Liminal Librarian

Why Neocities?

You might be wondering why I decided not to host a book blog with WordPress, Blogger, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace. Neocities is certainly not your average site builder that includes the basic necessities of modern web hosting by default. There are no plugins. There is no cPanel, no backend. It's all hard coding, reminiscent of the old days when the internet was much more personal and customizable, free of corporate control (AKA Big Tech).

Despite its name, Neocities is unaffiliated with the long-gone Geocities, but it aims to help keep the decentralized, creativity-driven spirit of the internet alive (or at least what's left of it). Believe it or not, Big Tech is largely responsible for the overwhelming rise in anxiety, depression, fear, and hostility among the masses, pulling the strings with algorithms that favor capital over humanity. I highly recommend watching The Social Dilemma and reading through Sadgrl's manifesto.

For writers and book bloggers alike, building an audience can be a monumental and often fruitless task. It was far easier to make (genuine) connections prior to the corporate-dominated web of today. We're pressured to compete and monetize our content like never before. WordPress.com is the lesser of the Silicon Valley evils, just for its generally well-meaning community and Reader that lets its bloggers find each other easily (and chronologically) via tagged posts. Still, advertisements and sponsored posts are annoying. Luckily, Neocities has neither, instead running on Supporters and donations since 2013.

I didn't write this with the intention of persuading others to abandon their blogs and create Neocities sites. I'm well aware that coding isn't for everyone. It can be enormously stressful and time-consuming. If you're dead-set on monetization and overtaking the first page of Google results, Neocities probably isn't for you (although we do have the option to receive money).

If you are interested in creating a Neocities site and connecting with other netizens, allow me to offer some tips:

First, if you haven't already, acquaint yourself with the basics of HTML and CSS. For beginners, I recommend W3Schools. The best teacher is, of course, experience, so I also recommend tinkering with templates, especially if you keep drawing a blank in regards to the kind of theme you want. Rather than working in the Neocities editor trying to get the hang of everything, use Web Maker or CodePen, both of which let you preview changes.

Your site doesn't have to be a breathtaking creation. It can have a basic, one-column layout with minimal styling and still gain followers (though I dislike the term, as it creates numbers in your head instead of people). What matters here, in this decentralized corner of the web, is having fun. No, really. Think of it as an untouched, magical forest at the edge of a soulless cyberpunk hellscape of corporations and surveillance capitalism. It's truly that different and refreshing.

Neocities is a hybrid of web hosting and social media. It has followers, likes, and comments, but the key difference is the lack of algorithms. Discovering new as well as recently updated sites couldn't be easier. If you wish to disable the social media part on your profile, go to Settings > Manage Site Settings and check "Disable Site Profile Comments." Checking "Disable Site Profile" will redirect visitors to your site, making it impossible for anyone to follow you.

Updates to your Neocities site will only appear on your profile every twenty-four hours. This is exclusive to pages, which are .html/.htm file types. If you have two or four that are ready for the spotlight and want to display them in a certain order, you have to do a bit of planning. Update the last page you want shown and work your way up.

Remember to refresh before editing. If you're working on a file in the Neocities editor and you close it and return later, your recent changes might not be present.

Always keep backups! At the bottom of your dashboard is "Download entire site." It costs you nothing to save all your files.

Guestbooks are fun, but optional. When Geocities was around, websites often featured guestbooks that visitors would sign. Currently, the most popular choices appear to be Smart Guestbook, Bravenet Guestbooks, Free Guestbook Net, and HTML Guestbook. Although Smart Guestbook has the most features, it doesn't allow your guestbook to have a secure connection unless you're paying for it (which also removes the ads). Some visitors might be redirected to an error page until they disable HTTPS redirect in their browsers, or an extension that causes it.

For those without Neocities sites to keep up with your updates, you need to create an RSS feed. Neocities has a guide to doing just that. Unfortunately, I haven't managed to make it work for the WordPress.com Reader, but it works for others such as Feedly, Inoreader, and The Old Reader. Keep in mind, however, that any changes you make to an item in your XML file, such as the date or the description, might not reflect. RSS readers tend to hold the first version of a post, so you'll need to rename your file if it really bothers you.

There will be people and content that you don't like. Neocities is very diverse in the opinions and interests of its users. Overall it's nothing like pearl-clutching Gab, but it's nothing like cancel-happy Twitter, either. In my humble opinion, it strikes a fair balance between the two, and just about everyone keeps to themselves and their own spaces. You won't have to worry about unwanted content on your feed since it only displays updates from sites that you follow.


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