Taken from an assignment for my creative non-fiction course, I give you a legitimate nod to the death of GeoCities. Names have been altered for… privacy or whatever. I don’t think it helps.
This week marked the passing of a very dear friend of mine. I am speaking, of course, of GeoCities.com, which closed its servers on October 26th, effectively removing itself from the internet. The original idea had been that of an internet “city,” connecting users’ pages by content and theme, making it the first social networking sites in existence on the internet. As I recall, I had real estate in the Area51 neighborhood, the place for science fiction and fantasy.
Yahoo acquired the site about ten years ago, just a year or two before I signed up. If I knew I had been investing in a declining property, maybe I would have set my sights elsewhere. Of course, it wasn’t much of an investment. The site was free. The start-up costs were only what I made my parents pay on the monthly internet bill. Of course, back in those days, that cost was tied into the phone bill, but that’s neither here nor there.
Some of us got more entrenched than others. Ducky started spiraling towards true programming, later forgoing college to start his own business instead. Zimbo abandoned the web for bowling and Nascar. Putman took up tennis and pot. Steve and I started using our web pages for evil: springboards into the realm of online role-playing. Most people might not admit to playing D&D, and I’m quite thankful for the veil the internet provided in that regard. Maybe it’s no surprise that the two of us ended up at the University of Illinois. He’s in the communications department, and I’m majoring in creative writing (with a side of Scandinavian studies, but that’s hardly relevant, except that Scandinavia, like the internet, is a dark and depressing place).
Despite our eventual digressions, we shared this common root: the internet. Our group of friends had an internet footprint, we were legit. We didn’t think at the time that we were cutting ourselves off from the world, from “real” people, no – we existed in that online space. Inside jokes littered our pages, secret links between pages marked our knowledge and the “in-ness” of our group. Oh, and none of our pages would be complete without the classic addition of the “under construction” graphics so indicative of the day. We were internet pioneers.
GeoCities gave us a place to be the nerds that we were (read “are”). Playing with HTML was such an exclusive kind of fun. No one else we knew were as savvy as us, and we had the pride of telling people “I have a website, you know. Just… something to think about.” Insert smug wink at your own discretion.
Really, we just had no friends but the internet. We sat for nights on end in one or another of our basements at the computer, coding, playing Gauntlet Dark Legacy, and drinking Mountain Dew (ouch stereotypes). But without GeoCities, we would have had no place at all. So, when I heard that GeoCities shut down, my heart missed a beat. How many children may never find friends because they are too nerdy to leave their basements? Yeah, I guess Facebook makes that easier nowadays, but that’s cheating. Yahoo has done the the world a disservice in erasing GeoCities history and barring nerdy possibility. For shame, Yahoo, for shame. And to the home of my nerd-driven youth: may you rest in peace.
Listening to: Wildcat, Ratatat