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Creation and growth
Neopets was conceived in 1997 by Adam Powell, a British student at the University of Nottingham at the time. He shared this idea with Donna Williams and the two started work on the site in September 1999, with Powell responsible for the programming and the database and Williams the web design and art. The site launched on November 15, 1999 from offices in Portsmouth Road, Guildford, a location still commemorated on the site. Powell stated that the original goal was to "keep university students entertained, and possibly make some cash from banner advertising". The site contained popular culture references, such as a Neopet that was simply a picture of Bruce Forsyth.
The user base grew by word of mouth and by Christmas 1999, Neopets was logging 600,000 page views daily and sought investors to cover the high cost of running the site. Later in the month, American businessman Doug Dohring was introduced to the creators of the site and, along with other investors, bought a majority share in January of the following year. Dohring founded Neopets, Inc. in February 2000 and began business April 28. Intellectual property that did not belong to Neopets, such as Bruce Forsyth were removed, but the site kept the British spellings. The website made money from the first paying customers using an advertising method trademarked as "immersive advertising" and touted as "an evolutionary step forward in the traditional marketing practice of product placement" in television and film. In 2004, Neopets released a premium version and started showing advertisements on the basic site that, as a perk of premium membership, are not visible to premium members.
Media conglomerate Viacom purchased Neopets, Inc. on June 20, 2005 for $160 million and announced plans to focus more on the use of banner ads over the site's existing immersive advertising. The website was redesigned on April 27, 2007 and included changes to the user interface and the ability to customise Neopets. In June, Viacom promoted Neopets through minishows on Nickelodeon. Promotions included the second Altador Cup and lead to an increase in traffic through the site. The first Altador Cup was released as an international online gaming event to coincide with the 2006 FIFA World Cup to improve interactivity between users and had 10.4 million participants the first year. On July 17, the NC Mall was launched in a partnership with Korean gaming company Nexon Corporation. It allowed users to use real money to purchase Neocash to buy exclusive virtual items. On June 17, 2008, Viacom formed the Nickelodeon Kids & Family Virtual Worlds Group to "encompass all paid and subscription gaming initiatives across all relevant platforms", including Neopets. By June 2011, Neopets announced that the website had logged 1 trillion page views since its creation.
JumpStart acquired Neopets from Viacom in April 2014. Server migration began in September. JumpStart-owned Neopets was immediately characterized by glitches and site lag. On 6 March 2015, much of the Neopets Team remaining from Viacom were laid off. On July 3, 2017, Chinese company NetDragon acquired JumpStart.