Sunday, April 26, 2009

GeoCities - "The End of an Era"

Yahoo! is discontinuing the GeoCities service later this year. While it says current users need not rush to preserve their sites, they do need to start looking for full-service hosting elsewhere, as the services will be discontinued.

Yahoo! purchased GeoCities in 1999 for nearly $4bn. It was the height of the Dot-Com Boom and GeoCities had been around for a few years; GeoCities was known as the premiere, free webhost and several of its contemporaries (such as Fortune City, for one) adopted its "neighborhood" approach. When users created an account, they chose a "neighborhood" in which to place their website. These neighborhoods were divvied-up according to interest/subject, but were never strictly enforced.

When Yahoo! bought the service, things quickly changed - and not for the better, as far as most users were concerned. Among the many changes, Yahoo! instituted rotating, contextual ads - with no benefits to the webmasters. Over time, Yahoo! also cut the FTP access and other amenities which originally came with the account, in attempts to force users to "upgrade" to Yahoo! paid webhosting. Even Yahoo!'s paid webhosting disallowed advertising which benefited the webmaster, contextual or otherwise.

Yahoo! was once the premiere web portal, but has lost a lot of ground in the intervening years. It has tried to expand its reach into print (Yahoo! Internet Life), took on eBay during the Dot-Com Boom (Yahoo! Auctions), and even PayPal (long before it was purchased by eBay), but time and again, Yahoo! found itself bested. So much so that the once venerable brand name has forced-out its longtime CEO and is undergoing radical change.

Even at a time when so many others are doing the same, Yahoo! has a decade on them in an industry where age really does matter. Regardless of what the media tells you, the Web does not "move at the speed of light" and we netizens have far longer attention spans than those what can be measured in nanoseconds. Is it a case of too much too fast (and mostly unnecessary) or simply Web expansion?

This is specifically why I am such a proponent of Web 2.0(+): why try to improve on... well, as close to "perfection" as is needed? Why did Yahoo! try to take-on eBay when it would have served us much better by indexing it? Likewise, why did it try to move into a dead medium with the magazine venture? I could scan you the cover of "The Top 100 Websites of 2002," but why the point is, why would a Web portal use a magazine to tell us what the top 100 websites are? And, IIRC, it included a link to the online version of the list!!!

As much as I'd like to support Yahoo!, the truth is that it spread itself so thin that it had no focus and website after structure came along in the meantime, zeroed-in on every aspect of the Web Yahoo! once dominated. And it has stubbornly resisted embracing these new sites. While new features, such as the includion of a Facebook module, are welcome additions, it may well be too late for what was once the face of the Web.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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