October 26, 2009

Yahoo Shuts Down Geocities

Yahoo-owned GeoCities, a service that gave millions of people their first experience in creating and running a Web site, is set to close on Monday.

The free service was at one time the third most popular Web destination, but saw its popularity wane in recent years as users increasingly turned to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

GeoCities was founded in 1995 as Beverly Hills Internet, a small web-hosting firm.  Yahoo acquired the company for $3.57 billion in 1999, at the apex of the tech boom.  The service boasted millions of users at its peak.

While the site will no longer be accessible after October 26, Yahoo said many of the pages have been archived and would be viewable at the nonprofit Internet Archive project "“ a vast digital library that has been archiving the public Web since 1996.

The group had initiated a special project to archive GeoCities before it is lost forever.

"We've collected a lot of GeoCities sites over the years - but might not have every site and every page," the Internet Archive told BBC News, asking users to check whether their site had been archived before Yahoo shuts down Geocities.

"GeoCities has been an important outlet for personal expression on the web for almost 15 years," the group said.

Geocities had allowed users to host Web pages in themed "cities". For example, a "SiliconValley" city hosted various tech sites, while "WallStreet" hosted a number of business-related sites. Users, called homesteaders, could create and host their own sites in Geocities' online spaces.

Yahoo and other companies have tried to lure GeoCities users to move their pages to paid hosting services.

In April, Yahoo announced it was shutting down the site, saying it would concentrate instead on helping "customers build new relationships online."

ZDNet editor Rupert Goodwins called the move the end of an era.

"I think GeoCities was the first proof that you could have something really popular and still not make any money on the Internet," BBC News quoted him as saying.

"It was a fascinating experiment in the pre-industrial era of the Internet."


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