Yahoo will close Geocities later this year. For those who don’t know (because damn — I’ve got colleagues who were in elementary school by the time I first went to college and got on the internet), Geocities was the free web hosting service when I first bought a 33.6 kbps modem and got on the Internet in 1997, a time synonymous with browsing the web with Netscape Navigator running on Windows 95, comparing searches between giants Yahoo and Altavista, and expressing yourself with personal homepages, probably hosted at Geocities.
I had my first personal page — which included a small bio, a couple of movie reviews and some pictures of my town Porto (scanned at a friend’s, using his handheld scanner!) — hosted at the two megabytes of server space my ISP kindly provided at an address I’ll never forget — homepage.esoterica.pt/~edsousa — which was an unbelieveably short URL in those days. Since the space was short I signed up for a Geocities account which provided me an extra megabyte of web-presence, which I used for some sort of porfolio website (showing some bad art made up with Corel Draw! and Paint Shop Pro, which in pure 90s style displayed very liberal use of effects and filters).
In typical cyberpunkish fashion, Geocities’ URLs had plenty of metaphor — it’s a cybercity, ain’t it? — therefore you couldn’t choose your desired URL, instead you would pick from a selection of e-street addresses, or whatever, so my Geocities URL was something impossible to remember — geocities.com/Colosseum/Stadium/7764/ — it seems somehow I got myself an address intended for sports webpages.
Anyway, that’s all ancient web history now. Since then we’ve seen people thinking selling pets online would be a good idea leading to the dotcom bust, John Barger starting a different kind of personal webpage, starting the weblogging trend and the not-so-sad demise of those “Welcome to Ed’s Personal Homepage, here’s a picture of my cat” sites, the rise of web apps and social websites and the laptop-at-the-coffeehouse crowd, people no longer lonely and unproductive in their rooms, but lonely and unproductive in public spaces.
Through all this, it seems, Geocities continued to exist. In fact, I recently found out a friend’s website still existed — and I hope you’ll forgive me when I say it is indeed the quintessential Geocities webpage (which, at least, is a lot more interesting than finding the same Blogger template for the thousandth time). So I hope Yahoo doesn’t knock the whole thing offline when the closing time comes, but freezes it instead. It is a very important artifact of early web history.
In a very strange way, Geocities will be missed.