Ten Days Until They Cancel Australia   Leave a comment

People familiar with Penny Arcade might be familiar with the brilliant way that it’s written, especially if they go beyond the comic and check on the news posts.  Tycho made a statement once in one of his posts referring to what, at the time, seemed like the pending cancellation of E3.  He claimed that saying this to a gamer was a bit like what a normal person might hear if they were told that “they’ve cancelled Australia.”

How can one cancel Australia?  Like E3, Australia has just always been there.  It’s a part of life’s basic infrastructure.

We’re currently ten days away from another Australia cancellation, and unlike E3 I don’t think we’ll eventually be getting this one back.  Friends, we are ten days away from Yahoo’s plug-pulling of Geocities, one of the Internet’s earliest and most well known free, DIY website hubs.

For those who have only been on the Internet for five years or so, Geocities might not feel like so much of a staple of the Internet as it does to old guys like me in the early/mid twenties.  Geocities provided a simple framework that people could use, and use it they did.  All it took was some basic HTML knowledge, or even just knowledge of how to hit buttons on a keyboard.  Fan sites for cartoons, personal sites to show pictures of people’s pet kittens, a few optimistic (and, on a truly rare occasion, even succesful) businesses here and there…Geocities acted as a host to them all, providing the space as long as you were willing to provide the decorations.  And provide they did.  Many, many people did.

We’re less than a fortnight away, and I want to invite you to do something with me.  Take a quick look through Geocities.  If you’re new to Geocities, search around for information on old cartoons you might remember.  If you’re already familiar with it, take a quick glance through some of your old favorites lists that you’ve not checked in ages.  You’ll find some interesting things there.  You’ll find packets of data that are worth a few clicks, data that is (or at least was) worth something to you, as well as to the website’s creator.  You’ll also find a lot of ghost towns, websites that haven’t seen visitors in weeks, months or years.  Apart from the tumbleweed, you’ll be the first there in ages.  And you may also be the last.

You may also discover that a few websites are still up and running.  Fansites have a tendency to do one of two things, I’ve found: they either shrivel and die quickly, or they struggle onwards with an amazing tenacity that can last…well, I’d say decades, but the Internet as we all know it isn’t even two decades old yet.  Maybe two if you count the very early newsgroups and college mainframes and such that the current Internet was built upon.  Three if you’re willing to only count networks created for collegiate work and military studies.  But I digress: the point is, there’re a few websites on Geocities now that are still active, still getting visitors, and still making plans.  A few of them are willing to go down with the ship, and some are making plans to transfer.

I’m sorry for the maudlin tone of this post, I don’t mean it to be as sad as all that.  The time for a website like geocities might be gone.  AOL Hometown just vanished last month, and it’s not like a huge amount of clamor surrounded that.  Social Networking sites and Blog sites have eliminated the majority of uses for places like them, and while there’s a sort of undeniable nostalgia and historical interest, I can’t honestly claim that my geocities pages were going to be updated any time soon (that’s right, I had some.)

It’s going to be weird to wake up on the 27th to find myself in a world without Geocities.  But I’ll adjust.  The future for the Internet and net culture is brighter than ever, it’s practically mainstream.

So, take care, Geocities.  You’ll be missed.  If the future websites of the world let us see far, it will only be because they stand on the shoulders of giants like you.

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Posted October 16, 2009 by John Little in blogging, Net Culture

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