Being a kid and growing up in the 90s was amazing. So many things were changing. A big change was the Internet and how it was rapidly expanding and spreading all over the world. I was really lucky because my mother was a school teacher and had access to the Internet pretty early compared to my friends.
This meant that I also got to experience websites and the Internet starting in 1996. In my opinion, a big part of being online in the 90s was coming across GeoCities sites. What is GeoCities? Well, grab a cup of tea and have a seat. Let’s go!
Most websites in the early 90s were made by universities and corporations. It wasn’t until a company called GeoCities came along and offered a really cool service. Internet users could register for free and make their own website/web page. These GeoCities sites became a major presence on the web and I was constantly coming across sites hosted there.
Here are some screenshots of GeoCities sites when they were still online:
Long story short, Yahoo bought GeoCities in 1999 and ruined the service until it closed in 2009. So sad.
When a person would register for GeoCities, he/she could choose a “neighborhood” that their site would belong to. You had neighborhoods such as “Hollywood” for movie-related things. There was also “SiliconValley” for tech-stuff and “TimesSquare” for games and things. The person’s website address would be something like http://www.geocities.com/timessquare/1111 where 1111 would be a number assigned to you like a username.
For anyone interested, here is the full list of the neighborhoods and descriptions that were used by GeoCities sites at the time:
Area51: Science fiction & fantasy
Athens: Teaching, education, philosophy, reading, writing
Baja: Off-road & adventure travel
BourbonStreet: Jazz, New Orleans, Cajun food, Southern United States topics
CapeCanaveral: Science, mathematics, aviation, technology, engineering,
CapitolHill: Government and Politics
CollegePark: University life
Colosseum: Athletics & sports
EnchantedForest: Topics of interest to children
Hollywood: Films and actors
MotorCity: Automobiles & racing
Nashville: Country music
Pipeline: Extreme sports
ResearchTriangle: Research & Development, technology
SiliconValley: Computers, programming, hardware & technology
SoHo: Art and writing
SunsetStrip: Music like blues, punk rock & rock n roll, grunge
TimesSquare: Computer & video games
Tokyo: Far East
Vienna: Ballet, opera & classical music
Yosemite: Outdoor sports/recreation, climbing, skiing, hiking, rafting
My experience with Geocities
When I was in elementary school, I was a big fan of the Mega Man games for the Nintendo and Super Nintendo. I happened to find a few fan sites. I started spending a lot of time on them and was so excited that there were others that loved Mega Man as much as I did.
One thing that blew my mind was that some people were able to take the video game characters from the games and import them onto the computer and create animations. The individual images from retro games are known as “sprites” and I was so fascinated with animated sprites.
Here’s an example:
That’s Mega Man X running. It was like someone took him right out of the game and put him on the Internet. Even now, just remembering the first time I saw this gives me chills.
As I started hanging around fansites, I also wanted to make my own Mega Man site. I registered with GeoCities and learned how to use HTML and use photo editing tools like Paint Shop Pro and later Photoshop. If it weren’t for my love of Mega Man, I might never have learned how to make websites or other tech-related stuff.
Okay, I’ve rambled on enough about that. Let’s go back to talking about GeoCities sites and what made them stand out from other places on the web.
First neat, then lame
There were so many people making their own sites back in the day. It was really neat and you could find all sorts of small pages that had a handful of content. However, as time went on, more and more people started posting animated gifs of things like police sirens or the famous “under construction” gifs. When people think back about GeoCities, these things usually come to mind.
When looking for animated gifs from the 90s, I came across this page. It’s a page with all of the old “under construction” gifs from back in the day. That’s all there is!
For those that don’t remember, never experience it, or want to relive the nostalgia, there is a site out there called “The GeoCities-izer” where you can make modern sites turn into GeoCities sites.
Try it out!: The GeoCities-izer
Why I have fond memories of Geocities sites
The web back in the day was like the wild west. People were just starting to figure out how to use the Internet and make websites. They are laughable now, but they were so simple and easy to navigate. There was a lot of creativity and personality that I don’t see much anymore.
People these days have blogs, social networks, etc. All of these services do the heavy lifting, coding, and layout stuff for you. There wasn’t anything like this when GeoCities sites were popular.
It was considered a rite of passage for someone to build their own website and post it on GeoCities. Sadly, the special moment of building one’s own little webpage and sharing it with the world are mostly over. However, I have found a cool new site that aims to sort of bring back that retro feel for personal web pages.
I don’t remember how I came across this site, but I was glad I found it. Neocities allows its users to get free space and publish their own personal web pages on the site. It’s a really neat looking community that takes me back to the early web days. I spent probably an hour browsing around seeing what kind of sites I could discover.
Here are a few that stood out to me:
This guy made an old school site dedicated to a long-gone computer manufacturer. It’s pretty retro and has a picture gallery of ugly computers from back then. Nostalgia!
“Dance in the Memories”
This site is really simple and I love it. It consists of a solid color background with a picture from the anime Sailor Moon at the top. Then you’ve got a few navigation links at the bottom. That’s what I’m talking about! This was how you made sites a long time ago. Simple and clean!
A website with the theme of having everything in 2-bit color. The person that made the site is really dedicated to this theme, because all graphics follow the rules of being 2 bit. Not a lot of real content on the site, but it’s pretty unique so I thought I’d mention it.
GeoCities Sites -Final Thoughts
I thought this would be a fun walk down memory lane. The Internet changes so quickly and I don’t think there are many people out there that stop to think about what it was like a long time ago. Yeah, GeoCities sites were lame, but they were a major part of the web in the early 90s.
How about you? Do you have any early memories using the Internet? Do you remember a website that is no longer online? Share with me your nostalgic memories in the comments!