i don't think there's anything, to me at least, as emblematic of the early internet as neopets.com
i don't remember exactly how i found it. it was the year 2000. i think i saw a badge on someone's page that showed their pet and said something like "so and so got their pet at neopets.com! get your own today!" i clicked and found the new world i'd be investing all of my time in for the next 3-4 years.
i signed up. at the time, my alias online was "Pixiefox". the origin of that name is because i was posting on a pokemon forum under the name "PixieVulpix" but got very nervous that nintendo would find out and sue me, an 11 year old girl roleplaying on a tiny forum. so i swapped the vulpix for a regular fox. Pixiefox. there's a model by that name now, i think. i haven't used the name since probably 2004, but i did for a while.
anyway, it was in style at the time to put the year it was in your username, which seems silly now. time changes every year, so your username dated itself. anyway. i made the name Pixiefox2000. i don't remember if you needed an email address and i don't remember what one i used. i remember i put my real birthday for some reason, because later i needed my mom to MAIL neopets a signed letter stating it was okay if i used the age restricted (13+) parts of the site!! most of it was not blocked, so i was able to have a great time without being older.
time to make my first pet. i chose a kougra, but it took a while. she was blue. i named her Charlenia2000. that name meant nothing but it sounded pretty. she was my companion, my number one. i truly loved her. it was just me and her for a while, and then my family adopted a dog named Elmo. he had these big ears that stuck up so we jokingly called him Earbone. that was my second neopet, a gelert. and i got a third, a peophin named... Testinia2000? i don't remember the exact name but it was along those lines. Earbone was the only one lucky enough to escape the curse of the numbers.
here's what they looked like back then.
things were still pretty "ugly" and not as shiny as they are now, but it seemed great to me. i still love those designs now for their old web charm.
here's the maps you'd use to go shopping.
there were games and an economy. you sold things to make money, played games to make money. with your money (neopoints, or np) you could buy cool items like faeries and paintbrushes. paintbrushes could be used to change your pets colors, and they were HIGHLY desirable. neopets staff would drop a new brush on us and the economy would go crazy. i don't think i ever ended up painting mine because i kind of loved them as they were.
i loved neopets. loved loved loved it. i spent all my time on it, made my friends join, even made my mom join. i remember one day my dad took my brother and i to his work for "take your daughter to work" day and my brother spent the ENTIRE day on neopets, and i felt so cool doing that instead of school. sick days were a treat because i could play neopets all day. i even wrote about it in my real life diary.
no like i really really loved neopets.
there were sitewide events where you'd play games to unlock prizes and things. there was an advent calendar and one year they gave you a paintbrush on christmas day. there were mini events that jacked the prices of regular items up to astronomical costs. there was a stock market that turned children into mini gordon gekkos. dr. sloth was the main "villian" of the franchise and conflict made us feel like heroes. it was so fun.
i remember some of the super old stuff that isn't around anymore. you used to be able to run a little theme park. there were two neopets that used to be based off real people which was... pretty weird. still not sure what was going on here.
it was the 2000s. the internet was lawless.
i was super active on the site, too. i won the site spotlight with a cool dress up game i taught myself to codei had a semi-popular guild dedicated to kougras. i even had a livejournal
for my kougra that is very cringey to read now but i'm glad it exists.
speaking of cringe, here's an email i wrote the neopets staff when they released merch at limited too in 2002. i wish i still had any of it!
but, alas, nothing lasts forever.
disaster struck and my neopets account was locked out sometime in 2002 or 2003. i begged for it back and they couldn't help me. i didn't play for a while. after a few years, my account was purged entirely. there's no record i existed under the name Pixiefox2000. i miss it.
i have played on and off over the years. at some point in college, in 2013, i got really into it for a while. but the changes and making it super corporate have turned me off from it. i'll treasure it forever and some part of me will always be Pixiefox2000.