So long, GeoCities

17 October 2009

The end of an era.

GeoCities announce logo

Yahoo! GeoCities, our free web site building service and community,
is closing on October 26, 2009.

Your GeoCities site will no longer appear on the Web

After years of playing with Antietam battle information and biography on paper, then in spreadsheets and text files, I started putting it online in 1992. I had an email account with a community organization and a little FTP space on their server. The Gopher service was my friend.

When I learned about web browsing and hypertext, I saw before me the holy grail. Finally – an effective way to tie all the people and event threads together. I did a little poking about and found GeoCities’ free hosting. The price was attractive, so I opened Antietam on the Web there in November 1996…

AotW logo (1998)
AotW logo (1998)

I hadn’t planned on the world-wide distribution it would eventually get, or the tremendous community of people I’d be part of as a result, but that has been the real joy and satisfaction of this whole crazy project.

I was not alone, of course. There was an explosion in the population of websites between ’95 and ’99, many of them on hosts like GeoCities, Tripod, FortuneCity, AOL, and Angelfire. Students of the Civil War were a big part of that – and quite a lot of that early community survives online today.

It’s just as well you can’t see most of my earliest website work, though. It looks clumsy and feeble to me now. I got better at the whole Web thing over time, but as the site got bigger, it also become harder to expand and maintain. All that static HTML with manual linking and cross-referencing.

At the height of the dot com boom, in 1999, Yahoo bought GeoCities, and started trying to actually make money at web hosting. It was relatively innocuous, but my site sprouted banner ads. Then, sometime in 2002, I noticed GeoCities was blacking-out sites once a certain volume was delivered in a given day. I was getting emails from readers who couldn’t see my pages because I’d hit that magic limit.

AoW logo (2005)
AotW logo (2005)

So I did some research, taught myself some PHP and started building a new database-backed version of AotW on a Linux server in my attic. In 2003 I bit the bullet, so to speak, and plunked down actual cash for a new domain name and real server space on which to roll out the new version.

I left a change of address page up on GeoCities (and it still shows up in a web search), but now – a few days short of 13 years after the start – that tiny remnant is just a week from going dark.

Thanks for the memories, GeoCities!

One Response to “So long, GeoCities”

  1. Robert Moore says:

    Me too… I starting adding pages via GeoCities back in the Spring of 1996. They were primitive by comparison with contemporary Web design, but then… it was Web 1.0 back then. While I got a chance to put stuff online courtesy of GeoCities, in retrospect, the real benefit of it was that it offered me an introduction to HTML coding.

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