I don't think Districts "failed". It just stopped. I won't pretend I have any idea what happened in the owner's life that caused them to stop updating it for over a year, but it wasn't a sudden stop. As of writing, the last update was in January 2022 and the one before that was in March 2021.
I probably wouldn't be writing about this if Districts wasn't so huge. As I write this it's still the fourth most-followed site on Neocities. I guess what this situation makes me ask is why Neocities users tended towards such a centralised structure for website discoverability. The only comparable site I've stumbled upon so far is NeoCities Neighborhood Directory, which has about 20% of Districts' following.
It's genuinely interesting to me how even on a platform designed to allow freedom we tend towards the centralised structures we're normally forced into. Districts still receives about one comment a week asking to be added. To me, this says a lot about how we view the old internet in modern times. Districts and similar sites like Neo-Neighborhoods arguably come across as if they're designed to evoke Web 1.0 nostalgia. However, the resemblance is largely aesthetic. Users have a tendency to act as if a service will persist functionally forever and become dependant on its existence rather than using independent and less hierarchical methods; for instance, adding buttons or joining web rings (though these methods are not without flaw). In short, a lack of long-term thinking. This isn't as severe of a problem as it would be if Neocities didn't have built-in tools to discover websites, but it's a good example of how modern internet usage habits can't really be shaken off so easily.
I can't really fault Districts or any individual Neocities user for this, though. It's just what we're used to. Social media sites can shut down or make their site unbearable in the name of profit or get bought by a billionaire having a mid-life crisis. They're inherently transient, and we just have to deal with that. Also, Districts is just a fun concept so it makes sense that people would want to get involved. I don't think this is a problem with a solution, or a problem at all. It's just how we are as people.
I would like it if Districts "came back", but I would like it more if the human running it took their time and worked on it at a sustainable pace. Maybe while we're waiting we can support some other directories.
Ongezell's Web Database
Note: An earlier version of this post included a small investigation into who could possibly be running Districts and why it hasn't updated in so long, but I decided to scrap this because that would be rather invasive and also I am not a detective.