Once upon a time in 1994, entrepreneurs David Bohnett and John Rezner founded a Web hosting service called Beverly Hills Internet, which would later be known as GeoCities. The service allowed anybody to create their own Web page for free, and each of those pages was sorted into a specific "neighborhood" depending on what its content was (CapitolHill for politics, MotorCity for cars, etc.). Through the rest of The '90s, GeoCities grew to become of the biggest Web sites of its day, was the third-most visited Web site on the entire World Wide Web behind AOL and Yahoo!, and had thousands of users signing up every day.
Things started to go downhill the moment the site was acquired by Yahoo in January 1999. After paying $3 billion for it, Yahoo constantly struggled to make the service profitable, many users left over the new Terms of Service Yahoo put out, and the neighborhood categorization was dropped in favor of sites named after the users who made them. Given how huge a presence GeoCities had on the Internet at that point, Yahoo's mismanagement probably helped usher in the bursting of the dot-com bubble.
Then in late June 2009, Yahoo announced that it would shut down the GeoCities service and every site in it, and on October 26, 2009, they followed through on that promise. Any attempt to go to a GeoCities page now will take you to a 404 page. Most people dismissed this happening with casual indifference, but then, soon after the closure was announced, a number of different archive projects sprouted up in an attempt to save and preserve as many of the more than 38 million pages that existed as possible, culminating in a 900 GB torrent released by Jason Scott and the Archive Team one year after the site came to an end.
The blog One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age showcases and discusses interesting, cute, and symptomatic stuff found in the GeoCities archive. It's a fascinating insight into the early Internet culture and trends either forgotten or evolved.
An archive at Oocities has salvaged many pages, as has Reocities. And for some reason, GeoCities remains open in Japan, although they have announced they too will close their services down in March of 2019.
This website provided examples of:
- Not Quite Dead: Even though the service was officially closed years ago, a Google search shows that thousands of Geocities pages still exist on their original form in the geocities.com domain. The site also remains active in Japan and is still used there as a (somewhat) popular host to this day.
- Pop Culture Osmosis: Works like Homestar Runner or Saturnalia referencing the site long after people stopped using it are a major reason many of the more casual internet goers still remember it at all.
- The '90s: When people think "Internet in the 1990s", they think GeoCities.
- Trope Codifier: The idea of regular people creating their own web content for no cost was first attempted and then immediately popularized by GeoCities, as basically everyone else around that time were too occupied reciting the "It Will Never Catch On" mantra to snatch the opportunity beforehand.
- Zeerust: The look of nearly every Web site on there, especially the ones themed around computers or technology.