NeoCities is a newly launched service from @kyledrake that, as it’s name would imply, is a take on the old GeoCities (FortuneCity, Angelfire, Tripod) model of letting people build free, static HTML, websites. Not a new idea by any means. So why is NeoCities and it’s mission statement such an important step towards a better world wide web?
NeoCities goal is to bring back true discovery and engagement with building a better, more interesting and diverse web.
You see, NeoCities pulls on my heartstrings as it was because of websites like GeoCities and Angelfire that I even got into web design and development in the first place. I would come home from school and design, code, redesign, write stupid articles and post Mega Man animated gifs on my Angelfire web pages. It was awesome. I was learning a skill. I was learning a language. I was learning to write for an audience, and optimize my site for dial-up connections. And then I moved on.
And there-in lies the problem. People like me moved on from these websites, and the companies that owned these services looked to new audiences to increase their subscription numbers and revenue (as would be expected, companies need money to continue running). They looked to replace us with people that wanted cheaper alternatives to web hosting, and having to hire web designers (us) to build websites for them.
And thus the age of WYSIWYG and drag-and-drop visual editors began. Many more free and free-to-paid website services started popping up. Places where you can start building a website without knowing a lick of code. Website builders that came pre-packaged with tons of templates and pre-built widgets to get your small business, organization or hobby website up and running in minutes.
Honestly, the technology to create some of these services was and still is amazing. (Many years after starting my Angelfire website, I would actually get a job at Lycos and work directly on Angelfire, Tripod and their drag-and-drop website builder.) The problem with that technology, and how easy it became to build a website was that many would-be web developers didn’t need to learn to build their websites. Apps did it for them. As a result, many websites became cookie cutter copies of one another.
Other services like MySpace and Facebook would further remove people from having to build websites. Some small businesses only have Facebook pages. There’s no learning of a craft there.
Now we come full circle back to why the launch of NeoCities is important, and something we as the design and development community should trumpet and embrace. Again there is a destination for people, young and old, inexperienced or a coding veteran, to have a free home on the web. A place to design and build unique websites.
Use it as an area to learn HTML for the first time. Or a playground to go beyond what you can do with code snippet websites like jsfiddle.net. Use it to help teach a new generation of people wanting to explore the web by contributing to it, building it and understanding how it works. NeoCities could be amazing for this generation.