Web comic xkcd is sporting a fresh redesign Monday morning, paying tribute to the free web-hosting service GeoCities. Yahoo, which bought GeoCities in 1999 for $3.5 billion dollars, is shutting down the service today after ten years of stewardship.
GeoCities was a place anyone could start a website for free. The company sold cheap banner advertising against your content, but that didn’t matter – you finally had a place to post that Melissa Joan Hart fanpage or your fully-annotated Art Alexakis discography.
In the web’s early days, you actually had to know how to author a web page in order to publish anything on the internet. You had to have working knowledge of things like HTML, FTP, GIF and DNS. For people with these new-found skills, a GeoCities page was an essential first step into the web, a rite of passage. Next came the easy authoring tools like Dreamweaver and Blogger, then the social networks like Friendster and MySpace, which let anyone establish a web presence with a few clicks of the mouse. GeoCities, along with other free hosting communities like Angelfire, faded into obscurity.
Many of those early pages survived in all their gaudy, glitzy glory – complete with scrolling banners, animated Gifs and blink tags.