If you used the Internet in the 90’s, you probably remember GeoCities. This popular web hosting service was active in the US from 1994-09 (and until 2019 in Japan). It hosted tens of millions of personal websites at its peak.
What was GeoCities?
In the mid-1990s, the World Wide Web (as it was called at the time) was a new frontier. Ordinary people could publish all kinds of information ̵1; no matter how niche they were – for consumption worldwide.
However, it took some pretty cumbersome computer servers to handle web server software at that time. And these servers required expensive, fast network connections, so web hosting was expensive at first. A customer would pay a monthly fee (like $ 10) to rent a few megabytes of space on a remote web server – or they could get some web space with an ISP subscription.
Web publishing was primitive then. To publish a website, you would usually edit an HTML file in a text editor and then upload it (along with some images) to the web server via an FTP client and be very patient.
In 1995, GeoCities proposed an alternative plan to paid hosting. It would provide a small amount of web space for free (about 2 megabytes at first) and then charge a monthly fee if you wanted more storage space.
Around 1997, GeoCities began to offset its costs by requiring customers to display ads on the pages they hosted. Together with Tripod, GeoCities became a major step in the democratization of the Internet, which made it possible for anyone with an Internet connection to easily publish information on the web.
An online social neighborhood
Because GeoCities sites were created by people from all walks of life, each site had its own popular feel that reflected the author’s personality. In that way, it adopted the later appeal of social networking sites, such as Myspace and Facebook.
While customizing their sites, GeoCities members would cover their pages with banners promoting personal causes, ads for their favorite software (like the Netscape browser), animated holiday-themed GIFs, images from their favorite TV shows, and more.
From the beginning, sites on GeoCities were organized into virtual “neighborhoods” that loosely reflected a theme, such as “Hollywood” for entertainment, “Area51” for science fiction, and “SiliconValley” for computers.
The site appeared in the URL of your site, which also contained a unique numeric address, such as:
In the late 1990s, GeoCity’s popularity exploded and it became the third most visited website on the web. Over time, the number of neighborhoods on GeoCities expanded dramatically. In the early 2000s, GeoCities hosted websites on almost every conceivable topic.
You can find websites about local fire brigades, military aircraft, holiday photo galleries, elementary school classrooms, genealogy, alien abductions, pottery, and the list goes on and on.
A small gallery of archived GeoCities web pages
We have selected some vintage GeoCities websites to share, which have been archived for posterity by oocities.org. However, the following images were taken in a modern browser, so they may not look exactly like they did during their heyday.
Still, you still get an idea of what classic layouts and graphics looked like on the web in the late 90’s to early ’00s.
Let’s go down to the memory field:
- Ray’s Packard Bell Website: Sometime in the mid to late 90’s, a guy named Ray set up an unofficial support website for Packard Bell computers, a popular PC brand at the time. It contains detailed information on different models of Packard Bell computers. In mid-2000, Ray rarely updated it, but he splashed a message about his newborn daughter at the top of the page.
- SMB Super website: This Super Mario fansite was created by Mario Alberto. It got its latest update around ’01, but it is full of information about the various Mario games and cartoons. There is even a page dedicated to Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto.
- Tom Premos Geezer-Computer Geek website: The story behind this enthusiastic website is that Roy T. (Tom) Premo, Jr., was a mild computer fan until he met President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. Then he magically became a computer nerd and created a wonderful 90’s website full of spinning animated GIFs.
- Dr. Quinn, a medical woman Fan Fiction: SL Snyder’s fan site for the 90’s TV show contains dozens of bodice-ripping stories about romance, as well as some life-spinning stories with characters from the show. It received its latest update in 2005, but given the number of stories, it must have been around for a long time.
- Water Rockets Site: This unusual website by Yoram Retter contains plans to build your own water rockets, images of water rockets in action and even some animated water rocket launches made in computer graphics. It’s a great example of how a personal passion, no matter how obscure, could find a home on GeoCities.
The end of GeoCities
In 1999, the internet giant Yahoo bought GeoCities for $ 3.5 billion. The GeoCities service then began to change its structure, although many of its older sites remained. GeoCities remained quite popular with people who were new to the web in the early 00’s.
However, its popularity began to decline as web hosting became cheaper and was more often included in ISP plans or cheap Mac.com accounts. The rise of social media sites, such as Myspace, also contributed to its demise.
In 2009, Yahoo announced that it would shut down GeoCities, leading to a scream among digital conservationists about the enormous loss of cultural history that would be. A voluntary archive team began capturing as many GeoCities pages as possible before Yahoo withdrew.
They archived about 100,000 websites and you can see most of them today on mirror sites, such as oocities.org.
How to view GeoCities today
Despite the websites that were lost when Yahoo shut down GeoCities, the oocities archive is an invaluable historical time capsule from the late 90’s to early 00’s internet culture, and we are lucky to have it. It’s clear that GeoCities provided an important outlet for personal expression – and it’s timeless.