OK, so here’s the high-level report: We Saved Geocities!
Obviously, this needs a truckload of qualifications, so let’s go over them immediately.
First of all “We” is not just Archive Team, badass archivist motherfuckers that we are. While probably 30-40 people from around the world stopped in on the Archive Team tent at the Geocitiesdownloadapalooza, not all the action was going on with us, and not everyone who stopped in was necessarily working with me as project lead, and so on. There were, it turns out, parallel projects going on, five that we know of, and even more people who we might not know of, dedicated to downloading as much of Geocities as “Archive Team”. We’ve had people show up in the days since Geocities closed and offer us 20-30 gigabytes of data, some of which we didn’t have in any of our other stores. They just did it – they didn’t need direction or to be part of anything, and they’re happy just to drop off this packet and move on. I’d estimate that we’re probably talking 60-80 people that we know of so far who took a pretty fair shot at downloading a lot of sites that they had nothing to do with previous to Geocities being announced as closing. Altruistically trying to rescue the artifacts from the burning house, not because these were their artifacts, or the artifacts had intrinsic value to them, but because they knew the best thing to do with the burning house was rescue artifacts. That’s fantastic.
Next, there’s no way all these different groups saved every last single bit of Geocities. But at current estimates, with all of us sharing data, we saved over one million accounts. We’re still crunching numbers, of course, and things could change, but we’re looking at somewhere in the range of 3-5 terabytes of data, and very likely having grabbed every major outward-facing geocities account, outward-facing meaning “showing up in links and search engines”. It is entirely possible that someone created an account, didn’t do much with it, never got word out of it, and it’s gone, but for that matter we seem to have many hundreds, possibly thousands, of various default “wow, thanks for making a Geocities account” pages, untouched since creation. So let’s just say, a million goddamned accounts is nothing to sneeze at.
Finally, we saved Geocities in the most important way – we got the word out about this thing, I did a lot of interviews, and while the sneer-and-move-on crowd who would as soon see history burned for not having a good CSS file might ridicule, a lot of other people saw Geocities in a new light. No longer strictly thought of as a useless financial property a dying company might be jettisoning to save some coin, it’s now recognized, in some quarters, as one of the largest-scale folk-art installations to exist in the history of the world. People are unhappy that all this stuff is gone, and more importantly, people felt they could speak out about how they felt unhappy. There was no large-scale effort to petition and protest Yahoo for this; but I did see quite a bit of pity. The kind of pity you feel for a person who doesn’t understand what they have or what they’re doing, immolating themselves for the short-term and walking away from opportunity after opportunity, on the way to inevitable irrelevance and also-ran status.
I’m spending time with a few people who have large archives, and we’re synchronizing our working out what’s where, and how to get the data around. I then have a short-list of people who, involved with history or culture or sociology, are lining up outside to be sent hard drives of Geocities and looking forward to close and meaningful study. Who thought this would be the case in April?
Ultimately, the archive team demonstration/curated collection of Geocities will be at Geociti.es. I’m focusing us on just the pre-Yahoo sites as a first step. Other locations are going whole hog. Everything is going well. We’re all doing awesome. Already, tearful folks have found one of the groups of people and recovered data they thought was lost forever. I don’t expect these expressions of gratefulness to die down anytime soon. It was worth it before, for history, but it’s worth it even more knowing we’ve made lives and memories better for this.
We lost. And we won. I’m delighted.
Categorised as: computer history
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