It's game over for GeoCities: Today, Yahoo pulls the plug on the free hosting service that grew to become the precursor of the contemporary social network.
Originally founded in 1994, GeoCities began offering free home pages to users in 1995 and changed its name to GeoCities in December of that year. Less than two years later it had become one of the most popular destinations on the internet, leading Yahoo to swallow it up in January 1999 for the princely sum of more than $3 billion.
That decision would come back to bite Yahoo in the ass, though, thanks to both the dot-com bust and the fact that despite its massive valuation after it went public in 1998, the company never made any real money. The venture was a complete bust and in April Yahoo finally announced that the venerable site would be shut down once and for all.
The closure is a bit of a surprise in light of the fact that Alexa.com says GeoCities is still apparently among the top 200 most-trafficked sites on the net, but a Yahoo rep said the shutdown is "part of our ongoing effort to prioritize our portfolio of products and services in order to deliver the best products to consumers."
It's a sad end to a one-time online juggernaut but a group that calls itself Archiveteam is doing its best to preserve as much of the site as it can. For "months," the group has been using about 100 PCs running 24 hours a day to back up as much as of GeoCities as it can find; it's managed to save roughly a terabyte of data so far but because Yahoo refuses to assist and won't even tell the group how big GeoCities actually is, members have no idea how much of the site they've actually captured. "We're running blind," said Jason Scott, leader of the group.
"I was trying to illustrate quickly the things that could be lost," he explained. "All of these discussions are happening at the function of having these artifacts laying around."
The clock is forcing Archiveteam's quixotic quest to an end, however, and how much of GeoCities is ultimately saved will never really be known. The long-term plans for the material collected by the group, whether as some sort of site-specific Wayback Machine or merely fodder for jokes about horrible MIDI music and the marquee HTML tag are also rather hazy. One potential outcome can be seen at Textfiles.com, where the Archiveteam has assembled a collection of classic GeoCities "Under Construction" signs. Enjoy - and be sure to raise a glass tonight for a fallen internet giant.