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NeoCities can now handle two million web sites (neocities.org)
145 points by kyledrake on July 10, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 98 comments

As much as there has been lots of trash talking here about Neocities due to it being 'just' HTML and CSS, I teach high school kids on a semi-regular basis (teaching summer camp right now) and that's the thing they're _most_ jazzed about.

I told them all to sign up. They were super pumped.

This is how I got started with programming. Then later I wanted to make some things conditionally displayed, so I learned a scripting language. Then I wanted to write non-spaghetti code, so I learned more about how to structure projects. Etc.

I think it's an organic way to learn. It's instantly rewarding.

This is actually the _exact_ same way I started learning to program.

I started with a book on HTML 4.01 and designing a webpage for my sixth grade class. Then I started to learn CSS to make maintenance a bit easier. In seventh grade I learned javascript so that I could have epic-site-battles with the eighth graders. I fondly remember adding different cursor-trail effects every week.

Yes, I did go on to learn PHP (4) -- and free hosts were easy enough to find back then. However dynamic sites is not what _sparked_ my interest. In the very beginning all I _needed_ was geocities. A few static pages and a URL was all I wanted.

I didn't know [or necessarily _want to know_] about subdomains or DNS; at first I didn't even know how to run PHP on my own machine! -- At the time my development cycle was roughly: [write -> FTP -> test -> DOH. Typo. -> write -> FTP -> actual test -> write ->] ...


We all have to start somewhere -- and a full stack framework would've confused the snot out of me back then. So in a way: I'm thankful for my humble beginnings; and I'm happy to see that neocities will provide that chance for someone else.

I stopped at the cursor-trail effects and started watching anime and playing video games instead ;_;

Why are they most jazzed about HTML and CSS?

Is it because they can create something immediate and show it to others online?

This is http://codenow.org/ in NYC, by the way. The organization partners with my employer, Jumpstart Lab.

This particular iteration is six weeks, all the kids did a weekend with us during the school year. Last week was reviewing very basic programming concepts in Ruby, then this week, we did ruby-processing, and then Sinatra, so the HTML came into play.

I think it's because it's a more graphical medium; many of them can see how it's 'neat,' but when doing just textual stuff, they get bored easily. The processing was kinda interesting, but I think the simplicity of making something graphical was what really made them get pumped. Then, now they're more excited to learn more Ruby so that they can build more complex sites, but (at least with this group) it's a means to an end.

We haven't actually deployed anything public yet, so they haven't been able to share, I bet that'll be another huge leap in interest.

Thanks for the info. I wish I had this back in the 90s.

Did they try Ruby Shoes (or whatever replaced it) as a fun side GUI project?

Yes! Their very first lessons were with Hackety Hack, actually. They did some shoes-ing after that.

I remember when I was 13 and first realized that I could HTML was what webpages were and that I could write it myself. It was 1997 and Geocities was my best friend. I was so excited.

and javascript!! You can do anything in javascript ... want a database, no problem, store it as json and use js. You can not run any server side scripting like jsp or php, but you can pull files down and process them locally. Sure, you're not going to store a massive database in json and process it locally, but you can do a lot with this and a little creativity.

Can you put the files back again? If you can write data back again then you've got enough for a full platform.

If it allowed that and directories. I've already written the environment that would give you a full desktop.

I build products that assume most people won't be running app servers in the future. It's so easy to use an external service available through JS to build a fully featured application.

The problem right now is just teaching people that this is possible, and to make it easier for them.

Not to mention JS. There's a LOT you can do with that.

Kyle, I died a little inside when I saw the preview of the new "beautiful front page".

It's a great webdesign, but I thought the part of the appeal of your site was the ghetto-fabulousness? The redesigned front page makes it look like a Wix competitor. I thought you wanted something that looked plain and boring, but accessible to everyone (like the blog).

With a super modern fancy web design, you make the site look like Tumblr, Twitter, and all those sites that you're trying to rebel against. You might risk losing your audience by sending the wrong message.

I don't know what "ghetto-fabulousness" means but NeoCities is not a revolt against good web design, and it's not a ghetto. I like beautiful web sites. I love the new site design. I think most people will appreciate the new site. I have metrics, so if they don't, I'll know pretty quickly and make the appropriate adjustments. Thank you for your concern though.

Just so everybody knows what we're talking about, this is the screenshot of the new front page design we're working on: https://raw.github.com/kyledrake/neocities-web/master/files/...

Please don't implement this design.

Current one is thousand times better. Minimalistic is more natural for this kind of sites.

This discussion is interesting, because I just recently listened to an interview with Tegan And Sara on NPR regarding their new album that almost perfectly emulates this (minimalism vs polish). They wanted to make their music more approachable to a wider audience, and their hardcore fans revolted because they just wanted to hear more of the same stuff. In the end, they were right, and the new album was successful.

Musicians (and artists in general) have to evolve, and there is a risk of alienating people with that evolution. I certainly don't want to make people not like NeoCities because the design changes.

However, having a good design makes the site more approachable and accessible for more people, which is the goal of NeoCities: to get people to start making web sites again, even if they aren't a member of the skilled web design crowd. HN has an appreciation for minimalism (that I almost always share), but I want to involve and inspire all users, and not just make it for our demographic, if that makes any sense.

If you had any suggestions specific to the design to improve it, I would love to hear your thoughts, but I do think it's a good design. It has site screenshots on the front page, a great top backdrop, good colors, and an awesome site mascot.

While the current page is lacking design rigor, it has a wonderfully approachable, no-frills, light-weight, utilitarian aspect to it. I don't think the new design represents the NeoCities mission.

Lead by example! By having a minimal home page identity, you're saying "Hey people! It's ok to have a simple web site without knowing how to do all of these visual enhancements. Dive in and get publishing!"

Go with that new design, it is a vast improvement. I think you will attract a more appreciative crowd, who will be seeking something that doesn't look like a short term experiment.

First and foremost, like many others have said, I am rooting for you. I am glad that your site has been a success so far and hope you are able to take it in a new direction. As far as the new design is concerned, its completely within your right to keep it as is. That being said, here are my thoughts:

Likes: - I like your avatar and banner at the top of the page.

- your choice of colors and fonts is nice and feels cohesive.

- the lug for the "Learn to Code" section is a nice touch.

- Prominent placement of the "Get started now" box is very eye-catching.

Dislikes / suggestions: - The overall layout feels cramped. It seems like you are trying to fit a lot of content on a single page. This is why the new design feels so different from your original site.

- Fewer number of featured sites (with the option to scroll through more) might be more visually pleasing.

- I notice that most "generally accessible" sites (read: tumblr, twitter, etc.) have the ability for current users to type their credentials and sign in without leaving the page. It seems like this would require and extra click on your layout.

Best of luck to you. I cannot wait to see neocities mature.

I'm glad this turned into a fruitful discussion and I think you offered a great analog with Tegan and Sara's album.

Perhaps maybe we could boil most our comments down to just a simple suggestion that maybe the new design could be nudged just a bit more in the direction of "minimalistic / retro / edgy / avant-garde / anarchist". The right design could have both the accessibility you (rightly) are seeking, but still preserve a little bit of the minimalistic feel that (we felt) sets the Neocities image apart. Of course, finding the right balance is going to be challenging, but that's what makes a good designer good.

Two more quick points:

- We (the peanut gallery) could all be totally wrong. We're all rooting for you though. :)

- For every success like Tegan and Sara, everyone knows a band who tried to switch it up and just started sucking. There's nothing wrong with staying in a niche. On the other hand, we know you're ambitious and have a great vision. I think we all like that about Neocities too!

Do what you feel is best. If it was up to half the commenters with negative feedback, Neocities would've never even existed. You have the vision, you have the product, do what feels right.

I must apologize for misunderstanding gamegod's comment, and have deleted my own. Please don't switch to this new page. I agree, the current one is much better.

It lacks a few things that the old site had but this is a visually striking improvement.

It should empower the user - that new header is like "WE'RE NEOCITIES, (psst, you can make a site or, instead, consume content below from less lazy people). The "it's your site, your vision" is a nice tagline/alternative to "Create a site."

Oddly enough, the "Create my site" button is now lower on the page and smaller than it used to be. There's so much empty space at the top of the header that the call to action is less dramatic (despite the red button).

The lack of a "sign in" button near the create is a bit sad. Yeah, not completely hidden but having a small "sign in" near the create button shouldn't be that big of a burden.

Looking pretty good besides those things. I know you're getting a million and one remarks about this, but I think it's all in hopes it helps further your vision. Please consider some of the things said - even just a tiny bit ;).

Please dont add that design :|

The new one looks like a toy, like another one of those hipster websites, ugh. It doesnt work with the idea of a "neocities". Shame if this is implemented, just my 2 cents.

IMHO, fair enough for some quick functionality, but it looks to me like a boring, unoriginal, standard these days scheme, using bootstrap. Referring to is as a "design" is, to me, a bit of a stretch.

Doesn't put me off the site though, in fact I use it, but the scheme is a bit of an eye roller for me.

I'd prefer to see something that us unique, designed ground up. Something that screams different, yet accessible to all.

But, you know, tastes vary, and I am an olde git!!! If the majority like it, Ill happily get my coat.... :)

I don't know how many angles you've taken with this, or if this is a first mock-up, but to me it doesn't represent what I see NeoCities as being right now, and certainly not what I could envisage it becoming.

Try some different styles, try some more minimalist visuals, and above all play around with your copy placement - because it doesn't convey the 'click here and make a website' call to action that your existing design does so effortlessly through a combination of good copy and intuitive buttons/forms.

keep the current design, I did not like the new design. should be something more retro or anarchist / minimalist

I don't think the new design is "super fancy", it just plain looks good to me.

The current design is horrible.

Why have a bad design just to have a bad design? Does that make your site hip?

"Domain Names

yourname.neocities.org is pretty good, but there's nothing more powerful than owning your own domain. When you own your own domain, you are in control. I want to make it easy for people to add their domain name to NeoCities, and just as easy to move their content elsewhere if they decide they don't want to use us (or want to step to something more powerful like their own server).

I will be implementing domain support eventually. I'm not sure what the timeline on this is yet, it's a more difficult thing to implement, but I think it's important. So we're going to do it. Domains themselves cost money, but we will not be charging for linking domains to NeoCities sites because I feel that having your own identity that you control is important."

...but what about my page? http://ns1.neocities.org/

We're not using any subdomains and we never will. Even www just gets redirected to the https://neocities.org version.

If I did need to use subdomains for provisioning, I would probably just get another domain exclusively for it. You can run a nameserver without having to attach it to ns1.neocities.org. Enjoy your new site. :-)

"You can run a nameserver without having to attach it to ns1.neocities.org."

Haha. You most certainly can.

Thanks for creating the project, should be fun.

They should have made users' domains be <name>.users.neocities.org or got a shorter domain solely for users like <name>.neociti.es (which is not registered!)

Kyle, Can we talk about making sure your sites get pulled into the Internet Archive? Or does that not fit the vision for your site?

Sure! Send me an e-mail.

Hey kyle, I don't have a comment other than to say thanks for doing this. It's great.

I've been meaning to publish a few short articles about javascript online, but I didn't get around to it because of a lack of decent free hosting like this. Neocities makes it trivial enough that I'll have the time. Thanks again!

Why the snark troll?

Please forgive my original post if it sounded like there was any snark.

Some people may not want all of their sites stored forever. Some people are cool with it. It was really just an honest question, and no snark was intended.

I think he misinterpreted what you said.

"Can we talk about making sure your sites get pulled into the Internet Archive" could mean "make sure your site is indexed and archived properly" or could mean "make sure that your site dies and is relegated to the archives".

I meant the first one. Definitely the first one.


FYI kyledrake: The blog uses an http:// link for its CSS, which makes the SSL version of the page insecure. Such insecure mixed content is blocked by default in Firefox 23+ (now in beta), so the page loses its styling for Firefox beta/alpha users, and soon for all Firefox users. (Edit: The CSS seems to also be blocked in recent Chrome and IE9, thanks thejosh.)

One fix is to remove the protocol from CSS links, i.e. change this:

    <link href="http://blog.neocities.org/bootstrap.min.css" rel="stylesheet" />
to this:

    <link href="//blog.neocities.org/bootstrap.min.css" rel="stylesheet" />
and likewise for any other CSS and JavaScript includes. This will use the same protocol being used to serve the page.

Other than that, great work! Just wanted to point out this little issue.

Chrome also blocks it as well.

One thing I really miss from Geocities is the "structured browsing" that allowed me to find sites from a given subject without using search by word.

Also, I miss letting the user decide what is the subject of his/her site and where to put it in the hierarchy. It doesn't fit for some sites, but it did give a sense of "organization" that textual search cannot really match... especially when you don't know what you're looking for exactly, or just randomly browsing.

I also liked the naming. I didn't even know what "Cape Canaveral" meant at the time, but I do remember there were lots of interesting (for me) sites that ended up under this directory.

There are tags implemented, it's just a matter of me getting them into the browse. I probably should have mentioned this in the blog post.. oops. :-)

I don't know what kind of tags you're talking about, but in my experience they tend to create tighter groupings than "neighborhoods" like Geocities. You'll get a "whovian" tag instead of a general sci-fi group, most likely (and even "sci-fi" seems a bit limited/boring).

Speaking of ages gone by, I wonder whether you could do something new with the good old webring format...

Woo, thanks for the shoutout to Ten Megabyte Manifesto [0] again. 20 megabytes is likely a good thing (and I guess I have to update my manifesto a little bit! though I maintain that you can still build quality stuff in under 10MB of html/css/js), and the promise of a better upload interface is great too. I'm hoping you'll choose to/be able to implement directory support but any improvement in the meantime is great. Keep up the good work.

[0] http://10mbmanifesto.neocities.org/

I would argue that if you want directories, etc., implement your own version of neocities. Apparently the code is available.

Directories are not impossible, I'm just not sure how to make the interface for them look good and work well. It's more a UX problem than a coding one. I would love some suggestions/sketches/wireframes to improve the editing dashboard to enable this. Please send me an e-mail if you have any ideas here.

Yeah I agree it's not a simple suggestion on my part. I'm by no means an expert on UI/UX and so I'm a bit out of my depth here, but I'm hoping that someone can suggest a design that lends itself well to this. In the meantime, while it's way more complicated than what you're going for, dropbox's upload interface might be worth looking at.

What about something like mod_dir? Maybe just ftp for the interface? Would that require more overhead or dangerous permissions? Maybe.

> The initial file upload interface is.. not so great. I'm going to be working to improve it. First with things like drag-and-drop file uploading, and then with an API to allow developers to write tools to upload files

Regarding this API, do you intend re-inventing the wheel, or are you going to use something like ssh that people already have written tools around (e.g. rsync)?

How about (S)FTP? That was my first try and actually what made me dismiss NeoCities as a host.

I wanted to upload a simple static (Jekyll) blog, but uploading manually put me off.

Using ssh without actually giving each user their own account on a Unix system is very hacky, but the native rsync protocol and/or WebDAV could work.

I just donated [1] $10 to the project and I haven't even setup an account yet. I just think providing an anonymous account on the internet is very important, especially in today's world of constant monitoring and eavesdropping.

I hoped others on HN donate what little they see fit.

[1] > Confirmation number: 1PC46364PK792033N

I'm glad to hear you're up and running and funded Kyle. I was a bit wary to donate (though I did), as I feared that the idea wouldn't get going. But it's an important thing. There needs to be a place where people (youngsters) can just play with HTML.

I hope that the focus continues to be on providing a space for people to create their first website. I think there's pressure to make this more about providing a safe uncensored haven for free speech, but geocities was great because it gave people a way into website design. You don't need SSL. You just need a place for uploading and creating web pages.

You don't need a Terms of Service.

Anyway - personal visions vary, and it's probably best not to focus on the tiny areas where we may disagree. Good luck with this. I really mean that.

I just tried signing up for a page, and at the bottom of the signup form is instructions for entering two words. But no two words show up, and there is no place to enter them. Is this due to load issues?

Edit: The re-captcha works in Firefox and Internet Explorer, but not in Chrome.

Just came here to say this. I think the issue is with this (seen in the console):

[blocked] The page at https://neocities.org/new ran insecure content from http://www.google.com/recaptcha/api/challenge?k=6Lfa6eISAAAA....

[blocked] The page at https://neocities.org/new ran insecure content from http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Lato:400,700,900,400i....

[blocked] The page at https://neocities.org/new ran insecure content from http://www.google.com/recaptcha/api/challenge?k=6Lfa6eISAAAA....

He needs to change the assets URLs to ://

NeoCities desperately needs a terms of service.

Agreed. I'll try to get to this ASAP.

I've never understood that, what does not having a terms of service do?

Kyle, I have a few gripes concerning the sign-up page:

1. It would be pretty cool if the availability of the name could be checked instantly

2. When there's an error on the signup page, for whatever reason: please don't RE-SEND a captcha if the previous one was validated, and please don't ask me to retype my password. Those two UX mistakes are very common, but as a user they are kind of infuriating.

A quick suggestion as well: it would be cool if there was a way to manage several sites while logging on a single email / pw.

Thanks a lot anyway!

I had created a simple resume framework [1] which can used to create a online resume[2] from a json file using angular.js with exactly this kind of hosting infrastructure in mind. The goal was to reduce the entry barrier by not relying on any server side technology. Maybe I should finish off some of the outstanding issues.


[1] https://github.com/dhawalhshah/modern-resume

[2] http://dhawal.me

This is quickly becoming the HN community's favorite little project. It's nothing new yet I just like seeing it flourish and get excited about it. Because there's no PHP code allowed it forces you to keep it simple. The anonymity just lets people really vent their frustrations or ideas without fear of messing up or having their credit card or name associated with it. And static CSS & HTML sites is where so many of us got started. I love it. Keep up the good work.

This looks like a really powerful platform for people that just want to throw up information on the web with minimal effort. I felt motivated, and just put together a post on using one of our products on neocities.org



How I've missed these: http://penguins.neocities.org/

Have you considered supporting compressed files or compressing them automatically after uploads? HttpGzipModule and ngx_http_gunzip_module will handle these files automatically. A server can handle more pages and probably also decrease the disk load because of the smaller files.

Just some warm words. I love the concept and I think sites like this are very important to get fresh blood actively participating online (to be really online versus having a fixed flow tumblr blog). Keep the barrier of entry as low as possible... thanks a lot! :)

PS: the text editor has some quirks in Safari 7 where the caret is a few characters off sometimes (so when you type the characters appear in the wrong place). Might want to switch to a default <textarea> for Safari 7 for now...

It's amazing that he doesn't mention the legal aspects of his site. People will of course publish illegal content there. How is he going to handle this? One illegal picture may take the whole site down.

You own a .org so if the US Government wanted to seize your assets it would be difficult but if they wanted to paste their ugly MS paint logo up when people hit neocities.org they are more than welcome to.

I enjoy neocities so much. All those people making silly things or taking their first HTML steps makes me grin from ear to ear every time I hit /browse. Big kudos, may neocities be here to stay!

kyledrake, you are the spirit of old school geeks that made computing cool.


Can I recommend a simple link from NeoCities blog posts directly to the main page of NeoCities? Somewhere visible and easily accessible - would be awfully convenient.

Finally, a place for code minimalists to shine. This is great

I can't create a page. The captcha doesn't appear and then I get an error when trying to create. I'm using Chrome if that helps.

Just a heads up, the "Discussion on Hacker News" link points right back to the article and not Hacker News.

What's the point of this? Is it the new MySpace or are people supposed to host real projects on there?

It's the new GeoCities, which is for very simple "my first webpage" type things

Folders? Pretty please....

So many haters with the new design. I personally like the new look.

The recaptcha is not https so I can't register in chrome

ever thought of using https://www.inkfilepicker.com/? or is it too expensive?

I love NeoCities, I'm glad it exists.

Web Scale FTW!

No rss feed for the blog?

If only it were a .is domain, other than that it's perfect.

that's awesome!

my site got pulled(erased)after the first day WTF?

I'm pretty sure there was some name collisions or something the first day. I think it's been fixed since then

/ name collisions? whatever -i had a whole page i put up there i also donated 14 bucks in bitcoins to this guy and he just destroyed my site

He didn't destroy it, someone found a bug and used it to destroy your site.

My sites are gone too! WTF?

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