Virtual pet website Neopets is planning a comeback.

Launched in 1999 by British developers, the site let users care for cartoon pets, chat and play games.

But after Viacom bought it, for $160m (£122m) in 2005, the site failed to keep up with the times and many elements stopped working.

Now, Neopets is promising a "new era", with $4m of funding to remake the site and bring back 50 classic games on 25 July.

At its peak, in the mid-2000s, Neopets had 25 million users, rivalling the popularity of Tamagotchis and other virtual pets.

But by 2017, that had collapsed to just 100,000 daily users, according to then chief executive David Lord.

Apprehensively excited

In a way, Neopets was an early form of social media, encouraging community conversation long before Facebook and Twitter existed – but much of the website relied on Adobe Flash.

Modern browsers do not support Flash at all. And Apple never supported the technology on its iPhones or iPads.

But will the promise of new funding and functionality tempt people to return to their neglected pets?

Krista, a fan who runs the YouTube channel Neopian Lore, is apprehensively excited.

"We have gotten announcements in the past and they haven't followed through," she says.

"But I'm most excited for the conversion of games. That has been something the community has been asking for for a while.

"It's the thing that draws you back – you can go and play a game for two minutes and then carry on with your life – it's a nice feature to return."

An artist using a drawing tablet on a computer, sat in an office. Her desk has a lava lamp as well as a screen on which six Neopets are visible.Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, A Neopets artist hard at work during the site's heyday, in 2006

Neopets said a management buyout deal meant the website was now an independent business without a large corporate owner.

"Free from the corporate baggage that existed in the past, the newly united [Neopets Team] has now been entrusted with the decision-making and overall brand strategy of Neopets, enabling them to work solely on the betterment of the entire Neopets game and community," it said in a blog post.

"The Neopets Team is, for the first time in over a decade, equipped to make meaningful changes in pursuit of a Neopian renaissance."

'Comfort food'

It plans to begin the "new era" with a refreshed homepage, on Thursday, 20 July.

Five days later, it will bring back 50 of the website's classic games amid plans to fix "many of the most beloved games" in the future.

And Krista believes a resurgence is possible.

"It's not going to be a bunch of middle-schoolers anymore, though there still will be be some younger kids," she says.

"People want nostalgia. People want to go reminisce about the glory days. That's why there's so many reboots in the world – bringing back those nostalgic features that are like comfort food for people.

"I'm really excited for it."

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