So Long, Geocities!

Today is the end of an era. Yahoo! is finally pulling the plug on GeoCities, the staple web1.0 web page publishing service for the masses. Through a modern lens any given Geocities site was like an uglier even more misshapen custom MySpace profile, but in its day (long before ubiquitous, nearly-free, decent-quality webhosts) the ability to create a site (or even code one if you were really fancy) and have it hosted online for all to see was quite something.

The expertise threshold to publish content was considerably higher on GeoCities than it is today, requiring at least bare-bones understanding of HTML, and very little WYSIWYG (if any) editing. Templates were added later, but by and large most things were done by hand. Today, it’s very easy for anyone to have a professional looking, CMS-powered blog that never breaks and scarcely if ever uses Comic Sans MS, but most of these lack the personality that dripped from nearly each and every tweaked template. User generated content lived, in large measure in one GeoCities section or another, so the problem of trying to distinguish “professional” from “amateur” content at least seemed easier.

The precursor to GeoCities was probably (and correct me if I’m wrong) Usenet. But instead of fading away as GeoCities seems to be doing, Usenet is still around and kicking, and is mostly used for piracy and debates about which Star Trek captain could best Darth Vader. However, the bulk of the pre-piracy history of Usenet is now indexed (if poorly) by Google. Knowing the right combination of dates and usernames, my grandchildren follow through my online argumentative career circa the late 90s. The argument has been made the internet should learn how to forget — so why not begin doing so with digital mausoleums like GeoCities and Usenet archives? On the other hand, for the first time we’ve got greater retention and documentation from the exciting time when everyone started to connect to everyone else.

But I digress. I’ve been looking around for any old GeoCities sites I may have made way back in the day, and, finding none, have little more to say than goodbye to one of the first content publishing platforms I ever used. Thanks again, GeoCities, for the public service you provided, it was a big and essential step for the internet.