Ah yes, the inevitable. It was a good run, folks.
Leaving Neocities—a decision that seems so sudden. Why?
Well, in reality, it's been more than a year since I've thought about leaving the platform (which is funny considering I literally wrote this piece 7 months ago since writing this). It has been a common topic in my personal journal for so long now, that I wondered when the day will arrive where I can finally stop writing about it. I suppose, then, that the time has finally arrived.
With most of my site talking about the platform in a good light, it may seem odd now that I decided to leave. But it's more of a personal decision rather than a major issue with the platform. Though, I will still talk about the problems that Neocities has that didn't contribute that much to my decision, but they're still things to consider.
There’s without a doubt some people who will call me foolish for letting go of the opportunity to get more recognition of my work. But really, I would only consider it foolish if that was something I wanted to begin with, and I wasn’t fully aware of the consequences of leaving. In reality, I left no stone unturned, and yet the consequences were more appealing than actually staying.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned out of the ridiculous amount of attempts of posting things online, it’s that not only am I bad with attention, I don’t like receiving a lot of it. A lesson which I learned over and over again, and I still need to learn it.
As I’ve gotten older, I realize that I won’t necessarily enjoy something just because a lot of people seem to tolerate and enjoy it. When it comes to online communities, I see these popular people seemingly enjoying themselves and I think “that seems like fun”. But now that I’ve gotten a small taste of that, I realized that I don’t like it in the slightest. The more attention I get, I get more and more choked, no matter how many times I try to convince myself that it doesn't matter.
My site had been in the front page of Neocities for a year (and would still be there, if I didn’t leave), but I can’t say that I enjoyed my time being there. Sure, I got greater potential for “exposure” or whatever it is that people want to have, but I knew from the very beginning that I wasn’t going to enjoy my site gaining traction. There’s a reason why despite the amount of years I was on the platform, I never celebrated getting X amount of views or Y amount of followers. Big numbers were involved, but I don’t think I even liked those numbers being big.
Now, I don’t mind attention if I’m completely oblivious of it. Fine by me, in that case. But the moment hard statistics are brought to the table and I’m aware of them, I’m liable to make some wild assumptions, taking things beyond what they actually mean, and trap myself into a corner. If there’s one thing in this world that I want to be willfully ignorant about, it’s how much attention my work gets.
People may find that strange, but it seems that my reclusive nature in real life transfers over to my online self, because I cannot seem to function properly if there’s too much attention on me. Heck, I left a Discord server that I was posting art in because it became too overwhelming, and there wasn’t even that many active people in it—had to be like fifteen to twenty people at most—and I was already miserable with that. I don't think it's going to get better as the number goes up, no matter how much time passes.
You may wonder, then, why I even post my work online to begin with, if I don’t want attention. Simply put, I figured that the potential value that someone may get from my work online outweighed the pain of sharing it. And there are benefits to posting my work online, but I don’t want it to be something that everything revolves around; I especially don’t want it to be something that takes up the majority of my mental resources.
I don’t blame people for possibly making me feel pressured, though. I’ve gotten way more positivity than negativity on my site, and I'm grateful for the kind words that people have given me in the past couple of years. But it looks to be more of a preferential problem than a social problem. I simply can't cope, for some visceral reason.
Forgoing all else, this is the main reason why I wanted to move on. The rest of the reasons below this one are minor. If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t have minded staying.
Drama? On a social platform? Utterly inconceivable.
To be honest, I was expecting this from miles away. With the influx of users from Tumblr and Twitter in recent months, it didn’t take much to figure that some will most likely bring the culture over from those places instead of adapting to something different.
And I wasn’t entirely wrong. The rise of people who’d just spam their feed instead of updating their website shows that there was this urge to treat any platform with vague social features like social media. People can do whatever they want, obviously, but it doesn’t mean that I have to like the direction that the platform is heading towards. It’s not to say that everyone from these platforms acts this way, but regardless, you’re going to get those who just treat Neocities like a very lame version of Twitter, starting petty drama with people who ought to be left alone.
Speaking of the drama, I wasn’t involved in the multiple bouts of it occurring on Neocities (and I’m not going to mention particular events) but it certainly wasn't good. Back then, these sorts of things would be self-contained, as plenty of sites aren’t even that big to begin with. But when it starts involving more popular sites, it can get rather explosive really fast, involving people that shouldn't be involved, that don't want to be involved.
It also doesn’t help that people get comments from the feeds of people that they’re following. It’s great for discussion, but it’s also a fantastic way for inciting a mob, whether purposefully or unintentionally. Since Neocities doesn’t have a feature for direct messaging someone, often a matter that ought to be private is made public and now people are poking their heads in things that’s none of their business.
Though, to be fair, it really depends on who you’re following in this case. If you don’t follow very many people, you literally have to seek for the drama in order to find it. Otherwise, you’re not going to encounter it, which is good. I personally had to figure out what in the world was going on because I only saw vague comments regarding drama but I had no info of the drama itself.
This is why I believe the term “Neocities community” shouldn’t even be a thing. The communities in this particular case should be built around the websites in Neocities. It's like how the Yesterweb is a community in itself, but the fact that it's hosted on Neocities doesn't mean that all of Neocities is part of Yesterweb. Neocities is more of a mass-index of hosted websites that can hold communities, but in itself is so big that it shouldn't be lumped into one "community".
Sure, we may have something we all agree on (bringing back personal websites), but beyond that, you could have nothing in common with the people you share the platform with. You could hold opposing beliefs against a large majority of the Neocities userbase, but you should still be able to share what you think on your site. Doesn’t mean that there are limits to that (where possibly inhumane or criminal activity is involved), but lynching someone because of differing opinions is something I don’t agree with.
The moment people start equating the entire platform as a community is when people will start associating unsavoury websites with those that have nothing wrong with them. And plus, what exactly are you going to gain by deplatforming someone off of a hosting platform? They could just make another website, just not inside Neocities. It seems that the unneeded importance we place on the social media features of Neocities make people treat this place as more of a social media platform than it really is.
I’ve been on the platform for quite a while now (3 years total, including the sites beyond this one), and really, there hasn’t been any notable update on Neocities for that period of time.
And the more I think about it, I doubt there was any real additions to the platform for a long time, even beyond my time being here. I can’t confirm it entirely, but the platform itself is still... barebones, despite it existing since 2013.
Overall maintenance isn't much of an issue. The servers can run into some hiccups and they get cured eventually, but actual additions? Well-needed modifications? I haven’t seen it. I sifted through the Neocities GitHub repository and there hasn’t really been any notable changes for quite a while now.
There are just some features that should've been changed a long time ago, and yet they're still sticking around. As an example, it would be nice to not accidentally delete a comment, just because the “delete” button is infuriatingly close to other buttons such as "like" and "reply". Would be nice to have a confirmation box or something preventing you from doing something destructive, like accidentally deleting an entire thread of discussion. I doubt it's that difficult to implement, considering that they already have a confirmation box built in when deleting files from your site.
Easier ways to update your site would be nice. While there are ways to deploy to Neocities using its API like using GitHub actions and WebDAV, those types of information should be more accessible. Documentation for things like the Neocities command-line interface is so lacking that I still don't know how to upload files to different directories other than the top-level directory. But like that's relevant now that I left.
Even though the platform emphasizes social media features like following other sites and such, there hasn't been any significant improvements in that department. Blocking sites still seems broken. I wish there were more options to customizing the activity feed like hiding follow notifications from the people you follow (seriously, it can get so obnoxious). And things like being unable to attach a custom domain without supporter just sucks.
While supporter is optional and it's nice to support Neocities in that department, at least take the time to improve the platform, not just keeping it up server-wise, because nothing has really changed for years. And that's coming from a person who had a supporter account for more than half of their site's existence.
Going forward, there’s not much that’s going to be different. My site still exists. I’m not deleting it any time soon. The only real difference for people visiting is that my site cannot be found on Neocities anymore, since it's being hosted elsewhere.
Despite all of these reasons, though, I still recommend Neocities. It’s a good place to get started since people actually frequent the platform. It’s so much more difficult to get any measure of visitors when you host your site by yourself, in the great expanse that is the Internet. Though, I'd be wary and keep distance with certain groups of users if you don't want to get sucked into something unnecessarily.
Anyway, that's really about it. May not be the most comprehensive list of reasons to leave the platform, but my goal isn't to convince people to leave, but to inform people of my decision.
If people still want to follow my work, I gave the option to subscribe to my RSS feeds for various sections. If anything, it's better than Neocities notifications because you get to read the changes immediately through your newsreader of choice, since I push the articles in full through there, along with artwork and other shenanigans. It's more flexible overall, and better yet: no stupid metrics. You love to see it.