Neopets are the epitome of the web in its adolescence. I'm not going to say it was the first social media, because it wasn't, but it was almost a prelude to that. I mean think about it. There were clubs you could join, games you could play, there was instant messaging and you could connect with people you met in the real world and online. Plus once it started dying off people flew over to Myspace, circa 2004. Then after that, Facebook followed. But this isn't about them, this is about our goddamn virtual pets.
The site used to have a lot of really cool games et cetera that you could play, plus items to buy, a house to build, and a whole wack of other neat things to do. You collected Neopoints, which were kind of like money, by playing games, buying stuff then selling it for more, and exploring the world. It was cool, and all the while you had to take care of your pets. You could pimp them out with fancy costumes or by magic paintbrushes that turned them rare colours (you started off with a choice of four and had to work hard at games to get colours like purple, gold, or even Christmas-themed). Back in the day it wasn't uncommon to spend a good four hours a night after school on Neopets. What a waste of time.
The guilds were kind of cool. I remember going on a Pokemon-themed guild and made friends with the leader. Then, being a little idealist, broke off and started my own. I asked to become allies with the head of my old one and she flamed (word we used that meant "got really militant with") the absolute hell out of me, saying I cheated or something and professed she would never do that. It was really really funny in retrospect, seeing that kind of spergrage over a Pokemon group on a virtual pets website. The person still has their page up and is still pumping out MS Paint comics, so go read those if you want to reminisce/laugh at art still trapped in the world of ten years ago.
I recently went back a few summers ago to try and eat up spare time I had, and my god they've royally screwed that place. It's very corporate now, "buy Neopoints or upgrade to a plus account" kind of thing, which I guess was only natural considering the site was moving towards that in 2003 before I left. The site heads used to be dicks and make you wait for a very slim opening to get rare breeds of Neopets (always the really cool designs), and now I can only imagine they flat out make you buy them with a credit card or something. Tis a shame.