I love today's XKCD tribute to GeoCities
, which is is closed as of today
In a sense, GeoCities was the first Web 2.0 company, a site where anybody with access to the world wide web could share their ideas with the world. In a web begun by people savvy enough to edit markup and organize files on a Unix server, GeoCities let the masses make a web page even if they only knew what they wanted to say and which animated Under Construction logo
they liked best. It was also a reminder that if you let somebody loose with a cowbell and a stick, they'll make a lot of really annoying noise. If you lead a horse to the web, please give him a few user interface pointers.
For all the stereotypically groin-grabbingly garish design, broken links, and poor grammar of GeoCities pages, I got a lot of value from things people posted there in the mid- to late-90s; things written by people who probably wouldn't have been motivated to share if they had to learn how to do things The Right Way, or whose attention might have strayed without the hit counters, spinning icons, and color scheme play. It was ideally suited to fan sites for games, bands, books, or anything else a young person might get excited about. For all that it hurt to visit a typical GeoCities homestead, I'm sure I've got some fond linkrot on my games pages
. (I won't make any claims to great design on those pages, but I hope that my minimalist approach is at least not painful.)
In a lot of ways, MySpace is the ideological successor to GeoCities. Anyone and their brother can make a page full of irrelevant information and confusing layout that loads slowly and has the user reaching for the mute button. But they make it easy enough to attract a large enough user base that some people post things worth reading, even if you wish you didn't have to read it there
. I guess small-time bands are the new young adult geeks.
Thirty years later, people still like to celebrate the bad fashion sense of the 70s by visiting thrift stores and throwing ironic parties. Now people can get their retro thrills by visiting the wayback machine