WHAT IS A GEOCITY?
Launched in 1994, Geocities were fully customisable - if rudimentary - free personal web sites. Though the service has ceased being supported by Yahoo! in 2009, many are archived through the Wayback Machine, and can be downloaded for safe-keeping. They are a window into a different time, written by the people who lived it.
"There are some stupid people in the tech industry who think of stuff purely as a matter of cost-benefit legality, and not that they are in fact keepers of other people’s data," [Jason] Scott laments. "They don’t think about the repercussions of storing decades of work and history."
Schechmeister, M. (2009) Ghost Pages: A Wired.com Farewell to GeoCities [Online] [Accessed on 15 November 2020] https://www.wired.com/2009/11/geocities/
WHAT IS THEIR SIGNIFICANCE?
The ability to create a personal web site for free nurtured the sort of creativity that most - if not all - people have. Though the designs may not follow the modern, minimalist taste, the honesty of those who are not trained in graphic design places it somewhere adjacent to outsider art - not being trained in graphic design also didn't stop millions of people from creating web sites for all sorts of things in their life; not to mention the lack of a standard web design language in those early years meant that in all of their 'eye-strain' glory, they achieve something that crisp, standardised web design could not: personality.
“In the time of Geocities, people would think, ‘Oh, I’m walking around in a different reality,’ and that is no longer the case. It’s all us,” Alberts said. “In the face of that technology, by the way we incorporate it, we define ourselves.”
Howard, T. (2019) How Geocities Suburbanized the Internet [Online] [Accessed on 15 November 2020] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-22/remembering-geocities-the-suburbia-of-the-early-web
In the 1990s, the boundary between digital and real life was far more marked. Internet time was limited - expensive and slow, the accessibility was low, and even when home computers started becoming more popular into the early 2000s, most social spaces still existed in real life. Nowadays, the integration between digital and real life is nigh invisible -- the Webmasted would argue that is to our detriment. The loss of real life social spaces has contributed to the destruction of the high street itself; skate parks, unique shops and certain public spaces lose their importance if the bulk of socialisation is enacted online.
There is more to it, however -- now the boundary between the real and the digital is erased, privacy and anonimity -- and mystique -- are in turn, eroded. The constant streaming of personal life erodes the mystery of strangers, the thrill of seeing someone from another land. Though the positive of being able to stay connected with the loved ones is undeniable, the level of life that's enacted online is destroying the private space.