The Web-Site: A Modern Self-Portrait

Or, Thoughts on Neocities and the Old Web

Published June ??, 2023; updated Decemmber 27, 2023.

Since I first made the old, original version my Neocities manifesto, which I wrote in autumn of 2021, my site has evolved greatly, as have Neocities and the "Web revival" movement or whatever we're calling it this week, and the Yesterweb community I put such an emphasis on at the time lost some of its focus and its community feeling, and subsequently all but disappeared in some short of half-implosion; therefore, I thought it pertinent to update that essay (or rather, considering its brevity and shallowness, rewrite it entirely) to reflect where I am, where my site is, and what and where I believe this movement is in 2023.

When I (poorly) wrote the first version of my "Why Neocities?" essay, I was a relative newcomer to Neocities. Although I had signed up in early 2020, and had created my first personal site a few years before, but it'd only been a few months since I had started working on my Neocities site, and found an actual home on the Net. But even then, my site was still pretty rudimentary compared to what it is now. Periodically through the time since then, I've wondered if my site's become too bloated, with too much stuff to do on it. But I realized recently that, at least in my opinion, the fact that my site has so much stuff is a strength rather than a weakness.

The Internet these days is kind of like a whole bunch of residential areas. (Bear with me, please!) Twitter, Instagram and the other big SNS (or rather social media, since they ceased doing any social networking long ago) services are like neighbourhoods with a bunch of pre-manufactured homes from some catalogue, with a homeowners' association that's constantly breathing down your neck. You can do (mostly) whatever activities you like, but you really can't change much of anything about the appearance, beside a decoration or two, leading all the houses to look nearly identical, like something out of A Wrinkle In Time. Meanwhile, Neocities is a neighbourhood where all you get is a plot of land and an unlimited budget to build whatever kind of house you want. Sure, there are a couple base requirements (i.e. you have to at least vaguely know what you're doing), but there are plenty of resources to help you and it's a blank canvas with which you can do whatever you like. You can do what represents you.

And that, ultimately, is what I believe to be the greatest strength of the Web Revival/Old Web/Yesterweb/whatever we're calling it this week. Even in the most barebones site, you still get a glimpse into who that person really is, moreso than on Twitter or whatever, since, even if it's just a collection of links to SNS accounts or a basic blog, it's still more personal, as if someone had taken a manufactured home and painted it their favourite colour. And then there are the Web-sites that go even deeper and have quite a lot of stuff; take for example MelonKing's site. These sites give you an in-depth look at the webmaster: what they're like, what they like, what they make and so much more. It's like when you walk into someone's house that they've built and designed and decorated over the years, and get the sense that they've really left their mark on this place and made it what they wanted. And it's not entirely solitary: there's a whole movement of people who design their own houses from the ground up to reflect them. Some may do it simply because they like the way houses used to look, and think these new manufactured homes are fugly. Some may do it because they yearn to be free from the constraints of a douchey HOA. Some may do it for both, or for some other reason entirely. It doesn't matter; what matters is building one's house, or rather, one's Web-site.

In a sense, it's like painting a self-portrait. It's how the creator sees themself in their own eyes, and after all, the eyes are the window to the soul. To look at someone's Web-site is to see and take in a representation, be it a simple one or a detailed one, of who they are at their core. To look at someone's Twitter, with its sterile, boring template and limits on how much you can say at once, is to see but a cursory glance of who they are. A Web-site has so much more potential to share one's personality with the world, and so much more freedom to do and say what you like, how you like. It's like the modern version of a self-portrait: how one sees oneself, through one's own eyes.

And so, Reader, now you have heard my thoughts, and some run-on analogies, and long, long, long sentences. (By the way, sorry if my language was overly fancy-pants or something; I think I got a little carried away, as I often do!) So now, I implore you: there is such great potential for you to make a beautiful self-portrait. Now go out and get painting!