Saturday, October 17, 2009

End of an Era

A little more than a week after I post this, Geocities will be gone.

To be honest, this won't hold a lot of significance to people out there. The vast majority of netizens right now, I must admit, are those without a solid technical background: You're probably okay with things like Facebook and Twitter and Google and eBay, mind you, and you probably know your way around an email account... but you probably haven't written a lot of HTML tags or interfaced with servers, much less studied the occasional database query. I'm not saying that that's bad, of course — it takes all kinds to coexist on the World Wide Web — but I must point out that Geocities' name may only be remembered by a relative handful of us.

What Geocities did for the longest time was to provide a sandbox for web programmers. Any creative person, for example, cannot produce works based solely on his creativity alone — he or she would need any amount of material in order to do so: Paint, pencils, paper, canvas, crayons... and more than a little personal space, obviously. On the Internet front, there were only a few online services that catered to this need for budding programmers, and Geocities was one of these.

The interactivity and interface wasn't the best of things, mind you. Back then, we had to write lines upon lines of code entirely by hand, upload one file and/or image at a time against slow dial-up access, and generally spend hours putting together one site or another. But what resulted was a slew of personal markers on the World Wide Web, places where we could write journals to the rest of the world. Some of these markers are still available today, although they've long been overshadowed by further generations.

It's obvious, of course, as to why Geocities is closing. Simply put, few people need a free ground-up site-generation service any more. Nowadays, if you want to have your own home on the Internet, you're either 1) a formal entity that's willing to spend a pittance for an exclusive domain name and hosting service; or 2) an average Joe or a plain Jane who's willing to settle for a Facebook account, a Multiply album, or a Wordpress blog. You don't spend days scribbling code and frantically testing pages to see if you managed to do the fonts right, not if you have this kind of convenience at your fingertips.

Simply put, things have moved on, and Geocities has found itself staring at obsolescence for some time now. I imagine that it was only a matter of time.

I logged into my Geocities account a few weeks ago to clean house, and it turned out to be the first visit I'd made in years. I apparently have more than a few files there: Some storage archives for a few forgotten initiatives, a couple of short story excerpts, an old web site for the family bakeshop... it was like looking into a personal time capsule. Heck, some of the downloadable files for more than a few of my earlier blog posts — most notably the two puzzle events — were hosted on Geocities; I'm going to have to see what I should do with them now.

Having established myself in the modern Internet — I have accounts for Gmail, Blogger, Facebook, Multiply and many others, after all — I must say that I have no further need for Geocities and its brothers. But regardless of whether they're now obsolete or not, I feel that they were an important part of my formative years. In that sense, I'm sad to see them go, much as I would be sad when seeing the tattered state of any favorite childhood book.

Time, unfortunately, has the terrible side effect of leaving certain things by the wayside. Sometimes it's the objects that populated your past, sometimes it's the influences that shaped your present. I'll still hold all my contact with this little thing called this internet, mind you, but it'll be difficult for me to forget roots like these.

1 comment:

happylittlegirl said...

I was going to write a similar entry, and then found so many that say the same sentiments I was thinking.

Geocities was my first home on the web, and its closing kind of feels like leaving home, too.