In April of 2009, Yahoo! shut down GeoCities. Practically overnight, the once beloved service had its signup page replaced with a vague message announcing its closure.
We have decided to discontinue the process of allowing new customers to sign up for GeoCities accounts as we focus on helping our customers explore and build new relationships online in other ways. We will be closing GeoCities later this year.
Existing GeoCities accounts have not changed. You can continue to enjoy your web site and GeoCities services until later this year. You don’t need to change a thing right now — we just wanted you to let you know about the closure as soon as possible. We’ll provide more details about closing GeoCities and how to save your site data this summer, and we will update the help center with more details at that time.
In the coming months, the company would offer little more detail than that. Within a year, user homepages built with GeoCities would blink out of existence, one by one, until they were all gone.
Reactions to the news ranged from outrage to contemptful good riddance. In general, however, the web lamented about a great loss. Former GeoCities users recalled the sites that they built using the service, often hidden from public view, and often while they were very young.
For programmer and archivist Jason Scott, nostalgic remembrances did not go far enough. He had only recently created the Archive Team, a rogue group of Internet archivists willing to lend their compute cycles to the rescue of soon departed websites. The Archive Team monitors sites on the web marked for closure. If they find one, they run scripts on their computers to download as much of the site as they could before it disappears.
Scott did not think the question of whether or not GeoCities deserved to exist was relevant. “Please recall, if you will, that for hundreds of thousands of people, this was their first website,” he posted to his website not long after Yahoo!‘s announcement. “[Y]ou …