Why did I make this site? (Why Neocities?)

old web manifesto by luckyk


While most of this piece's message still rings true for me, in light of the newly apparent truth regarding Neocities's awful moderation and complete lack of anti-hate speech rules, uh...please just ignore every part of this text that praises Neocities as a platform. I still believe that it has the potential to change, but until there is a serious reckoning for the actual fascists who seek solace on Neocities's servers, I do not want the text I wrote here presented unchallenged.

Being born in early 2004, I experienced the Internet, capital I, as it was only beginning to change into something beyond recognition. Social media existed for all of my youth. I did have a Myspace, but by the time I got one it was already well on its way to being surmounted by Facebook. I did have a personal webpage as a kid, but it was on Blogger, not Geocities. But while I had no firsthand memory of Web 1.0, I did occasionally find myself amidst the scattered pieces of it, hopping between small islands dedicated to things I enjoyed.

There was The Fakie Hideout, a guide for collectors of bootleg My Little Pony toys, and Strawberry Reef, an incredibly detailed database for the genuine ones that still gets updated to this day. There was also Adopt a Furby, as well as a certain guinea pig care site whose URL I’m still trying to remember.

These were websites that someone, somewhere cared enough about to maintain and pay for, even in the early 2010s when their traffic numbers were surely the lowest they’d ever been. They had unique, lovingly handcrafted layouts that supported vibrant fan communities. They had a presence to them that I just ... don't see as often anymore.

Maybe as an 18-year-old in 2022 I shouldn’t pretend as though I remember the old web. I don’t, at least not in the way that many older Neocities devotees might. But I do remember a web that was different from the one we inhabit now — the one that demands polish, requires a very specific and curated type of personhood, rides a generation’s collective addiction and isolation all the way to the increasingly metaphysical bank.

Even if I don’t remember the truly decentralized web, I know it existed. I’m allowed to feel frustrated that the online world I grew up in now revolves around the same five companies, who are actively working to ensure that independent projects like Neocities aren’t viable or practical on a large scale. If the buzzword-laden mating calls of a million tech-bros are to be believed, the internet in just a few years will look nothing like the one we know. That may be exciting to some people, but it’s terrifying to me.

Despite what people say, the internet can’t be separated from ‘real life’. The internet is real life, and the users you interact with are real people. To say otherwise would diminish the importance of 28-odd years of art, community, expression, and innovation. It’s alright to care about the fate and future of the internet — It doesn’t make you shallow, or a phone-obsessed millenial/zillenial/zoomer. And on the flipside, having reservations about the nature of social media and its effects on us doesn’t make you anti-technology or a stuffy old-timer.

I created metalvalley in July of 2020, almost two years ago now. I chose the name after a location in Mega Man X8, a game that I believe could say a lot about the nature of power and militarism if only it wanted to, but alas, it does not. Nevertheless, I fell in love with the game’s visual style and unique environments to the point that I wanted to include a small, out of the way reference to it in my site’s DNA. It’s the kind of thing that’s easily missed, but I hope that the people who got it were able to chuckle a bit to themselves. One of my favorite things about metalvalley is that it’s full of stuff like that — unabashedly niche, unconventional, un-monetizable, and uninteresting to the large majority of people, just like the sites I loved as a kid.

In a similar vein, it remains one of the only places online where I feel safe asserting and speaking on my identity as a fictosexual 2D lover. The centralized web is, with some exception, generally a pretty awful place to love fictional characters in earnest, but Neocities in particular maintains a vibrant selfshipping and 2DL community — in alignment with the general “cringe culture is dead” attitude that much of Neocities swears by.

Metalvalley was intended to be a truly personal place for me to share my creative work and just generally make myself present online. Since then, it’s grown in ways I couldn’t have anticipated, amassing over 20,000 pageviews across 2,000 site updates.

I created metalvalley for myself, but I continue working on it for a multitude of reasons. I keep going so that I can leave my mark on the last vestiges of the small web, so that I can resist the blind futurism of Web 3 and all its false prophets, and so that I can one day leave the next generation of internet users with the same sense of wonder.