Geocities deserves a ceremony

October 25, 2009

design

There is a post today at Mashable about the final closing of Geocities, which was originally announced back in April.

Geocities was the first place where I learned to code HTML, starting in August of 1997. I remember the site builder tool that it had back then, and I couldn’t figure it out, so I decided to try the “Advanced” tool instead, and this led to writing HTML by hand, and countless hours of frustration and <font> tags, <blink> tags, and <frame> tags.

I reveled in a lack of color theory (including the use of multiple bad color schemes per website), bad typography (including the use of Comic Sans), bad imagery, and terrible HTML and add-ons (frames, Java applets, bad JavaScript alerts, and so on). But regardless of the total lack of design and programming knowledge, I would not be a designer today without Geocities, and I want to celebrate and remember that.

I had my own websites in several of the old Geocities neighborhoods, including Colosseum (the Stadium suburb), Athens (the Acropolis suburb), SunsetStrip (the Underground suburb), and maybe others. Some of them got a little bit of traffic, but they were all terrible. I moved my last site away from Geocities in 1999 shortly before Yahoo! purchased it, and hung around other terrible free web hosts for a couple of years before purchasing my first domain and web space in 2001. This one was equally bad, but it marked a transition that has led to my current life as an artist and designer, among other things.

The closest thing I’ve seen to a fitting celebration of Geocities is this gallery of under construction images. I used a good number of these images during the 90s, and remember the images fondly looking back on them, with the cheesy animations, though even today they are funny in their uselessness.

In light of all this, I hope there will be a number of fun posts around the web, looking back on these kind of memories without which there’s no telling where the web would be today. For what it’s worth, there is the Geocities Project that is attempting to save as much Geocities data as possible, so the web will have an artifact of this era into the future.