I’ve been so very busy at work the past few days that I had forgotten I signed up for this blog. I remembered yesterday evening, but couldn’t think of a topic to write about. However, this morning I was reminded that today is the day GeoCities closes. And of course, sites like XKCD are parodying the bad HTML and broken images we’ve all grown to hate.
However, I want to remind you of a better time. The GeoCities of the mid ’90s; the GeoCities I once knew, used, and loved. Before the commercialisation, before the Yahoo! aquisition, before its own personal “eternal September” of clueless newbies.
There was, and still is, a lot of technical information of GeoCities, and a lot of it is rare content that you won’t find anywhere else. There was more information than you would think, especially on old technologies including GEOS, Roland synthesisers, and RISC CPUs. There were fansites of good ol’ TV shows…remember Suddenly Susan? Smart Guy? Even classic telly, such as Gilligan’s Island and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. There were MIDI archives. There were some excellent history and genealogical resources. And was there a more expansive lyrics archive on the early Web than Andrew’s Lyrics? (There actually were much better ones on Gopher, but that’s an entirely different subject.)
And GeoCities was the beginning of the social Web revolution, allowing anyone with access to a keyboard the ability to write a Web site about anything, thereby bringing people who wanted to just have a page about their family. I’ll admit I’m a bit guilty of doing that myself; I signed up for a GeoCities page in 1997, relatively late, and used it primarily for voicing my opinions on computing and showing off my family pictures. I closed it down in ’99, because I was far too busy being a full-time administrator to keep it up. Not to mention the commercialisation that came…banner ads and the watermark were just the beginning, as we would all find out when Yahoo! purchased them. However, that was what proved the fatal flaw with “anyone with a keyboard can sign up”: the general masses gained Internet access, and back then everyone was flooding Yahoo! to get their wide variety of services (primarily for email and messenger). These masses used terrible, disgusting editors (FrontPage Express, Hot Dog, and even Netscape Composer 4.x generated abysmal HTML) and wrote about nothing in particular. This made the content rapidly decline in value, turning GeoCities into basically just a pile of meaningless babble and broken HTML, and the only thing declining faster than their reputation and content quality was their real userbase. So here we are. Yahoo! is dwindling, they’re strapped for cash, and probably just can’t afford GeoCities anymore. In the eyes of most, this is a Good Thing™ because of the drivel that most people think GeoCities is famous for.
But I still remember the great big melting pot, the community that was GeoCities in the ’90s. And though there are some modern hosting providers that are somewhat akin to this old GeoCities in terms of hosting (here are a few), none can match the community. And that is, I think, what GeoCities was for me and many others back then – a community of people from different backgrounds and cultures, sharing the collective of our knowledge (and family pictures) for the world to see.
Fare thee well, old friend. Here’s to one last <marquee/> tag, and the hope that one day someone may be able to rekindle the community spark of 1995.