What if I told you the Old Web is Still Alive...
GeoCities, Angelfire, and Neocities are kicking it old school!
You know, one of the beautiful parts of the early web was openness of it all. When you’d browse the internet you could find corporate websites for some of the big companies out there; but most of what you’d find were informative sites from colleges and universities, or personal web pages set up buy regular people. They weren’t usually trying to market their brand. They weren’t pushing their social media presence (lol, social media was still half-a-decade or more away). They weren’t usually trying to sell you on a subscription model. They didn’t have a comments section, they had a guest book. You didn’t have affiliates links, you had web rings. Now there were many ways to find your way around the early web, including search engines like Ask Jeeves, Dogpile, and Alta Vista; but when it came to user generated web content, you just couldn’t beat Geocities.
What was GeoCities?
Geocities was a web hosting site that existed from 1994 until 2009. It was acquired by Yahoo! in 1999 and died a slow, agonizing death in part because of the rise of sites like MySpace and Facebook and also because it was acquired by Yahoo!. In the early days it was really cool because it allowed anyone to learn HTML and to carve out their own little corner of the internet by building their own webpage/website. Of course, GeoCities wasn’t the only game in town. There was also Angelfire!
Now if you want to relive the experience of the early web you have a few options. You can always head over to the Internet Archive and and use the Wayback Machine. Alternatively you can also browse their special collection or head over to other GeoCities archives such as ReoCities, OoCities, or GEOCITIES.ws. But what if I told you there is another option? What if I told you the spirit of GeoCities lives on to this day? Well it does, and it’s called Neocities.
What is Neocities?
In their own words,
“Neocities is a social network of 537,300 web sites that are bringing back the lost individual creativity of the web. We offer free static web hosting and tools that allow you to create your own web site. Join us!”
They market themselves as a social network, and to an extent I can see the case for that, but by that same logic the early web would have also been considered a social network. It’s really more of a web hosting platform with a robust community… just like GeoCities. They promise no ads and complete creativity (something modern social media lacks), and on top of that the project is FOSS under a BSD license.
Going though the first few pages of listings I found about 15 sites that jumped out at me. I’ll be uploading a video on those soon, but there were a few thing that made me really feel that “old web vibe”.
So much variety. These sites run the gamut from basic homepages, to retro fan sites, to interactive games, to MySpace archives. It’s really cool to see this in 2023, a time when the Internet has become a monolith with uniformity that has been well researched for its marketability and ability to keep you engaged.
That punk rock energy! While not every site is like this, I did find quite a few with flashing banners and animated gifs declaring the creators personal distain for things like Web3, NFTs, JS, and other elements of our modern browsing experience. Quite a few of them also included snippets bragging about their Any Browser compatibility as well. It may not sound like much but in some ways it really channels the punk rock, anti-establishment hacker scene of the 90’s. I felt very at home, just like old times.
As I mentioned, I’ll be releasing a video soon going exploring some of what Neocities has to offer, but I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself. Heck, make your own site and share it in the comments or in the chat! While it’s just its own little corner of the internet, I’m really happy sites like these exist. It reminds us of where we came from, and that we can still choose a better way for our online communities.
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