IT History Society Blog

Geocities

April 29th, 2009 by Paul Ceruzzi

geocities-logo1By now you have probably heard that Yahoo! is shutting down its Geocities site. There has been a lot of coverage in the press about this, usually relating to two themes. The first is that it illustrates the worst of the dot.com bubble, as Yahoo! bought Geocities for way too much money, at the height of the bubble, and then proceeded to run it into the ground. The second is that Geocities represented the worst in web design, as it allowed hoi polloi to create their own sites, using a simple web-creation tool, resulting in excesses of garish colors, mis-matched type fonts, and the infamous blinking .gif images.

All true. But I have much fonder memories of the site. For me it was the first opportunity to post things to the Web, not just read stuff that others posted. I’ve talked about how critical this is before. As many news accounts have mentioned, Geocities was a precursor to Facebook, Twitter, and of course, to blogs.

Yes there were wretchedly excessive layouts on peoples’ home pages. But there was also a lot of great and reliable information, too–a precursor to Wikipedia. The concept of “neighborhoods” worked, too. Geocities was my first exposure to chat rooms, and I’d go into ones that matched my “neighborhood” and — get this — chat UNDER MY REAL NAME! Amazing! (After Yahoo! bought it I stopped.)  Finally, although you could create a page using their tools, you could also make a page using raw HTML, which I did. Real Men don’t use tools to create Web pages.two-and-a-half-men

The other theme mentioned in the press is that Geocities died because it was overtaken by blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Any bets on how long these so-called replacements are going to last?

I had not gone there in two years, but when I heard the news, I went & found my Geocities page. It is still there. I will leave it as an exercise for the readers of this blog to find it.

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