Type of site
|Created by||David Bohnett and John Rezner|
|Alexa rank||1,179 (November 2016)|
|Current status||Active in Japan; defunct in the United States, Canada and Europe|
Yahoo! GeoCities is a web hosting service. It was founded in November 1994 by David Bohnett and John Rezner, and was called Beverly Hills Internet (BHI) for a very short time. On January 28, 1999, GeoCities was acquired by Yahoo!; at that time it was the third-most visited website on the World Wide Web. In its original form, site users selected a "city" in which to place their web pages. The "cities" were named after real cities or regions according to their content--for example, computer-related sites were placed in "SiliconValley" and those dealing with entertainment were assigned to "Hollywood"--hence the name of the site. Shortly after its acquisition by Yahoo!, this practice was abandoned in favor of using the Yahoo! member names in the URLs.
In April 2009, approximately ten years after Yahoo! bought GeoCities, the company announced that it would shut down the United States GeoCities service on October 26, 2009. There were at least 38 million user-built pages on GeoCities before it was shut down. The GeoCities Japan version of the service is still available.
In 1996, GeoCities had 29 "neighborhoods," which had groupings of content created by the "homesteaders" (GeoCities users). By 1999, GeoCities had additional neighborhoods and refocused existing neighborhoods.
In 1999, GeoCities had an online commercial presence with GeoCities Marketplace. It included the GeoStore, which sold GeoCities-branded merchandise. Users cashed in GeoPoints in the store.
As of February 10, 2016, GeoCities Japan is still online, with no signs of upcoming closure. Its member sites are still accessible, and it is still accepting new account registrations, but now all services are only available in Japanese.
GeoCities Japan has the following neighborhoods:
GeoCities began in mid-1995 as BHI, which stood for Beverly Hills Internet, a small Web hosting and development company in Southern California.
The company created its own Web directory, organized thematically in six "neighborhoods". The neighborhoods included "Colosseum," "Hollywood," "RodeoDrive," "SunsetStrip," "WallStreet," and "WestHollywood". In mid-1995, the company decided to offer users (thereafter known as "Homesteaders") the ability to develop free home pages within those neighborhoods. During the sign-up process, new members chose to which neighborhood they wanted to belong. This neighborhood became part of the member's Web address along with a sequentially assigned "street address" number to make the URL unique (for example, "www.geocities.com/RodeoDrive/number"). Chat, bulletin boards, and other elements of "community" were added soon after, helping foster rapid growth. On July 5, 1995 GeoCities added additional cities, including "CapitolHill," "Paris," "SiliconValley," and "Tokyo." By December 1995, the company, which now had a total of 14 neighborhoods, was signing up thousands of Homesteaders a day and getting over six million monthly page views. GeoCities never enforced neighborhood specific content; for example, a "Hollywood" homesteader could be nothing but a college student's home page, which would be more appropriate for another neighborhood. The company decided to focus on building membership and community, and on December 15, 1995, BHI became known as GeoCities after having also been called Geopages. At that point GeoCities was headquartered at 9401 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. By December 1996 it was headquartered on the third floor of 1918 Main Street in Santa Monica, with an office on the 8th floor of 125 Park Avenue in New York City.
Over time, many companies, including Yahoo!, invested extensively in GeoCities and, with the introduction of paid premium services, the site continued to grow. In May 1997, GeoCities introduced advertisements on its pages. Despite negative reaction from users, GeoCities continued to grow. By June 1997, GeoCities was the fifth most popular site on the Web, and by October of that year the company had signed up its millionth Homesteader.
The company went public in August 1998, listing on the NASDAQ exchange with the code GCTY. The IPO price was $17, rising rapidly after launch to a peak of over $100. By 1999 GeoCities was the third-most visited Web site on the World Wide Web, behind AOL and Yahoo!. The headquarters had moved to 4499 Glencoe Avenue in Los Angeles, near the Marina del Rey area of Los Angeles County.
In January 1999, near the peak of the dot-com bubble, GeoCities was purchased by Yahoo! for $3.57 billion in stock, with Yahoo! taking control on May 28. The acquisition proved extremely unpopular; users began to leave en masse in protest at the new terms of service put out by Yahoo! for GeoCities. The terms stated that the company owned all rights and content, including media such as pictures. Yahoo! quickly reversed its decision. In July 1999, Yahoo! switched from neighborhoods and street address URLs for homesteaders to "vanity" URLs through members' sign-up names to Yahoo! ("www.geocities.com/membername"). This service was previously offered only as a premium.
In 2001, amidst speculation by analysts that GeoCities was not yet profitable (it having declared an $8 million loss for the final quarter of 1998), Yahoo! introduced a for-fee premium hosting service at GeoCities and reduced the accessibility of free and low-price hosting accounts by limiting their data transfer rate for Web page visitors; since that time the data transfer limit for free accounts was said to be limited to 3 GB per month, but was enforced as a limit of about 4.2 MB per hour. The paid accounts were later unified in the Yahoo! Web Hosting service, with higher data transfer limits. During 2001, a rumor began that GeoCities was to close; the chain e-mail making that claim cited a The New York Times article that stated the opposite.
On April 23, 2009, Yahoo! announced that it would be closing its United States branch of GeoCities, and stopped accepting new registrations, though the existing GeoCities accounts remained active. In late June 2009, Yahoo! updated the GeoCities home page to indicate: "GeoCities is closing on October 26, 2009." GeoCities joined a long list of other services discontinued by Yahoo, such as Farechase, LAUNCHcast, My Web, Audio Search, Pets, Live, Kickstart, Briefcase, Webmessenger, and Teachers.
With the closure of GeoCities in the U.S., Yahoo! no longer offers free Web page hosting except in Japan. Yahoo! encouraged users to upgrade their accounts to the fee-based Yahoo! Web Hosting service.
Rupert Goodwins, the editor of ZDNet, perceived the closure of GeoCities as an end of an era; he described GeoCities as "the first proof that you could have something really popular and still not make any money on the internet." Vijay Mukhi, an internet and cyber security expert quoted in the Business Standard, criticized Yahoo's handling of GeoCities; Mukhi described GeoCities as "a lost opportunity for Yahoo! They could have made it a Facebook if they wanted." Rich Skrenta, the CEO of Blekko, posted on Twitter an offer to take over GeoCities from Yahoo! in exchange for 50% future revenue share.
In response to the closure, rival Web hosting services began to compete for the Web sites leaving GeoCities. For instance, German Web host Jimdo started the "Lifeboat for GeoCities" service to encourage GeoCities users to put their Web sites on Jimdo.Geocities-closing.com, started by GeoCities competitor uCoz, is a similar project launched to save GeoCities Web sites.
Many of the pages formerly hosted by GeoCities remained accessible, but could not be updated, until 2014. Attempts to access any page using the original GeoCities URL now forward to Yahoo! Small Business.
Shortly after the GeoCities closing announcement, the Internet Archive announced a project to archive GeoCities pages, stating "GeoCities has been an important outlet for personal expression on the Web for almost 15 years." Internet Archive made it their task to ensure the thoroughness and completeness of their archive of GeoCities sites. The website InternetArchaeology.org also archived and is showcasing artifacts from GeoCities. The operators of the website Reocities downloaded as much of the content hosted on GeoCities as they could before it shut down in the intent to create a mirror of GeoCities, albeit an incomplete one.
Another site which is attempting to build an archive of defunct GeoCities websites is GeoCities.ws. There was no formal relationship between GeoCities and geocities.ws, as it was a completely different company. Many sites were automatically duplicated from GeoCities to geocities.ws many months after the closure of GeoCities. Geocities.ws promised to be advertisement free hosting, and for 5 years this has been the case, until 3 December 2014. Other sites with this purpose are Geociti.es(closed 2011), WebCite, and Oocities.com.
On the first anniversary of GeoCities' closing, Archive Team released a torrent file archive of 641 GB (prior to 7z compression, it was approximately 900 GB of data). On April 16, 2011, Archive Team released a patch for the first GeoCities torrent (originally released on October 29, 2010)
ComScore stated that the GeoCities had 18.9 million unique visitors from the U.S. in March 2006. In March 2008 GeoCities had 15.1 million unique U.S. visitors. In March 2009 GeoCities had 11.5 million unique visitors, a 24% decline from March 2008.
In 1999, a complaint was instituted against GeoCities stating that the corporation violated the provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act under 15 U.S.C. § 45, which states in relevant part, "Unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, are hereby declared unlawful." The FTC found that GeoCities was engaged in deceptive acts and practices in contravention to their stated privacy act. Subsequently, a consent order was entered into which prohibits GeoCities from misrepresenting the purpose for which it collects and/or uses personal identifying information from consumers. A copy of the complaint and order can be found at 127 F.T.C. 94 (page 94).
The litigation came about in this way: GeoCities provided free home pages and e-mail address to children and adults who provided personally identifying and demographic information when they registered for the Web site. At the time of the complaint, GeoCities had more than 1.8 million members who were "homesteaders." GeoCities illegally permitted third-party advertisers to promote products targeted to GeoCities' 1.8 million users, by using personally identifiable information obtained in the registration process. These acts and practices affected "commerce" as defined in Section 4 of the Federal Trade Commission.
The problem GeoCities faced was that it placed a privacy statement on its New Member Application Form and on its Web site promising that it would never give personally identifying information to anyone without the user's permission. GeoCities sold personal information to third parties who used the information for purposes other than those for which members gave permission.
It was ordered that GeoCities would not make any misrepresentation, in any manner about its collection or use of personal identifying information, including what information will be disclosed to third parties. GeoCities was not allowed to collect personal identifying information from any child if GeoCities had actual knowledge that the child did not have his parents' permission to provide the information.
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