My Twitter feed was abuzz this afternoon with geeks mourning the news that Yahoo! is closing GeoCities, the company that revolutionized web-hosting and design in the '90s. Users created websites in "neighborhoods" tailored to their content -- SunsetStrip for music, Athens for artsier things, Silicon Valley for tech stuff, etc. -- and encouraged social-networking and information synergy long before Friendster, Napster, MySpace and the like.
The site was never the same after Yahoo! bought it -- mainly because a lot of its pages just disappeared, bumming out users who worked hard making geeky fansites -- but hordes of computer-geek teens in the '90s embraced the site's easy-to-use interface. Hell, I did: Thankfully, my online-diary page is lost to memory and the annals of time (very thankfully), but the homepage of my high school site remains floating in the ether.
One local site still holding strong on Geocities is the American Czech Educational Center, whose events calendar is always booming. The venue holds the occasional punk show and the six-times-a-year kickass record fair -- the next one is May 3! (Other holdouts include the ArtLoft Theatre.) I hope the folks who run those sites realize the plug is being pulled.
It's far too easy to get nostalgic, but GeoCities was a huge part of my life for several years. The music information its users took the care to type out seems bizarrely primitive now -- tracklistings and collections of photos, along with the occasionally ambitious news aggregator -- but if you didn't have friends in your area who shared your interests, there weren't really any other outlets for people to talk about this stuff. (Okay, beyond IRC, ICQ and AOL message boards.) Hell, these sites were the first exposure many people had to others that were just like them.
What did I talk about on my site? Music I dug at the time -- especially the Police, Duran Duran, Morrissey and R.E.M., and yes, this was 1996/97 -- what actors I found attractive (Eric Stoltz? Can't resist the gingers...) and other bits of randon minutiae that probably only I cared about. I can't say I was looking for friends, attention or kindred spirits, but I had fun nerding out and learning HTML at the same time. This was the genius of GeoCities: They were the first company to empower the nascent online generation, to make it easy to create and share content and fandom -- but without the pressure and social-networking insanity attached to such sites now. Cheesy, yeah, but it was a more innocent Internet time.
R.I.P. Hollywood/Lot/2716. You served me well through many redesigns, image maps, animated GIFs and tinny MIDI files.