If you used the internet in the 90s, you probably remember GeoCities. This popular web hosting service operated in the United States from 1994 to 2009 (and Japan until 2019). In its prime, tens of millions of personal websites were hosted.
What was GeoCities?
In the mid-1
At the time, however, some fairly powerful computer servers were required to handle web server software. And these servers required expensive, high-speed network connections, so hosting websites was expensive at first. A customer would pay a monthly fee (say, $ 10) to rent a few megabytes of space on a remote web server – or they could get web space with an ISP subscription.
Web publishing was primitive back then. To publish a site, you usually edit an HTML file in a text editor and then upload it (along with some images) to the web server using an FTP client and be patient.
In 1995, GeoCities proposed an alternative plan to paid hosting. It would provide a small amount of free web storage (around 2 megabytes first) and then charge a monthly fee if you want more storage.
Around 1997, GeoCities began offsetting its costs by asking its customers to display advertisements on the pages they hosted. Together with Tripod, GeoCities became a big step in democratizing the internet so that anyone with an internet connection can easily post information on the internet.
A social neighborhood on the web
Because GeoCities websites were created by people from all walks of life, each website had its own folk feel that reflected the personality of the author. In this way the later attractiveness of social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook was predicted.
While personalizing their websites, GeoCities members adorned their pages with banners advertising for personal use, ads for their favorite software (such as the Netscape web browser), animated GIFs about vacations, pictures from their favorite TV shows, and much more.
From the start, GeoCities websites were organized into virtual “neighborhoods” that loosely reflected a theme, such as “Hollywood” for entertainment, “Area51” for science fiction, and “SiliconValley” for computers.
The neighborhood was shown in your website’s url, which also included a unique numeric address, e.g.
In the late 1990s, GeoCities exploded in popularity and it became the third most visited website on the internet. Over time, the number of neighborhoods in GeoCities has increased dramatically. In the early 2000s, GeoCities hosted websites on just about every topic imaginable.
You could find websites about local fire brigades, military aircraft, vacation photo galleries, elementary school art, genealogy, alien abductions, ceramics, and the list goes on and on.
A small gallery of archived GeoCities web pages
We have selected some vintage GeoCities websites to share, archived by oocities.org for posterity. However, the images below were taken in a modern web browser so they may not look exactly as they did in their prime.
Even so, it gives you an idea of what classic layouts and graphics looked like on the web in the late 90s through the early 00s.
Let’s go into the past:
- Rays Packard Bell website: Sometime in the mid to late 1990s, a man named Ray set up an unofficial support website for Packard Bell computers, a popular consumer PC brand at the time. It contains detailed information about various models of Packard Bell computers. Ray rarely updated it until mid-2000, but he did post a message about his newborn baby daughter at the top of the page.
- The SMB Super Homepage: This Super Mario fansite was created by Mario Alberto. It got its last update around ’01, but it’s full of information about the various Mario games and cartoons. There’s even a page dedicated to Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto.
- Tom Premo’s Geezer Computer Geek website: The story behind this ardent site is that Roy T. (Tom) Premo Jr. was a gentle computer fanatic until he met President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. Then he magically became a geek and created a glorious’ 90s site full of spinning animated GIFs.
- Dr. Quinn, medicine woman Fanfiction: SL Snyder’s fan page for the ’90s TV show has dozens of romantic t-shirt ripping stories as well as some life stories with characters from the show. It received its last update in 2005, but given the number of stories, it must have been a long time in the works.
- Water rocket site: This unusual site from Yoram Retter features plans to build your own water rockets, photos of water rockets in action, and even some animated water rocket launches that have been rendered into computer graphics. It’s a good example of how a personal passion, no matter how dark, can find a home at GeoCities.
The end of GeoCities
In 1999, the then internet giant Yahoo bought GeoCities for $ 3.5 billion. The GeoCities service then began to change its structure, although many of its legacy pages were retained. GeoCities was quite popular with web novices until the early 00s.
However, its popularity diminished as web hosting got cheaper and more often included in ISP plans or low-cost Mac.com accounts. The rise of social media sites like Myspace also contributed to its decline.
In 2009, Yahoo announced it would close GeoCities, which would lead to an outcry among digital preservationists over the massive loss of cultural history. A volunteer archive team began collecting as many GeoCities pages as possible before Yahoo pulled the plug.
They archived roughly 100,000 websites, and you can view most of them today on mirror sites like oocities.org.
How to view GeoCities today
Despite the websites that were lost when Yahoo! GeoCities shut down, the Oocities archive is an invaluable, historical time capsule of internet culture from the late 90s to early 00s, and we’re glad we have it. It is clear that GeoCities was an essential starting point for personal expression – and that is timeless.