In honor of Codecademy’s 11th anniversary, we’re looking back at the 2000s websites and software that influenced our founders to build Codecademy — and inspired a generation to learn to code. Explore other fun deep dives into early aughts internet topics here.
To many millennials, websites like Myspace, Xanga, and Neopets are as emblematic of their youth as Beanie Babies and The Spice Girls. Logging on after school to chat with friends on AIM, create a jealousy-inducing layout on Myspace, or feed your Neopets was how many young people in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s socialized, formed communities, and expressed themselves. Little did we know that these talents could actually serve us in today’s job market.
On TikTok, you may have heard people joke about how coding HTML/CSS as a teen counts as programming experience — but there’s some truth to this proverbial “pipeline.” Many millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 1996) went on to get jobs in tech in part because of the lasting impact that the internet and technology had on us as kids and teens.
In honor of Codecademy’s 11th anniversary this month, we’re looking back at the Y2K era tech that inspired millennials to code and led to the launch of Codecademy. So we asked a few millennial members of the Codecademy team to trace their careers back to the nostalgic and oh-so-cringey tech that shaped them into the engineers, designers, and people they are today.
Calla Feucht, Engineering Manager at Codecademy
The throwback tech I loved most: Neopets and Myspace
“My first exposure to anything like code was in the forums on Neopets. I found a thread where people were talking about showing off like their profiles where they had made them look special. And I was like, Holy cow. This is amazing. How do I do this?
Neopets actually had guides on how to customize aspects of your profile; they had this special type of markdown to make things bold, or italic, or make your text glow. I edited my profile and just mucked around in the CSS and HTML. It got to the point where I got good enough at this that I started offering my services to other players in trade for rare items. I loved the tangible factor: tweaking something and seeing the results there on the page. It was just really cool.
One of the first challenging things I took on in HTML and CSS was on Myspace. During the whole ‘scene kid’ movement, people’s Myspace pages always looked so unique. They figured out how to make a single column instead of the two columns and the font was different. I was like, I want that. It was hard and more advanced stuff than I’d ever done. Similar to Neopets, I also ended up offering my services on Xanga and Myspace for customization. I was a little businesswoman apparently.
When I rediscovered programming in college, it just clicked. Because I got started doing it at just that right age, picking it back up as a young adult felt like second nature and very innate. There was this language that I had learned years ago and just hadn’t used — like a mother tongue almost — so I just fell back into it.”
Tamar Yadin, Senior Product Designer at Codecademy
The throwback tech I loved most: Geocities
“I was always exploring the internet in the very early stages when we had to dial-up. Then I realized that I can build my own website and play around with it. I don’t remember how I got to Geocities — probably my dad helped me — but I was into adding GIFs into a site and then understanding how to move and scale them. I definitely remember all the interactiveness and being able to affect what I’m seeing on the screen and interact with buttons and dropdowns.
Stuff like that was, for some reason, always very interesting to me. Being a very visual person, I liked that I could control how stuff lived inside of the web. Then, later I realized that it’s UI and I can really be a designer.
The early stages of exploring, and touching everything, and breaking stuff to see how they work on the web, encouraged me also to be self-taught in a lot of things later on. This is super specific to me, but English is not my native language, and I learned a lot of English by building websites. So like, a divider is something that I came to realize what it is because there were a lot of different types of dividers there that I could choose from [on Geocities].
Understanding the structure of everything — that there’s a background to the page, and there’s the text, and you can control the fonts, colors, and positioning — and then being able to control it was really cool. And also, it gives you power to implement design. Finding clip art, GIFs, and images and curating them was new at the time.”
Megan McCoy, Curriculum Project Manager at Codecademy
The throwback tech I loved most: Angelfire
* QBasic is a lightweight programming language developed by Microsoft that was based on BASIC.
Nik Stern, Curriculum Developer at Codecademy
The throwback tech I loved most: Neopets
“In fifth grade, I had my Neopet pages and my shop, which I ran with my mom. We would go around the site and see other shops that looked really good. My mom was like, ‘You know computers, why don’t we have a shop that looks like this?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ There were essentially guides all over the internet that would say: If you want the sparkly GIF of the Gelert, paste this code into the shop.
I would copy and paste certain things, but then I started figuring out the mechanics of it. This does this, but if I change this value, I can have a different image, or I can make the background tiled. It really was my first experience getting to manipulate what a website looked like.
For the most part, I tried to make cute things. I wasn’t really able to do it, but I tried my best. Looking back at some of my earlier efforts, I’d probably be like, oof. But as a kid, you’re like, Oh my god, I made this thing happen. And that’s so exciting.
Then, when I was 17, my mom’s husband owned the domain name for the city that they live in, and they wanted an actual website. My mom was like, ‘You made us those cute pages on Neopets. Can you code this city website?’ My partner and I spent the summer before college trying to code this website that was so far above our skill level, given how little experience we had.
So in a very literal sense, Neopets got me my first coding job. There was some basic stuff that I still remembered from the Neopets days, although there was a 7-year gap between when I coded on Neopets versus when I did web design.”
Uno Susanto, Paid Marketing Manager at Codecademy
The throwback tech I loved most: Neopets, Myspace, and Friendster
“I joined Neopets in grade school because my friends had it. By day two or three of playing, I was hooked, literally addicted. I was obsessed with collecting certain niche items on Neopets, like this wart-themed pen that was really rare. It was a big part of my social life: I would go to school and tell my friends about a new thing I collected or a place I explored in Neopets.
I had a Friendster and Myspace — and I was all about customizing my Friendster page. I would change the little header background for my Friendster account. And you could drag and drop like certain widgets, like there was a music widget. I would play the theme song from The O.C. I don’t know why I was doing this on a weekly basis, I guess I didn’t have anything else to do.
I don’t remember if I was using HTML and CSS other than maybe changing certain color codes for buttons and fonts and stuff like that. Sometimes, if the code wouldn’t work out, I would just double-check and go through. Did I add a hyphen somewhere? Or an extra space that I wasn’t supposed to?
I didn’t even know what coding consisted of, or what it could create directly until I was in high school and I had a couple friends who were going to major in computer science in college. I just did it for fun.”
Which tech products and applications from the ‘90s and ‘00s had the most significant impact on you? Be sure to share your stories and tag Codecademy on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.