The waiting was (usually) worth it, though - especially on the crude humor animation-focused sites I frequented back then like Goat's Head, StickDeath, and Newgrounds. There was also no shortage of games available, whether they were programs, ROM dumps, or applets. It was fascinating to bounce around reading about things like the 'Secret Worlds' of Metroid that existed outside of the map data. This was a time to catch me slamming romhacks into Jnes and reading hella webcomics between Neopets sessions and catching up on sbemails.
It wasn't always maximum chill, though. You had to be careful of stumbling across shock sites that'd show you disturbing imagery, or throw up some rapid-fire popups that eventually crashed your browser. Or both, if they really wanted to be dicks about it. And there was always the risk of watching something only for it to actually be a devastatingly loud screamer prank.
Filesizes kept getting bigger, and more sites kept appearing, using newer technologies. My hardware had improved over the years, but downloading WMVs from sites like gprime.net and ebaumsworld started to make using a phone line seem outdated. Thankfully, we soon upgraded to DSL, and running around in the World of Warcraft never felt smoother. I also found some great entertainment in sites like I-Mockery, b3ta, and YTMND.
I'd also stumbled across the communities surrounding ZZT and Cave Story. From hackers busting older titles wide open to great new indie releases from creators like Daniel Remar and Nifflas, it was a fun as hell time to be a gamer.
What wasn't so fun was Internet Explorer being stagnant for years after winning the browser war. Things could be better, faster, more customizable. It was time to give this 'Firefox' thing I've been hearing about a try. And it seemed pretty cool! Instead of having to open a new browser window, there were tabs. IE just had popup blockers, but FF could install an add-on that got rid of all of these obnoxious ads. Hell, I could even turn off cookies except on certain websites if I felt like it. These open-source people know what's up. Let's use this powerful new creation to go read about recaps of hilarious trolling on Encyclopædia Dramatica.
Then, video really started to take off. Nowadays YouTube is the game, but back then you'd be finding stuff all over; some people liked Google Video, Break, Blip, Viddler, Veoh, Vimeo, and a whole bunch of sites you'd never heard of before. But, eventually, I just stopped going anywhere besides YouTube to see what people were up to.
Being severely asocial, I failed to comprehend the point of social media websites, let alone feel any desire to use them. I did briefly have a Twitter account, but only posted about 5 times before deleting it with a shrug. Even back then I was much fonder of forum settings.
When Opera 10 was released, I decided to give it a try, as those who used the browser were very fond of it. Always nice to have backup options. And I hear Google's working on something as well, that's nice and fast. Good. More competition means web developers have to pay attention to web standards instead of being lazy and just optimizing for their fave, right?
Yo, where are people posting about stuff these days? 'Reddit'? Looks nice and minimal; let's hang around here for a while. YouTube also has this fantastic new Cosmic Panda layout that I really like. Mozilla decided to be obnoxious and start releasing a new major version of Firefox every 2 months. Be a lot cooler if it were numbered YY.MM like Ubuntu, but whatever. Let's check out this new 'Game Grumps' show.
Oh, YouTube got rid of their best layout after just one year? Sick. Opera's ditching their custom engine in favor of Chromium? Gnarly. The NSA is spying on everyone? Tubular. Hey, why do these atheist content creators never seem to run out of creationists to debunk? Isn't having this much access to information supposed to make everyone smarter? The world is getting better, right? ..You know what, these UI changes in every new version of Firefox are pissing me off; I'm switching to 24ESR until I find something better.
After that, Five Nights at Freddy's dropped, and I followed it into a surprising explosion of creativity. I spent the next few years on Tumblr, and had a great time writing with some very accepting and patient people. Being on that platform also opened my eyes to a lot of what was happening in the world. Bonus: there was lots of hot porn! Truly a one stop shop.
I remained on Tumblr and reddit for a while, eventually dropping the latter when they changed to a new layout and home-grown image host that was difficult to view files on with JS disabled. I swapped Opera for Vivaldi after hearing good things, and was satisfied with the customizability. Then, Tumblr, ever-chasing after those adverti$ing dollars, started purging adult content. I stuck around for a year, but slowly grew bored with the site and abandoned it in favor of FurAffinity.
Looking for a new social media to call home, but unwilling to go near Twitter, I researched whatever happened to that GNU Social thing I'd heard about a while ago, and was pleasantly surprised to find the Fediverse project and Mastodon. I initially wanted to join in as @email@example.com, but never got the confirmation email, so I instead created @firstname.lastname@example.org. The Fediverse was a very cozy place for someone like me, with no idea who to follow; I could just see a constant stream of posts from everyone on the network, and curate from that!
Even there, though, the constant of change remains. Instances are always blipping in and out of existence. Scifi.fyi went down often enough that I was archiving my toots every three months, and had an alt account set up on (the brilliantly named) notvery.social, but eventually they too both disappeared. I searched for a good long-lived instance to call my new home and have been on x0r.be since.
I'd also been seeing Discord mentioned enough to grow curious about what I was missing out on. I had @bytemothrules, and was working on a site called bytemoth.rocks, so the next logical step was to join as BytemothOwns#4633. And Neocities-related Discord servers at the end of 2018 were a mess. The original was put into read-only mode, prompting the creation of at least six others (Penny's Club, NeoCommunity, elecities, miacities, Unofficial Neocities, and Leroystan) in short order, hence the presence of this page on my website.
Through 2019 I did have an account on waterfall.social, but wasn't really feeling it; it was the people on Tumblr I liked, not necessarily the format. Sadly, Tumblr itself has largely become unusable for me, due not only to the number of people that have left, but 'enhancements' to the dashboard that made it inconvenient to keep track of what I'd read.
With that, we've reached the present day of this journey. As of version 28.14, Pale Moon has decided to remove support for <marquee>, and I'm actually petty enough to switch to Waterfox over it. This data point has allowed a pattern to emerge; I use web browsers for exactly 9 years each before they do some bullshit that gets me to adopt a new one.