In early 2009, Yahoo announced that it was going to put Geocities out of its misery
and finally shut down the site entirely, even as it was still getting 11 million unique visitors per month. Soon after the announcement, we had heard about some projects to try to archive the entire site (with some claims that it couldn't be done in time). The actual shut down occurred almost exactly a year ago
, and yet a group calling itself The Archive Team is apparently releasing its entire Geocities archive
, blinking flashing "under construction signs" and all, as a nearly 1 TB torrent. They don't think they got everything, but do believe they archived "a significant percentage" of the site.
It's worth reading the blog post by the folks who did this explaining why they did it
, noting how little people realized that this was basically erasing digital history and culture:
What we were facing, you see, was the wholesale destruction of the still-rare combination of words digital heritage, the erasing and silencing of hundreds of thousands of voices, voices that representing the dawn of what one might call "regular people" joining the World Wide Web. A unique moment in human history, preserved for many years and spontaneously combusting due to a few marks in a ledger, the decision of who-knows for who-knows-what.
This is interesting on a number of levels. It is fascinating how little most people seemed to care about the loss of Geocities. Yes, it was quite an abandoned digital hangout for much of the past decade, but the group is right that it represented an important watershed in recognizing that anyone
could be a content creator. I first learned to make websites via a Geocities account (before it was even called Geocities, mind you). And yet, Yahoo just dumped it.
Of course, someone could
make the argument that this archive is copyright infringement. I doubt anyone will, but it is an interesting question. The archiving is an important point in preserving digital history, and yet it's also a moment of massive copyright infringement -- technically speaking. This is the sort of bizarrely bad result you get in a world where copyright is automatically given to any content at the moment of creation. Most of the people creating Geocities pages would have no reason (or desire) to copyright what they created, and yet they all got it by default.
Hopefully, no one decides to pursue the copyright issue in any serious manner. In the meantime, we'll leave you with the parting words of The Archive Team:
While it's quite clear this sort of cavalier attitude to digital history will continue, the hope is that this torrent will bring some attention to both the worth of these archives and the ease at which it can be lost -- and found again.