Those who used the Internet in its early days know all about GeoCities. Created by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs John Rezner and David Bohnett in 1994, the service was the first to offer free web hosting to the masses. It quickly grew in popularity, and by end of the 1990s, hosted more than one million websites. Around the same time, Yahoo bought the web host. Today, however, it announced the permanent closing of GeoCities on October 26.
Yahoo had been able to turn a profit on the freely hosted sites at GeoCities by displaying advertisements to visitors and also through the sale of paid hosting with more features. The service declined in popularity over the years, though, with the advent of social networking sites, competition from other free web hosts, and a decrease in the cost of paid hosting.
To anyone who was on the web before the turn of the century, GeoCities represents much more than a free hosting service. It radically changed how people then used the Internet, much like how Facebook and Google have transformed the web today. The end of GeoCities marks the end of an era, an era that will be missed by many.
After October 26, all GeoCities sites will permanently disappear. Users have plenty of time to move to a new host, but there’s bound to be a large number of casual Internet users who, unaware of the change, lose their sites.