Library of Babel

The Portal
UFO
Per-Bast
Make WWW Great Again
Mount Paozu
DOS/Win9x Game Shrines
Town of ZZT
Observatory
The Quarry
Library of Babel
Red Forest
Haunted House
Macula's Maze
Reptile House
Wildcat Den
The Scratching Post
Dock
The PortalUFOPer-BastMake WWW Great AgainMount PaozuDOS/Win9x Game ShrinesTown of ZZTThe ObservatoryThe QuarryLibrary of BabelRed ForestHaunted HouseMacula's MazeReptile HouseWildcat DenThe Scratching PostThe Dock

Why I Left Neocities


I have a bad habit of becoming overly attached to and admiring of people or things that do not deserve it, putting them on a pedestal and finding ways to ignore their flaws until it becomes completely impossible to do so. No doubt a consequence of the polarised thinking that comes with autism. Once the masquerade is completely pulled down, I, of course, lash out emotionally in sheer disgust, all of the pent-up grievances tripping over each other to be the first ones to finally attain freedom. Not a very logical or healthy way to function, but I'm working on it.

My relationship with Neocities has most certainly followed this trajectory. I still vividly remember coming across DigDeeper's website while searching archives of 4chan boards for links to interesting websites while lamenting the deplorable state of the modern Web. I adored every aspect of DigDeeper's site, from its design to its content, and was absolutely flabbergasted after I noticed the URL, Could it be?! Has the promised land of Geocities risen again to grant us all salvation?

It shocked me yet further when I investigated the service and found that it had many thousands of users. Suddenly, I was on a mission. I remembered a very impactful conversation I had with my best friend a decade prior about the disheartening decline of the Web, and felt compelled to immediately set up a homestead on Neocities. I scrambled to set up shop so quickly that I had nary a clue what I was even going to do with it at the time, as is likely very obvious when looking at the lolworthy original state of the website.

This was back in the day of August of 2020, and my latest foray into being a webmaster (I ran a number of other websites over the decades that are all defunct) has been a tumultuous journey, to say the least. I have met some wonderful people whose companionship/acquaintanceship would have made my efforts more than worth it even if no other positive things came of it all, and have learned many important things. I have apparently even had the privilege of educating a number of people on matters dear to my heart.

It is now April of 2022, and my adventure has found me far away from Neocities, hosting my own website, as well as my own IRC server (irc.koshka.love). Learning how to do these things has not been a picnic - the only self-hosting I ever previously did was a small home cloud website that I created in PHP and hosted on a computer in my home and connected to from the IP address for lack of money to purchase a domain name and lack of motivation to learn how to utilise one. My decision to suddenly undertake these endeavours was quite abrupt, and many people may have been wondering what exactly spurred me into doing so.

Before I proceed, I need to point out that while I do have a number of things to say about Neocities that are not exactly flattering, I do ultimately appreciate what this service is doing, even if I feel that they are quite misguided and flawed in a number of very key ways. Neocities provided the platform for me to start Koshka's Kingdom, and allowed me to grow and meet a number of other wonderful webmasters/webmistresses. The basic mission of weaning people away from the limitations of social media platforms and allowing them to fully express themselves by building their own homestead from scratch is an admirable one that I wholly support.

Nonetheless, while I can support the basic mission of the website, and admire its accomplishments, it is not enough for me to look past its sordid flaws. Perhaps chief of which being the cowardly and clandestine censorship.

A covert enemy of freedom

On paper, the notion of Neocities engaging in censorship seems utterly slanderous. This is a service that allows an incel lunatic who believes that women refusing to date his mentally ill self is quite literally a greater crime than the Holocaust, and an unironic Nazi manifesto to stay up, after all! Surely, the owners are either wholly in support of freedom of expression, and/or too asleep at the wheel to engage in any censorious behaviour!

What I did notice, however, a long time ago, long before I made the recent controversial pro-Russia comments that caused me to be put in the doghouse by seemingly half of the Neocities population, was that there appeared to be a bug in the Neocities interface that would arbitrarily devour any comments I attempted to make on certain pages. There appeared to be no rhyme or reason behind this, as almost all of my attempted comments were perfectly polite and good-natured. I was not running amok calling people slurs or doing anything unwholesome.

Too blinded by my rose-tinted glasses to even suspect what was actually occurring, I continued to dismiss this as a vexing glitch until a friend of mine who had also been affected by this for years, lolwut, explained to me that both of us had been shadowbanned by Neocities. The mechanism behind this is two-fold: neither of us can comment on the page of anyone we are not mutual followers with, and our updates do not show up in the global feed anymore, hiding us from the view of anyone who doesn't actively look for our updates.

Since this occurred to me before the recent Russia/Ukraine fiasco, I can only speculate on what my so-called crime was. My support for autism acceptance and deriding of the horrific mainstream narratives about autism? The tone of my comedic Library of Babel articles? My occasional and milquetoast admissions of holding certain right-wing viewpoints? The world may never know.

I should add that the friend I mentioned, lolwut, is entirely politically neutral and has done absolutely nothing that could even be vaguely misconstrued as controversial. The man's website is a laid-back and apolitical bastion of old Web, gaming, and computing nostalgia. The best hypothesis appears to be that he was targeted simply because he admitted to being a 4channer.

In a sense, this sort of sniveling cowardice is even more deplorable than the blatant censorship that major social media companies engage in. Twitter, Facebook, and the like hardly make any secret of their modus operandi, merely seeking to attempt to justify it instead. Neocities, on the other hand, bills itself as a haven of the old Web. "Our mission: To make the web fun again by giving you back control of how you express yourself online", their front page claims. Control to express yourself to whatever group of people was able to find you before you committed wrongthink, anyhow.

As I outlined in my article on bringing back the good old Web (which is, incidentally, the second most popular page on the entire website, as of this writing), freedom of speech is one of the fundamental cornerstores of the old Internet. I can fully understand making exceptions in cases of illegal activity and other dire scenarios, but these must not include innocuous scenarios such as "person expressed a divergent political view" or "person frequents a website we don't like".

The act of banning and cancelling people for wrongthink has become so lamentably normalised in this day and age that I feel compelled to specifically address the problems with this phenomenon.

There are exactly two scenarios that would spur a person or organisation to censor information: either they believe that their userbase are by-large gullible sheep that need to be carefully steered towards the right information lest they be led astray, or they are actively lying or supporting people who are lying, and are afraid of their users seeing through the falsehoods if they have access to all of the facts. Neither scenario paints a very positive picture of Neocities.

The monarch and the serf

Neocities is certainly a solid platform to utilise if you have no ambitions beyond putting together a static website (and do not have to worry about being arbitrarily censored), but many people will find themselves needing something more powerful due to its many limitations. One particularly gaping weakness of the platform is that it does not support dynamic programming languages such as PHP and SQL, thus limiting users to the bare bones of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

There are certainly superior website hosting providers out there (I had one that I was going to advertise here, but they are unfortunately currently facing dire issues and not accepting new registrations), but I daresay that the best choice one can make is to forego a provider altogether and instead self-host. My rationale for this declaration can perhaps be best summed up by quoting Kyle Drake's own reasoning for why people should use Neocities in place of social media:

Yeah, the context of neocities for me, uh, in like why I created it, was really because, we're switching to this online world of everyone is, you know, signs up for Twitter or Facebook or whatever. And. What did they give you? And they give you a little text box. You can update they give you a, Facebook, you can upload a photo or a video or a little text box. and. it's kind of like if you didn't own land and all sudden I was like, Hey, there's some land over here. There's like a hundred acres and you can do whatever you want with that land. You can, you know, put a house on it. You can like, you know, turn it into a crazy hot Springs you can do anything you want, with this land, , you can bulldozer it into a, terrible parking lot. You know, it says you can do anything and. , they would have like, tons of space and freedom to sort of like figure out how to express themselves and in what way to express themselves,

...

Uh, the only consequences that, you know, with that freedom comes responsibility. Yeah. If you know, if you get like, real land on the real world, you have to do things like, you know, figure out how to hook it up to the electrical grid. You know, like, uh, putting up a, well, so you can like, have access to clean drinking water. So it's a little more work, but then like, I dunno, you get more control and then you can make really cool stuff with it.

Self-hosting is hardly a colossal expense for most people (the same server that runs my website and IRC server, along with other infrastructure, and will hopefully soon host my personal e-mail server, actually costs me the exact same amount to run that my Neocities subscription did!), and it's far easier to learn to do than most people are led to believe it is. There are some excellent guides on the subject written by a Chad on his website LandChad.net

Moreover, hosting your own infrastructure ensures that you alone are in charge of everything. This is a boon for multiple reasons. Self-sufficiency is always a plus as it puts power squarely into your own hands. It's a lot easier to get mad at yourself when things go wrong, and it's far easier to get yourself moving with some urgency when your personal project goes awry, than someone to whom you are but a name in a sea of faceless users that they must look after.

This mentality is also half the reason why I always use self-checkout at the store whenever possible (the other reason is because I'm autistic and loathe in-person interactions of any sort) -- not to belittle minimum wage workers here, but no one has as much of a vested interest in getting me in and out of the store as quickly as possible, and with my groceries bagged efficiently, as I do. The cashier will be stuck in their vexing job for their entire shift regardless of whether they rush me through at breakneck speed or stop to chat me up about minutia, while my own actions at the self-checkout entirely dictate how much time I will have to spend there.

For anyone who has a custom domain name, tying it to Neocities massively limits what one is able to then use the domain name for. I absolutely adore my main domain name, and being able to have full control over it was a large part of me what turned me towards self-hosting. Although I initially wanted to have it as my hostname on the various IRC networks I frequent, my ambitions (as mentioned earlier) have since expanded towards using it for my own IRC network and e-mail server. None of these things would have been possible, on my website's glorious domain name anyway, had I stayed at Neocities.

I did a fair bit of shitposting on IRC about how I was now truly a "Monarch" after I migrated the Kingdom to self-hosting, and part of that was the sheer exuberance from how many long-standing thorns I had removed from my royal boots in the process of doing so. The majority of which stemmed from the tremendously awkward social media interface that it requires users to utilise in order to update their websites.

As most Neocities users are no doubt aware, the social media interface on Neocities is a wonky mess that blatantly feels unfinished. I am unsure when the last update it received was (there certainly has not been one since I arrived), but the myriad of issues with it are enough that I wrote up an article tackling the irritating nuances of it a while back. I cannot even guess how many times I found a typo or other issue on a page somewhere and had to wait 24 hours to upload the fix because it would cause an irrelevant page to displace an update that I had put up.

Beyond the atrocious interface, Neocities also fails to offer support even for basic functionality such as 403 redirects (something very important to me as I migrate every section with multiple pages into its own directory) and file directories. The latter may seem like a quaint complaint, but I have many fond memories of traversing labyrinthian Apache file directories, essentially whimsical online yard sales where all sorts of content could be found, on the websites of olde, and was dismayed that Neocities did not support such a thing.

Another basic functionality that Neocities completely lacks is the ability to glean any sort of information as to which pages on a website are popular. The entirety of the information that Neocities deigns to provide homesteaders is how many visitors their website had on a particular day, and how many hits they received in total. This is quite vexing for users such as myself who run a website with a great many diverse sections and dozens upon dozens of pages. Most people never leave any feedback, so it is impossible to tell what sort of content people are interested in using Neocities' default tools.

It is theoretically possible to obtain this information by attaching scripts from a tracker such as Google Analytics to one's website, but my own fervent pro-privacy stance would sooner have me feasting on worms than indulging in such sacrilege. Thankfully, having one's own server allows for obtaining this valuable information without having to intrude on anyone's privacy and/or involve any third parties in the affair.

A misguided community

I have always believed that who you are depends, at least to a large extent, on who you surround yourself with. This is a sentiment that has been expressed many times in various ways over the centuries, including the 10th law of power. Mediocrity, stupidity, and delusion become as infectious as the winter flu when one subjects themselves to a sordid social circle. There's a reason isolating recruits from the outside world is such a hallmark of cults.

The human mind will learn to accept just about anything as normal if it spends enough time marinated in it. There are people casually going to and fro work in war zones right now, hearing bombs go off around them and glancing at beheaded corpses that were propped up overnight as a warning from one faction to another, as if there was nothing at all odd about this scenario.

I hate to besmirch an entire community of several hundred thousand people, especially given that I have a few good friends on there and am aware of a great number of other respectable Neocities users (none of whom shall be named, so as to avoid giving the cancel mob any innocent victims), but by and large, the Neocities community is quite mediocre. To quote what a brilliant IRC friend of mine had to say on the subject: "Neocities is just Twitter for people who think they know HTML. No difference in userbase".

Beyond the rare exceptions to the rule, Neocities appears to be a quilt of bare bones websites that serve as nothing more than insipid "about me" pages and advertisements of people's Discords and social media accounts, sometimes with uninspired art sprinkled around for flavour.

For the record, I loathe "about me" pages as a whole, and only put one together on this website because of how commonplace they were on actual Web 1.0 sites, and to give some context to anyone who comes here and wonders "who is this madman and why is his website so bloody pink?!" It bemuses me when people put about me pages on websites that don't have any actual content on them. From my perspective, this is akin to writing a biography for someone who died in the womb.

This all wouldn't be quite so vexing if a large portion of these people weren't also SJWs who have nothing but contempt for freedom of speech, something I witnessed personally after the unhinged cancel mob came after me for expressing my support for Russia. No one on the old Web that these demented demagogues claim to miss so much demanded that anyone be cancelled or banned for having divergent opinions. Everyone knew that the Internet was not, in fact, serious business, and they were free to look away if they did not like something they read.

Another telling sign was the near-universal trumpeting of Discord, a very shady proprietary spyware platform, across Neocities. Prior to setting up my own IRC server, I had attempted to set up a Neocities-centric IRC channel, and it was quite telling when 90% of the userbase wound up being people from outside of Neocities.

I plan to write an entire article on the subject of IRC, and why I push it and condemn Discord so vocally, but suffice to say, it is an ancient and time-tested platform that has long been the bread and butter of the chat world. With the exception of AIM and MSN, both of which died long ago, it is about the only remotely significant chat platform of the old Internet. The fact that hardly anyone on Neocities uses it, and Discord is so pervasive, speaks volumes about the userbase and how much people there truly care about freedom and privacy.

In short, Neocities isn't a revival of the good old Web, so much as a collective of NORPs (with a smattering of actually intelligent people!) with no concept of the old Web beyond cosmetics such as 88x31 buttons, who inexplicably seek to appropriate the old Web as a fashion accessory to make themselves feel special. It does not surprise me that such a phenomenon has come to pass; I have previously drunkenly lamented how normies have gone as far as to even attempt to appropriate introversion and autism for themselves.

If they have the audacity to attempt to turn a neurotype that makes a person feel like a legitimate alien from another planet into a Halloween party mask, then doing so to the old Web is hardly beyond the pale. I will not delude myself into thinking that I can do anything about it (nor would I do so even if I could, because I am as much of a stalwart believer in freedom of speech as any other old Web veteran), but I will not be entertaining this masquerade any longer.

Koshka's Kingdom will continue to live on its own island in the seas of cyberspace as I continue my crusades of autism acceptance, Bast worship, and, of course, making the Web great again, but the Neocities mirror will receive no future updates whatsoever. You can always subscribe to the RSS feed, check the Scratching Post manually, check my Gab, or get on IRC (irc.koshka.love, # and #speakez), where I also announce updates.