly user-written pages before it was terminated in 2009. Just wow. That’s impressive. I was only ten years old when GeoCities shut down, so it was before my time. I never got to experience it in its prime.

Thankfully it was archived by The Internet Archive and others before being shut down. So now there are mirrors out there which still allow navigating GeoCities in case you wish to browse. There’s also a torrent available for download containing archived GeoCities.

In my Gemini appreciation entry, I briefly mentioned a site called Neocities, but decided that it deserves it’s own entry, which is what this is. Neocities is what it sounds like: a continuation of the idea of GeoCities. Unlike other site-creation websites which come with predefined templates with professional site designs, Neocities targets site designers who have a passion and interest for making fun websites, not just profit.

The goal of Neocities is to revive the Web of old, where people made their own creative and fun websites instead of being herded into lame corporate-controlled addictive social media to express themselves. It allows anyone to create their own free website, express themselves online, and it makes the Web fun again.

While I ultimately think that the Web should be replaced with a better protocol, I still very much enjoy browsing Neocities. There’s all sorts of zany websites there and it’s much more personal than anything you can find on the big search engines.

Back in the day when the Web wasn’t a hypercommercialized advertising and tracking cesspool, people used to surf the Web. You followed webrings from one website to the next and it was fun. Maybe you’d find a deep conspiracy, or read someone’s blog about their twenty cats, or take a virtual tour of someone’s garden. You never knew what you’d find, but every website you visited was personal. It was someone’s way of expressing themselves. It was a way of connecting with other people.

Sure people express themselves today with social media, but it’s not how it used to be. People no longer surf the Web. They browse it, often just mindlessly scrolling to keep the dopamine levels up. Their creative freedom is more limited. Everyone’s profile pages look almost exactly alike. The Web is no longer the wild west it used to be. Now it’s just ruled by companies that want to mine our data and waste our time with ads.

That’s why I appreciate Neocities. So check it out! (and maybe even make a site!)