Sunday, October 25, 2009

RIP Geocities

As we enter the final hours of October 26th, 2009, we celebrate and mourn the life and soon-to-be death of Geocities, one of the web’s top three most-visited websites at it’s heyday. It went public in 1998, and its IPO price started at $17. It rose quickly to over $100 by 1999 in the dot com era, showing its dominance. Bought in January of 1999 by Yahoo for $3.57 billion, it was wildly popular. Now fifteen years after it’s inception and launch, it is finally closing, signaling the end of an era on the Internet where you could create something wildly popular, and not worry about making money from it. Yet still, the content on Geocities is far from being obsolete; the website has received over 11.5 million hits/month even within the past few. I remember Geocities as my first website, providing a space for free hosting, even if I had no skills or knowledge of what a proper website should look like. :)

The closing of Geocities has been a call to action for some groups on the Internet. The content hosted on it is estimated between 8 and 12 1-2 terabytes of data (an accurate number is not known), and with Yahoo not backing up data after Geocities’ closing, it is a race to index and cache everything, The Internet Archive, Internet Archaeology, and the Archive Team are three of the groups that are looking to cache as much from Geocities as they can before the closing tonight.

Before the end, a look at the internals of the Geocities empire is warranted, especially due to storage and equipment used. A tour of one of (or the only) Geocities datacenter in 1999 turns up racks and racks of equipment, which has been dwarfed by current technology. The article linked here is a fun read back in time to how the “cloud” before the term became known was created, and the ways of hosting content on the Internet. I have to congratulate the network administrators at this Exodus Communications facility, though. The cabling shown lower on the page is masterfully done, and is what every datacenter should look like.

Geocities: Your contributions to the Internet are greatly appreciated, and we will miss you dearly. Rest well.