Amid the sleek uniformity of Twitter and Facebook, Joe Kloc longs for the Geocities era:
Geocities began in 1994, advertising an enticing 15 megabytes of free space to any homesteader looking to make their place on the Web. The World Wide Web was only a few years old when this digital Northwest Ordinance was issued, and so its users, often referred to as netizens, were necessarily having their first interactions with the Internet, learning to make a place for themselves in the newly discovered online world. Millions of netizens with little to no experience or understanding of how a webpage “should” look utilized the site’s built-in development tools to create clapboard homes spattered with stray GIFs, looping MIDI files, and busy backgrounds. It was the Internet’s Wild West.
It is easy to dismiss these pages as a sort of outsider art. But outside of what? There was no such thing as a personal page before Geocities. And, in almost every meaningful sense of that word, there is no equivalent today.
Consider a page from [Geocities’] Heartland neighborhood, where one resident wrote, “Hi! My name is Sherry, my husband is Richard. We have three children, Colleen, Alicia, and James and we are out here in the desert of southern California.” Further down on the page is a link to “Richard’s Original Bedtime Stories.” … Where today do families publish their homemade bedtime stories about giant pickles? Sites like these have simply disappeared.
Geocities was bought by Yahoo in 1999, during the height of its popularity. Then along came Myspace in 2003, Facebook in 2004, and Twitter in 2006. And by 2009, Petsburg, Heartland, and the rest of Geocities had been shuttered. The world had chosen the pre-fab aesthetics of social networks over the 15-megabyte tracts of open land offered by Geocities. Jacques Mattheij, the founder of the Geocities archive site Reocities, explained this choice to me: “The Geocities environment offered more freedom for expression. Don’t like blue? Then Facebook probably isn’t for you.”
You’ll certainly find less comic sans. Update from a reader:
Know about Neocities? Started by a bitcoin “cyberpunk” dude named Kyle in Portland, Oregon.
From the About page:
I want to make another Geocities. Free web hosting, static HTML only, 10MB limit, anonymous, uncensored.
— Kyle Drake (@kyledrake) May 23, 2013
(Screenshot via Reocities)