GeoCities was an early free web hosting service which existed in some form from 1994 to 2009.
GeoCities was also a world that is now gone. It was an online country that millions of people lived in. Geocities had its own unique cultures, neighborhoods, modes of communication, and highways to travel on.
The platform was first created in 1994 by John Bohnett and David Rezner. It was originally called Beverly Hills Internet. In 1999 it was acquired by Yahoo and renamed Yahoo! GeoCities. In 1999, GeoCities was the third-most visited website online.
GeoCities offered a home for users to host their personal pages, fan sites, school projects, creative work, chat rooms, and anything else they wanted to share with the internet. Ten years later, Yahoo announced that they would close GeoCities. An estimated 38 million webpages were deleted when GeoCities shut down in October 2009. The Japanese version of Geocities was recently shut down in March of 2019.
A lot of the webpages GeoCities hosted were poorly made, put together simply by amateur coders, but some of those webpages were beautiful anyway. Many other webpages in GeoCities were unique and carefully crafted works of web design, and some of these were also created by self-taught coders.
At a time when the internet was just opening up to the general public, beyond academics and tech experts, GeoCities offered a place to experiment, to express yourself, to connect with other people all around the world. GeoCities let you build a new home and even a new identity on the internet.
In the summer of 2009, Yahoo announced that they would close GeoCities on October 26, 2009. Archive Team, a collector of digital archivists lead by Jason Scott, took action to save GeoCities data from imminent deletion (along with other independent groups who started working to save GeoCities data and mirror its websites).
The images on this website have all been gathered from OoCities.org, an online archive which makes one terabyte of GeoCities data available for everyone to browse.
GeoCities Memory is a small effort to collect and share some of the most beautiful, funny, strange, and historically significant webpages that went offline when Geocities was shut down. This is a meditative, non-linear walk through the GeoCities archive, based on browsing archived webpages and sharing the ones that stand out.
An ongoing project started in 2019, GeoCities Memory consists of this website, where I share and talk about some of my favorite GeoCities pages; and an Instagram feed at @geocitiesmemory, where I discuss these screenshots with a small but enthusiastic community of nostalgic people. In some ways, Instagram is a successor of GeoCities, insofar as all social networks that exist today grew out of the very first informal communities that people built together online.
GeoCities was just one of many web hosting services that were popular at the turn of the millennium. There are currently efforts underway to archive the last remaining AngelFire websites. And of course some other websites from the late 1990s and early 2000s are also still online. However, unlike many other parts of the early internet, GeoCities was fortunate enough to be archived, and that is why we are able to continue to wander through its neighborhoods, getting to know its people.
All the images and GIFs on this site have been downloaded or screenshotted from the GeoCities archive at OoCities.org.
GeoCities Memory is an ongoing project and I hope to add more websites to the archive and the Instagram page. I have chosen the websites shared so far because they all represent unique personalities, graphic design sensibilities, and also a devotion to a particular interest which I find very moving. All of the websites here were made by people who hoped to connect with others by sharing a specific hobby or obsession. I have come to think of these websites are sort of like digital shrines.
Although all the websites shared here are personal websites, in some cases they offer little to no identifying or demographic information about the creator. This person instead expresses an important part of their identity solely through the topic they've chosen to discuss. In this way their websites are similar to GeoCities Memory itself, as another example of a personal website created to share a niche interest.
My main focus in going through the archive is learning about how people using GeoCities related to each other and how they expressed their identities through their websites. Personal pages with a specific focus, like the ones shared in my archive, offer a useful starting point.