Today, as quietly announced six months ago, Yahoo is shutting down Geocities.
Geocities was one of the icons of the Internet in the 1990s. It was emo before LiveJournal, boasted legendarily awful layouts before MySpace (be sure to check XKCD today), and spurred user revolts over terms-of-service changes before Facebook. As one of the major free web providers, it attracted everything from teenage poetry to fan sites to do-it-yourself social networking.
Over the last decade, people have mostly moved on. A lot of old sites have been shut down or abandoned. Spammers and phishers set up shop, using the free service to hawk pills or bootleg software, or host malware, in the hours it took for Yahoo to catch them and shut them down. No doubt it’s become more trouble to maintain than it’s worth.
To be honest, I won’t miss most of it. But there are fan websites that have never moved. Book annotations, timelines, analysis, fanfic — a huge chunk of fandom history will simply vanish today. (As of noon Pacific time, all my links still work.) Some of it will survive in public archives by the OTW and Internet Archive, or in personal archives. I contacted a few site owners, or tried to, but most of my emails bounced.
One advantage for fanzines: ink on paper doesn’t require anyone to keep a central service going.
It’s funny: the things we expect to disappear from the web often don’t, but the things we expect to be permanent often do drop out of existence. GeoCities appeared 14 years ago. Will today’s blogs, Facebook pages, forums, and wikis still be around 14 years from now?
Update: GeoCities lingered for a day, but has shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible.