Message posted at Yahoo website of impending Geocities closure

Message posted at Yahoo website of impending Geocities closure

We always imagined how this might end: GeoCities would finally take down all of the animated “under construction” signs, and we’d hear one last Midi file to the tune of horns playing taps.

Instead, GeoCities will probably go down with a whimper today. Time is up for Yahoo Inc.’s scheduled closing of perhaps the most significant virtual museum in recent history. Years ago a central meeting place for a massive chunk of American Web surfers, GeoCities will lock its doors and take millions of pages offline.

GeoCities allowed anyone to build a custom Web page for free and reserved a small amount of virtual storage to keep pictures and documents. It was perhaps the first mainstream example of an open, participatory and personal Internet.

At the turn of the century, GeoCities was nearly ubiquitous. Fathers created websites about their families; kids created sites about Pokemon; teenage girls created sites about the Backstreet Boys. Practically every facet of culture was documented and thanks to search engines, easily accessible.

All of those documents are about to disappear.

GeoCities stopped accepting new registrations earlier this year. Existing users could continue to update their pages and save sites to a personal hard drive in advance of the impending closure. Yahoo is encouraging the relatively few remaining users to transition their accounts to the company’s $5-per-month Web hosting service.

The decision to shut down GeoCities rather than keep it around for historical reference and, say, slap ads all over it is curious. Especially when you consider that the network is still among the top 200 most-trafficked sites on the Internet, according to metrics tracker Alexa.

“Yahoo continuously evaluates and prioritizes our products and services in alignment with business goals and our continued commitment to deliver the best consumer and advertiser experiences,” according to a company spokeswoman. GeoCities’ closing is “part of our ongoing effort to prioritize our portfolio of products and services in order to deliver the best products to consumers.”