This won’t be just a reblog of news out there, because I plan to cover all the tidbits of how people used GeoCities. But incase you haven’t heard, the big leader in free web site hosting GeoCities will be closing down later this year. Yahoo still plans to offer web hosting though.
When the web was still in its infancy people wanted to be on it. I’m not sure why, but they did. I’ll admit I was one of them, but I didn’t make a site about myself. Many people at the time had no clue how to setup a real web site, but that is where the free web hosts came into play. There was nothing like finding the coolest animated gifs, grabbing that 50×50 pixel plasma-blob tile as your background image and setting up your guestbook. If you were really a pro you had a sweet MIDI playing in the background. There was plenty of competition in those days from sites like Angelfire, Tripod, FortuneCity, Xoom and others, but the king of them all was GeoCities.
It wasn’t long before people took advantage of the free web hosting. This was back when search engines still returned porn and pirate software sites in like 25% of their results. And guess who hosted many of these sites? Yes, GeoCities. And before the days of sites like ImageShack, people hosted images on GeoCities, so they could link to them from their favorite threaded message board. The free web hosts figured out how to prevent hotlinking and started monitoring certain file types (MP3, ZIP, etc). Many pirates had registered for multiple free sites because that 4MB MP3 or warez file took most of their web space up. One popular way to get around image hotlinking was to rename your images with a .htm, .html or .txt extension. Another method was to add a “?” to the end of the URL. On top of all this people found ways to kill the advertising banners on GeoCities.
Updating your site with all these HTML files was a pain to maintain. And while some hosts had a HTML editor online, most of the them were awful. Templating your site on some hosts wasn’t possible, thus anytime you wanted to edit the navigation you had to edit all your files and upload them all or open each one at a time.
Eventually many of the free sites started to put bandwidth caps on sites and then offer a premium package if you wanted more webspace or a bigger bandwidth limit. However I think this was a mistake, if their business plan was to make money on the advertising of the sites created by users, then why cap their bandwidth. What if someone made an awesome site? GeoCities Site of the Month even. Of course this was done as their way to prevent porn and pirate software sites, but I think they should of looked for certain keywords in the filenames and in the files themselves.
If anything killed these sites it was the web log. Most blog apps out there have a much better interface and way to manage your content. Why these free sites didn’t offer something similar makes no sense to me. Perhaps they didn’t want to create the app themselves; However, they could of used one of the many open source apps out there. But it may have been too late, their strict limits had upset many people and the negative name, GeoShities was born.
The rise of social networking websites such as MySpace and FaceBook were just one other way people could have their own page on the web. Thus pretty much killing any use for the free hosts. Blogger and other hosted blog sites can fit the needs of what most people need and if they don’t PHP development is easy to pickup and hosting is very affordable.
GeoCities still has an Traffic Rank of 149 on Alexa and 2 years ago they were still in the top 50. Amazingly enough they still have more traffic than Digg and a bigger reach, but their pageviews have only dropped below Digg’s in the last year. How about that for a “Web 1.0” site.
I imagine most of the pages still left on these sites are ones people forgot they had or forgot their passwords too. And even if they wanted to login they probably don’t have their old email address anymore to get the password reminder sent to.