gilest.org

Planning for the next GeoCities

Yahoo! has decided to kill GeoCities – not just close it to new users and leave everything archived, but to actually remove the whole damn thing from the web.

What’s a little unnerving about this is that, back in those days, GeoCities was huger than huge. It was the WordPress of its day, a day that didn’t have a Blogger and a Tumblr and a squazillion others to choose from.

Putting your stuff online today is trivially simple. You can email any old rubbish to Posterous and it’s online in moments, if you wish. But back in the mid-90s, putting stuff online was difficult for most internet newbies. Until GeoCities came along.

For a few years, if you wanted a web site (no-one had thought of blogs yet), the chances were that you’d end up using GeoCities to host it for you. No-one cared about the ridiculous neighbourhoods concept, no-one was bothered about the huge URLs. No-one had thought of link shorteners; domains weren’t considered a vanity consumer item. You had your sub-sub-sub-sub directory and you were thankful for it.

No matter how well-intentioned GeoCities’ founders might have been, in the end the service was sold. This happens to corporate entities and commercial products. Someone you trust might own them one day, but sooner or later someone else will take ownership. Will you be able to trust them?

WordPress.com account holders (indeed, users of any hosted blogging service), consider this: you trust Automattic (the company that provides the service) now, but how long will you be able to trust them? Ten years? Twenty? Fifty? What happens when the Automattic founders grow older, get bored, sell it off and turn their minds to other things? Who’ll be in charge of WordPress.com then?

How long will it be before some future corporate vice-president decides that WordPress, just one among many web properties on his list of responsibilities, isn’t necessary any more, and says to a minion: “This WordPress thing. Let’s ditch it.”

(28th April 2009)