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5 websites that once ruled the web

Once we couldn't live without these net brands

The internet generation is stunningly disloyal. Brands mean very little to us and we switch online services without a second thought. We take a look at five websites that, once upon a time, we simply couldn't live without, but now are either no longer with us, or have perhaps seen better days.

1. GeoCities

One of the original internet start-ups created back in 1995, GeoCities offered everybody their very own homepage. Although HTML at the time was pretty easy to master, GeoCities offered tools that made creating pages a matter of a few clicks. And it was all free.

Back then declaring you had your own home page would stop a conversation. Women would swoon and men would regard you jealously.

Just about anybody could create a website using GeoCities. Sadly, nearly everybody did. It became clear that graphic design skills are not a dominant characteristic among the British population. Most pages looked like somebody had taken a load of animated GIFs, put a stick of lit dynamite under them, and retired to a safe distance.

GeoCities' gimmick was to build its online community around a geographical location model. Pages of a supposedly financial orientation would end-up under the WallStreet heading, for example, while celebrity gossip would end up in the Hollywood section.

This was a potent concept back in 1999, weak as it might sound today - so much so that GeoCities claimed one third of all web visitors as the 20th century came to a close. Then again, AOL accounted for even more at the time, so you have to question our priorities back then.

So what happened to GeoCities? Yahoo. Conditions and rules were imposed to tame what was turning into the wild west of the internet; in the late 90s and early 00s, searching for illegal stuff, such as pirated software or dodgy MP3s, would invariably lead to a GeoCities page. The ease of creating pages had turned into a hindrance. Policing so many pages was a logistical nightmare.

But, most of all, the internet simply moved on. Fashions changed. Blogs and wikis came along, and it just wasn't cool any longer to have a static home page. Home pages belonged to an era of 14in monitors and floppy disks.

In 2009, Yahoo discontinued GeoCities, although - like many of the best things in life - it's available in Japan. Its demise was greeted with dismay.

Several commentators suggested that GeoCities was the first example of how it's impossible for an online service to make money. But we must never forget how important GeoCities was in the evolution of the internet. It showed people were willing to express themselves online. It proved the internet was first and foremost a community. And it was the best place to find dodgy MP3s.

NEXT PAGE: MySpace

  1. We couldn't live without these sites
  2. MySpace
  3. Hotmail
  4. Slashdot
  5. AltaVista


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