End of an era

Leena Rao of TechCrunch reports that Yahoo! will be closing GeoCities before the end of this year. Originally founded in 1994, GeoCities was a pioneering web hosting services in mid-1990s that provided free web pages to its users. Not only would it offer free spaces to upload text and pictures, it also had support for communities with bulletin boards and chat rooms. Seeing this web hosting service as a vital part to its portfolio, Yahoo! acquired GeoCities in January 1999, when the dot-com boom was still sky high.

I remember back then, around 1996 and 1997, when Hotmail was the destination for getting a free email address (my brother secured a Hotmail account by my name for my birthday; I had to shut down that account a few years later due to heavy spamming though), GeoCities was the hub for signing up a personal homepage, free of charge. It was the time when Yahoo! was the number one search engine (or more precisely, the number one, categorized index of web sites) while Google was just a research project between two Stanford University Ph.D. students named Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The popularity of GeoCities easily surpassed that of WordPress or any other blogging services today, for many Internet users were excited by the unprecedented possibilities to open homepages of their own, expressing themselves to anyone across the globe. We just don’t see that kind of, 1990s-esque enthusiasm on the web these days.

Speaking of popularity, Technologizer has an excellent article by Harry McCracken which compares the top 15 web sites (in terms of unique visitor counts) of 1999 to those of today. A lot of conspicuous names, including GeoCities, Excite, AltaVista, Lycos (it used to run a series of TV commercials even in Korea during its heyday) and Xoom, have faded into oblivion while newer powers such as Google, Wikipedia and Facebook occupy those seats. It is admirable to recall those web sites which once shaped the paradigm of what the web is about.

Alas, GeoCities has been off everyone’s attention for so long, because more novel, fresher, alternative tools to personal publishing and community-building such as blogs and social networking services have dominated the web. Personal homepages may still be relevant, but the web has evolved far, far away from what the 1994 southern Californian company, which was originally named “Beverly Hills Internet,” was aiming for. Rest in peace, GeoCities.

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