ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Geocities —

So Yahoo, cowards that they are, announced in the most quiet and subtle manner possible that they were shutting down Geocities, the nearly 20-years-old hosting service and site that has been home to untold millions over the years.

I suppose I should be flattered that well over two dozen people have contacted me to ask, essentially, “Will Archive Team be trying to save and archive Geocities?”

And the answer, which I hope you would expect, is OF COURSE WE ARE. I’ve got experiments running as we speak, treating Geocities like a drunk cheerleader dropped into the exercise yard of a prison. It’s quite ugly: Geocities has this really insane thing where they only allow 15 megabytes of a website to be downloaded during a given hour, from anywhere, before that site goes “down” until the hour is up. This is playing hell with my scripts. They’ve also generally obliterated directories of users, but I have ways around that as well. In other words, the process has begun.

It’s cute and pithy to say “Well, good fucking riddance to Geocities”. And I totally understand that outlook, make no mistake. Many pages are amateurish. A lot have broken links, even internally. The content is tiny on a given page. And there are many sites which have been dead for over a decade. But please recall, if you will, that for hundreds of thousands of people, this was their first website. This was where you went to get the chance to publish your ideas to the largest audience you might ever have dreamed of having. Your pet subject or conspiracy theory or collection of writings left the safe confines of your Windows 3.1 box and became something you could walk up to any internet-connected user, hand them the URL, and know they would be able to see your stuff. In full color. Right now. In a world where we get pissed because the little GIF throbber stays for 4 seconds instead of the usual 1, this is all quaint. But it’s history. It’s culture. It’s something I want to save for future generations.

Already, little gems have shown up in the roughly 8000+ sites I’ve archived. Guitar tab archives. MP3s that surely took the owners hours to rip and generate. GIF files, untouched for 13 years. Fan fiction. Photographs and websites of people long dead. All stuff that, I think, down the line, will have meaning. It’s not for me to judge. It’s for me to collect.

I can’t do this alone. I’m going to be pulling data from these twitching, blood-in-mouth websites for weeks, in the background. I could use help, even if we end up being redundant. More is better. We’re in #archiveteam on EFnet. Stop by. Bring bandwidth and disks. Help me save Geocities. Not because we love it. We hate it. But if you only save the things you love, your archive is a very poor reflection indeed.

P.S. Fuck Yahoo! We are going to rescue your shit!


Categorised as: computer history

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47 Comments

  1. Apphacker says:

    Do you check copyright permissions before attempting ‘rescue’ ?

  2. Aaron Davies says:

    do you guys do any “preemptive rescuing”? the chances of getting a complete archive of things like geocities (or tripod, etc.–there’s a good candidate for top of the historical value vs. odds of death list) could be improved if you could figure out a way to do that.

  3. James says:

    Is there a way to download an entire geocities site quickly? There’s quite often a list of hosted photos, which I have to go through one by one otherwise.

  4. Mantas says:

    I wish Archive Team had an archive of etext.org :(

  5. [...] listen, dammit. added an interesting post on GeocitiesHere’s a small excerptGuitar tab archives. MP3s that surely took the owners hours to rip and generate. GIF files, untouched for 13 years. Fan fiction. [...]

  6. Michael Kohne says:

    Once again, thank you Jason! 99.99% of the time I have no need for Geocities. The other .01% of the time I need that table of vt100 info that’s been sitting there since 1992. Thanks!

  7. Michael says:

    You rock.

    I’ll never forgive Geocities for trashing my first website because it “didn’t belong in the neighborhood.”

  8. Random reader says:

    Can u please publish the scripts you use for ripping?

  9. zalgo says:

    Have you considered asking or even petitioning that Yahoo turn geocities into an archivable format which you could then download, or have sent directly to you to ‘host’? They might either make your job easier or unnecessary.

  10. Umbrae says:

    Maybe you should just ask Yahoo. They might be willing to help you out with this effort.

  11. I agree with Umbrae. However calling someone cowards and then tell them to fornicate off is not a good start for collaboration.

  12. Avi Flax says:

    Any chance I can donate some cash to help out the effort?

  13. Goodbye GeoCities…

    Yahoo! quietly decided to close down GeoCities, it’s over 10 year old free webhosting service. This means, that gems like this site about QUAD equipment or this huge collection of articles about Romani which have long been abandoned by their creators …

  14. MaxMouse says:

    Jason: just to let you know, i was inspired by what you wrote here (my first tentative step into the internet was via geocities too) , I’ve long been a follower of your blog, primarily because what you write makes me laugh (I cant even remember how i found your site, but no matter), i enjoy reading it. I control quite a large amount of disk space on various servers around the globe (In the terabytes) and pretty much unlimited bandwidth. I joined archiveteam on efnet and offered all of my resources… i was called a “kid” and my offerings of quite vast resources put down by someone saying they wouldn’t “Hand me a napkin” all i was asking was how i would go about helping.

    I won’t make that mistake again, and if that’s how serious offers are treated in that IRC channel then i doubt anyone else will join either.

    I’ll continue reading your blog, but archive team can kiss my ass.

    • Jason Scott says:

      Here’s how things work with me, and have for years.

      Anyone reading my stuff or seeing what I do, goes “Wow, this guy single-handedly runs all these websites, works on these massive documentaries, and gives forceful, intense speaking presentations around the world.” At least, I hope they are able to glean that from the entries, the hundreds I’ve posted here, as well as stuff I’ve done elsewhere.

      From there, you can make at least two different conclusions. Either:

      1. In person or dealing with me on a personal level in communication or real-time realms, I am a gentle, laid-back, smiling fellow, choosing my words diplomatically and a joy to just sit back and enjoy a nice coffee with.

      2. The intense overdriven personality and massive tasks ahead of me that need my attention have worn my niceties to a polished, diamond-hard nub. Given the choice of shuffling my feet and saying hello, I’m more inclined to grab you by the collar and yell “GET IN” as my out of control mine cart heads to my next thrilling adventure.

      I don’t know why anyone would get the first impression, especially someone who claims to have read my weblog entries. “You catch more flies with honey” has long ago been replaced by “you catch more flies with a flamethrower” in my book, and the massive raft of things ahead of me, ESPECIALLY in the rough and ready forum of IRC, where we’re all kind of baling out data by the gigabyte to try and save it from obliteration, means I am going to say some pretty horrible things all around, but one might think I would also credit and work with people as well, given time.

      The fact that you didn’t even know it was me before you got offended and left takes a reasonable position (“Egad, the leader of this troop is fucking insane”) and replaced it with a laughable one (“Oh no, the recruit to my left stepped on my shiny shoe”). I have no need to play games with “who has more amazing resources and the hot line to the Justice League” and “Oh you shall rue the day you ejected me from the halls of your organization, for I shall rise against you in all endeavors” dramatic personae.

      Archive with me, or near me, or away from me. Do what you think is right. But don’t expect a party hat and a hug for stepping into the pit.

  15. Jimmm says:

    @MaxMouse

    Obviously you weren’t serious. If you’d been serious, you wouldn’t have left.

    Jason called you a kid. So what? It’s shorthand. A nickname. I can’t speak for him, but Jason Scott does not usually treat people with kid gloves. You should know this if you’ve really been reading this blog for that long. That’s ignoring the fact that what he said wasn’t even a big deal.

    You were offended. I get that, to an extent. Even then, I want you to come back.

    You need to understand, this is a huge undertaking, and it’s for a really good cause. This is a huge piece of history we’re trying to save here, and we need all the help we can get. You were willing to donate your time and space, so obviously you understand that. Archiveteam is not for people who can’t handle a little criticism, but come back and help. Seriously.

  16. MaxMouse says:

    @Jimmm,

    That was Jason calling me a kid in that channel? really? lol… well whatever.. It’s my time, my effort, space, resources… I just wanted a script, or whatever, some direction or instruction (Christ, send me an e-mail on it later if your busy) on what i would do to help this worthy cause, and it is a worthy cause.

    Jason not handling people with kid gloves i also get, i don’t really want to be treated with them, I’m not used to being teased into things in my line of work, i made a choice i wanted to help, even at my detriment… but there is a difference between assertive/no-nonsense taking professional and being a prick.

    None of this matters, if Jason is like that then he kinda reminds me of a Radio DJ called Chris Moyles (BBC Radio 1), everyone likes him but when you encounter him personally or talk to him.. you get shot down, for no reason.

    I’m sure you’ll do fine without my help, but if that really was Jason, he needs to work on his inter-personal skills (Speaking at conferences doesn’t count because you’re talking to the wall behind everyone in most cases)

    None of this alters the fact that i like his writing/work, just i now don’t have any desire to converse with or help him/archive team.

    Good luck :)

  17. MaxMouse says:

    On another note @Jimmm,

    “Obviously you weren’t serious. If you’d been serious, you wouldn’t have left.”

    I was serious, but that’s judgement is your call to make.

    “Archiveteam is not for people who can’t handle a little criticism”

    What is there to criticise me about?

  18. MaxMouse says:

    Jason: typical, powerful comment from you, i can’t compete with you on any of that (and you know it too, reading your blog (And i remember how i came to be here, your “Fuck the cloud” article), you could probably make the pope feel like a Satanist, sell sand to the Egyptians, if you so wanted, pick your cliché), and i have no doubt you will continue to shoot me down, i didn’t expect anything.. only maybe a “Yea, sure what’s your mail address and when I’m not busy I’ll send you some code, and some instructions on what i expect from you”

    “Oh you shall rue the day you ejected me from the halls of your organization, for I shall rise against you in all endeavors”

    I know better than to threaten you on any level, please don’t feel i was doing that, why would i even attempt it? I have no grudge against you probably should have known that was you in IRC though.

    “who has more amazing resources and the hot line to the Justice League”

    I have resources, they aren’t amazing but they are there, i was offering them… simple… a hot line to the justice league didn’t come with any of the packages i bought though (last i checked)… unfortunately.

    Well, you banned me from your IRC server anyway, i think that was a bit over the top, but hey, it’s your server.

    Again, apologies for angering you in any way, that wasn’t my aim.

    There, i backed down completely… that good enough?

  19. amazed says:

    Wow, an ask for help coupled with abuse? I can see how well your plans will succeed.

    I think the idea to retrieve the info at geocities is a noble cause, but you need to get rid of the comic book guy persona if you want people to help.

    Worst request for help EVAR!

  20. Jason Scott says:

    Who says it’s a persona?

  21. pgl says:

    amazed: you’re a tit.

  22. Ego Detector says:

    It’s incredible! I’ve never seen such an ego! READINGS OFF THE SCALE. ABORT! ABOR…..AAAAAAAAAAARGH!

    [NO CARRIER]

  23. Laura says:

    Saving is good. We’re really worried about the situation on Fan History Wiki because so much of our community’s history will be deleted. We’re not going to save pages but we’re looking for our own way to do it so that people can contribute to writing the history of fandom on Geocities. If you have any thoughts on how to do that, or need our help in a way that we might be abe to provide, let us know.

  24. [...] Well, Jason? “And the answer, which I hope you would expect, is OF COURSE WE ARE.” [...]

  25. yauch says:

    I just googled Fuck Yahoo! a blog linking to this one showed up at number ten. Well played Jason, well played.

  26. nonprofitdirector#73 says:

    No offense, but why do it this way?

    Why not just go over to Yahoo! and say ‘Hey, you don’t want it, but our museum does. Please donate them to our museum.’

    And then they would just give you the files themselves.

    Seems like you are doing it the hard way via the backend, instead of just asking up front.

    • Jason Scott says:

      You assume three things here.

      1. That the act of asking implies success.
      2. That we haven’t already tried and continue to try.
      3. That we can’t do both.

      All three things are wrong.

  27. bran says:

    This is cool. Shitty as it is, I still felt a little twinge when I read Geocities was going the way of the Baud modem. I’d love to see my old page archived. (http://www.geocities.com/bran_delion/) – it’s nothing fancy. It’s just that it’s been around for so long.

  28. Steve Hayes says:

    If you are going to attempt a rescue, i think a lot of people might be interested in the project.

    It’s web social history, but it’s more. Lots of impoverished academics whose university IT departments couldn’t see the need or justification put stuff on Geocities instead of at their university sites — less bureaucracy, just do it! Lots of that stuff could be lost, and there are also people who may have died, but their stuff is still there.

  29. petomane says:

    If I can help you somehow with my l33t *nix skillz, just ask.

  30. Lythande BlueStar says:

    I won one of the first week’s 1 year for a buck hosting (a sweepstakes-like thing running on twitter). I’d like to donate this prize to an active geocities account with something valuable to share. Please, if you run accross an account you believe to be worthy, email me.

  31. Ray says:

    Lythande BlueStar, very charitable!

    Jason,
    Let us know if we can help.

  32. Debi says:

    I am here reading these pages because I have had a website at geo for 11 years and I have maintained it. I am looking for how to save it.

    I worked really hard to put it together. I was on a WebTv and had to learn to do all my own coding. Hours and hours of looking it up, notebook after notebook writing it down and learning to turn it into something that was mine.

    While I do have a section for other poetry I like, the site was a place to share what I wrote. Files of graphics I made, awards I won for the site and other things, memories behind it all.

    I tell you this because I want you to know just how much I appreciate what you are doing. The thought of doing my own site is daunting to me, I can’t imagine trying to take on what you have.

    Best of luck to you and I am sorry that there isn’t something that I can do to help you.

  33. lazlo says:

    Debi – I use WebReaper to pull down sites. It’s free and extremely straightforward to use, though you may have to jump through some configuration hoops if there isn’t a “parent” URL that all your content is underneath (I don’t know how Geocities lays things out).

  34. tahrey says:

    As many others have paraphrased… this needs saving. Because usually I’ve found that when I’m after some kind of specialised information, and I can’t find it anywhere else – library, personal enquiry, general web search…

    … there’s usually some geocities link pops up on page 12 of the google results, quietly and humbly presenting that little tidbit of data that I needed, that some joe random needed before and couldn’t find, and had to go to the trouble of personally researching, and put on their free geo page for the world to see.

    Somehow I can’t see that working with MySpace.

    Me, my terabyte drive and a pile of DVDRs will see you on EFNet sometime after this weekend’s chaotic shenanigans are done, I feel. I have a 10mbit internet connection that’s not really doing anything since my brother left home. It smells to me now like “could potentially download a chock-full Geo account every 15 seconds”

  35. tahrey says:

    agh, the site fritzed and i lost what i wrote before…

    suffice to say yahoo are ever more pissing me off, having been a user of their email service for a solid 15 years now (and actually was quite pleased when they merged with geocities – who i signed up for on almost the same day – because it seemed like a good idea for future stability)… and they’ve already killed an account of mine for not being accessed frequently enough (!!! who are they, hotmail?) with no warning. Got a couple of sites on there, and I know of some good other ones that are useful, or artistically interesting, that are basically abandoned or the owner doesn’t respond to email any more.

    Me and my terabyte disc (and a currently fairly neglected 10mbit connection – can you say “download an entire 15mb user area in 12 seconds”?) will probably be seeing you on EFNet fairly soon. Got a complex weekend to get thru first but I’ll keep this page tabbed.

  36. tahrey says:

    oh, there it is. wtf?! :D

  37. tahrey says:

    oooh …. now there’s a thought, and one that’s been bothering me for a while now in fact.

    how the bloody hell do you archive stuff from yahoo mail efficiently?

    my last attempt involved dropping the stuff into one humongous text file, delineated with loads of
    ————————-
    seperators and the full headers … which it no longer lets you display.

    Is there a crawler for it?

  38. me says:

    wouldn’t it be funny if all of this was a ploy to scoop up all of the search engine visitors that geocities will lose? nevertheless, after reading through these comments it’s apparent that the people behind this are a group of douchebags.

  39. ottawahitech says:

    I found your site via a comment posted in an online article published on October 28 (after geo was already gone) talking about Geocities. Too bad I was not aware of your site before Yahoo destroyed geo and prompted all these reporters to finally become more active.


    Reocities Open Letter to Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo!
    http://www.reocities.com/newhome/openletter.html

  40. Greer Watson says:

    I’ve got some GeoCities sites saved. They do the world no good on a flashdrive: they need to be out there where anyone can look at them. Some will certainly be things you have. On the other hand, I may have a few things your project missed. How do I get them to you?

  41. Dave says:

    Hi Jason:
    You are right in your perception and anaylsis. Geocities provided me with my first website, which served my purposes very well. I would ask of your assistance — to see if the site has been archived or not (www.geocities.com/drswoope/). I am making preparations to rebuild another site with that information. If it is there, please forward all linked pages and all information to Drswoope@aol.com. Thank you.
    -Dave

  42. Dave says:

    Jason:

    You and your staff of internet archivists-activists-historians are masters at your craft! From my perspective, your commitment to such a tremendous project is unparalleled – and historic within the public sector.

    I located my website and its contents without any problems. I have stored all of my information and my worries have subsided – in terms of retrieving and reconstructing that information. I now share with you and your team my eternal gratitude for the location, retrieval and safe storage of my website. Again, I thank you.

    -Dave
    Drswoope@hotmail.com

  43. [...] decided to shutdown the service. Thanks in huge part to Jason Scott and the Archive Team’s tireless work and campaigning, an enormous amount of Geocities has been preserved in the Internet Archive as [...]