GeoCities, once the Internet's third most visited domain, will be shutting down on Oct. 26, taking with it thousands of user home pages and decades of data. All that information will be history.... Fortunately, some historians are making sure it's not lost to the annals of time.
Founded in 1994 as Beverly Hills Internet, what is now Yahoo GeoCities was one of the first services to offer an easy way for early Internet surfers to publish their own Web pages. Whereas most hosting options of the 1990s were expensive, thus limiting their use to more entrepreneurial pursuits, GeoCities' free hosting space became the home for thousands of sites built around thematically oriented "neighborhoods": conservation, fashion, military, sports, finance, travel, and more.
But that hierarchy proved limiting and then confusing, as neighborhoods expanded into blocks and suburbs. After a Yahoo buyout in 1999, the new management chose to make the URL structure even more complex. This era was quickly followed by both the dot-com bubble burst and the availability of affordable personal hosting, such as Yahoo's own Web hosting. Neither bode well for GeoCities' long-term viability.
In April 2009, Yahoo announced that GeoCities would cease accepting new registrations in preparation of the service's closing. In June, they clarified: the service would shut down on Oct. 26, 2009. As their FAQ states, GeoCities is not being decommissioned — it's being deleted. That means any data not personally backed up by its owners or readers will not be recoverable, ever.
The shuttering of GeoCities has both historical and contemporary importance. In the latter category, GeoCities is currently the 195th most browsed domain, and a highly referenced one, with two million incoming links — a popularity most other hosts could only dream of. More important, GeoCities (which popularized the notion of webrings) currently serves as a vast archive of information. CONTINUED