NeoCities launches to widen website creation

NeoCities has launched, with the noble aim of keeping the creative, independent internet alive.

In a world of "gated communities" and "generic templates", NeoCities talked of taking back "our personalities from these sterilised, lifeless, monetised, monitored entities and [letting] our creativity flourish again”.

In its current incarnation, NeoCities is anonymous, uncensored and provides 10MB of hosting for static sites. As part of its remit of making the web more accessible to all, NeoCities is free and looking for donations for its continued existence. It stated $150 provides hosting for two million NeoCities sites for a month.

Already, industry figures see plenty of potential in NeoCities. Clearleft frontend developer and designer Josh Emerson told .net how it could benefit children: “I taught nine-to-11-year-olds for Code Club, and, to my amazement, they got to grips with HTML and CSS syntax within a few lessons! But when they asked how to get their sites online, all I could say was ‘It's complicated’. I hated not being able to give them a simple answer. NeoCities looks set to be a great place for people to get started. Its simplicity [is] lowering the barrier to entry for anyone who wants to make a website.”

.net spoke to NeoCities founder Kyle Drake [KD] and contributor Scott O’Hara [SH] about the site and why it needs to exist.

.net: Why did you create NeoCities? Why is it necessary?
KD: To provide a quick way for people to build websites. This is necessary because we don't have a space for people to do this any more. The thing is, our lives are controlled by the web these days, and so it's important that web design is accessible to everyone, not just professionals. When everybody can make websites, a lot of really interesting content and ideas can follow that weren't possible with the social networks we have today.

SH: What really drew me to NeoCities was that desire of Kyle’s to bring back the website building platforms of the early web — a place to foster exploration and creativity through code and self expression. Modern apps and social networks have taken the web to a very templated, structured place. That's great for creating a consistent look and feel within a community, but leaves for a lack of imagination and variety between pages.

.net: Do you feel it’s important to provide people with a web space outside those owned by large corporations?
KD: It's not really about the ownership; it's about the control. When you have a website, you are in complete control of the presentation you provide to the audience. That control gives you unlimited freedom to be creative with how you display your content.

SH: It’s a blank canvas, really. Through NeoCities, people can create a site about anything that’s totally theirs. NeoCities doesn't take ownership over any content. At any point, someone can download a ZIP of their entire site. There aren’t even any plans for ads. NeoCities is just someone’s little space on the web, and no-one should have to put anything on their site that they don’t want there.

.net: Do you feel it’s important to encourage coding, as opposed to people relying on social networks that are very heavily templated?
SH: I'd love to see more people learn to code. I want them to know what it takes to build a website and how rewarding that experience can be, seeing what you code translate into something visual for the whole web to see.

Drag-and-drop editors are great, and the people that write them are incredibly intelligent, but they don’t help someone really learn anything. You can't take real ownership over dropping a pre-made widget on to your pre-made template.

KH: Also, I'm not trying to help people turn their websites into social networks. If they make their own without my input, that's totally fine, and that would be what made it cool. It would be a completely new type of social network, based on individuals having complete control of their sites. However, that’s a significant problem to solve — one outside of our domain!

.net: Where does the team see NeoCities heading in the future?
SH: In the immediate future, we're looking to really improve the UI and UX. Along with that, we plan to create tutorials to help people learn to code and make their websites even better.

KD: The interesting thing about providing free web space is that all of the creative work goes to the end user. So in a lot of respects, NeoCities is almost at the point where it will be for a long time. There won't be a lot of deviation.

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