Own a Piece of the Internet

US Department of Education on Flickr

Leave your mark on the world wide web with your own website!

Having your own website. The closest thing most people come to something like that these days is making a single use site with Carrd or something similar.

But, honestly, I’m here to make a case for why you should have a website, where to make it, and how to learn to make one. It doesn’t have to be complicated or use a bunch of professional web development tools that people use to make business websites or things like that.

I’m writing this article not long after a kerfuffle about a certain billionaire hoping to buy Twitter. You, reader, will probably have a better idea how that turned out that I do in this moment. The important point, though, is that it got a lot of people wondering “what do I do if the social media site I use goes south?”

And that’s a great question! On social media, nothing is really yours. Even something like Carrd has the problem that it’s a proprietary service that could start charging for themes that used to be free or force ads onto your site that you don’t want. Making your own website, though? That’s something you get to make yours exactly the way you want it and keep forever!

That’s why I think you should consider making your own site! The easiest place to do that is on Neocities (https://neocities.org), a free-to-use open-source project that lets you host websites.

If you’re wondering “well, okay, but what would I put on my own site?” Well a great source of inspiration is the “yesterweb” movement (https://yesterweb.org/) and the yesterweb webring (https://yesterweb.org/webring/). Here you’ll find a bunch of people who are committed to trying to make weird personal spaces that are, in short, aesthetic as heck.

For example, https://blissnet.neocities.org/

or https://theenderdraco.neocities.org/

or https://fragmentandreflect.neocities.org/

Yesterweb was made by Sadness (https://sadgrl.online/) who also has a ton of resources for getting started with a retro website on Neocities, like her layout builder (https://sadgrl.online/projects/layout-builder/) that lets you choose how you want your site to look and then you can just copy and paste her code like a template into your site.

But if you want to really live like it’s 1995, you can follow the vibes of HTML Energy (https://html.energy) and work only in raw HTML without even the minimalistic fanciness that Sadness’s templates provide!

If you browse through some of the sites in the Yesterweb webring, you’ll find basically everything: personal blogs, shrines to favorite k-pop groups, pixel art collections, short stories, music!

The reason why I recommend Neocities specifically, and why it’s the center of an attempt to make the web weird once more, is that you always have your Neocities site. They host it, but all you’re doing is placing files of HTML and CSS—the languages that control the content and the appearance of the page—in your Neocities site. You can just as easily download them all back again and host it somewhere else.

If you want to get learning HTML and CSS, I highly recommend the site Interneting Is Hard (https://www.internetingishard.com/) which takes you on a very gentle path towards learning the basics of building webpages.

Just to get you started, a very brief introduction to HTML is that it’s a kind of really specific programming language: a markup language.

You put all your content in a file that ends in .html and you use pairs of tags to describe what goes on the page. For example,

Creates the following simple webpage

So this has been a whirlwind introduction but what I want you to take from this is that:

  • building websites is easier than you might fear
  • making a website means having something that’s yours in a way no social media site can be
  • there’s a ton of other people out there doing weird, fun, very personal sites on Neocities

I hope you, at the very least, try making a site and who knows maybe I’ll see you on the Yesterweb ring!

Learn More

What is Neocities?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neocities

Neocities

https://neocities.org

Yesterweb

https://yesterweb.org/

Yesterweb Webring

https://yesterweb.org/webring/

Blissnet

https://blissnet.neocities.org/

Neocities: Social Media Alternative

https://www.polygon.com/23024357/neocities-social-media-alternative

Talking Neocities with Founder Kyle Drake

https://www.hostingadvice.com/blog/neocities-empowers-site-owners-to-showcase-their-creativity-online/

Build a Neocities website

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoO6rg45mQs

Author

  • Clarissa Littler

    Clarissa has worked in mathematics, physics, and computer science research but spends much of her time now trying to make computer science education accessible to a broader audience.

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Interesting stories about computer science, software programming, and technology from August 2022.

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