If you haven’t heard, tomorrow – October 26 – Yahoo is finally shutting down GeoCities. This makes me so sad. My very first website ever was hosted on GeoCities. And thanks to archive.org’s wayback machine, I was able to find it and see it again today. But more on that in a moment..
This got me thinking about how the Internet has progressed for me. I was lucky to be at an impressionable age when the Internet was really starting to get going..I was young enough to embrace new technology, but I was old enough to remember all the changes. I got to see the evolution of the Internet from the old to Web 2.0 and beyond. It’s been a weird and interesting journey.
I had a lot of exposure to computers and video game consoles throughout my youth. In kindergarten, we used very simplistic computers with three buttons to match words to images. Later on in second grade, we had a small lab of 2-4 computers running what must have been Windows 3.1 and used a program called Kid Pix, which was my first experience with a GUI. We started keyboarding in 4th grade. Remember, when I was in 4th grade, it was 1995/1996 and most people did not have a computer. In junior high, I started going to the library and using the Internet there, finding message boards and communicating with random people.
We finally got a computer in 1998. It was a horrible Compaq machine running Windows 98. Our Internet Service Provider was AOL. We were on dial up. We would all huddle around the computer listening to the dial tone and waiting for the connection to be made, then the guy would say “You’ve got mail” and it was the most exciting thing I ever experienced. I imagine it was something like when people first got a radio and sat around it trying to get a signal.
Soon after that, I realized that I could create a lot of stuff on the thing. My schoolwork remained the same, but the quality of presentation increased exponentially. Since many people still didn’t use computer regularly at home, it was easy to pull up templates and format a presentation and get an A++. Then over the summer, I discovered HTML.
I can’t remember exactly why I decided to start digging into HTML, but I do distinctly remember the day when I was trying to figure out how to copy and paste. I was a noob, trying to learn all on my own, and I spent probably two hours trying to figure out what “copy and paste” meant. I feel like this experience alone fully prepares me to teach new technological process to people. It was so frustrating.
I went to the library and checked out a book on HTML. Yes, checked out a book. On HTML. And this was barely ten years ago! I think I had that book out all summer actually. I learned a lot. And as an outlet, I built a fan site for my favorite game at the time, Petz. It was a sandbox type game where you raised cats or dogs and played with them. There was a huge community online at the time as well with people exchanging breeds and colorings. (This was also the first time I went into the registry and did some editing to create a new breed. A ten year old hax0ring the registry. Awesome idea.) I found my website today on archive.org. My first website EVER. Behold the glory. It was hosted in the Petsburgh neighborhood on GeoCities, created with GeoCities pagebuilder. It is the very definition of the Internet in the mid-late 90’s.
I think my first experience with social networking – long before that term existed – was a website called claw.org. CLAW was a network of weirdos that loved cats and role played as cats on this site. You could go to school and earn degrees in different subjects (and actually, I learned quite a bit as it was all human knowledge) and they would hold graduations. You could post pictures, articles, create all kinds of things – all done manually of course. There were chat sessions that were a large event. My characters rose up into leadership positions, conducting classes and creating pages that helped other people.
Another thing that interests me at this time was that I used AIM to communicate a lot. The main person I communicated with was my cousin, Diana. Our relationship has really been forged and maintained with the Internet. As time progressed and computers showed up in more homes, AIM became the main communication between me and all my friends. There would be nights when I would see 20+ people online, letting people know what’s going on with their away messages.
My next website was piproductions. It’s not up anymore, not even in the wayback machine, although there are bits and pieces of it left in angelfire.com, another webhost I used. I created this website as an outlet for my videos I started to create around this time which is another blog for another day. Before YouTube, I was working to compress and stream files and gain followings (which I kind of did, surprisingly). I learned so much about compression during this time, even though all my files were .asf (what the hell is that?)
I started blogging on deadjournal.com at the beginning of high school. We called it journaling then. By the end of high school, I had blogged on livejournal, deadjournal, my own server space, blogger, and who knows what else. By graduation, my friends were also regular bloggers, and this became a regular task for all of us (especially in programming classes when we were supposed to be working). It’s interesting to read these blogs and realize what a teenager we all were.
Everyone started joining Facebook or Myspace around the end of high school, which worked well for my class since at the time it was only open to university students. Then social networking totally exploded, and everyone and their brother joined Facebook, giving us all the easy way to have your own webpage, upload videos and pictures quickly and easily, and keep in touch. These were all things I had struggled with to do manually.
Slowly people stared dropping AIM. Between Facebook, texting, Twitter, and smartphones, nobody needs to be sitting online at home anymore. I regularly talk to maybe 3 people on AIM now. My blogging habits have changed. I used to blog nonsense about my day to the world with very little worth. Now I reserve blogs for slightly more in depth open discussions. Microblogging completely diminishes these pointless blogs, and Twitter’s 140 character restriction demands that people make their random thoughts more succinct.
Now I have an iPhone in my pocket and I can bring up the Internet whenever I want, in the palm of my hand. Getting online is no longer a grand event. The expectations of the Internet has switched from “I hope it connects” to “It had BETTER CONNECT for all I pay for it!” It’s been very interesting to watch Web 2.0 take over, see how site design changes, and try to keep up with new technologies. It’s sad since the Internet was much crazier in 1999, as I do miss digging into HTML with Frontpage or Geocities Pagebuilder, and finally just a text document and discovering how all the pieces worked together like I was finding hidden treasure, but it’s also pretty amazing to see how much has changed in only ten years. I mean, ten years ago, I was struggling with copy/paste, designing the site above. Where will we be in ten more years?
Hold a moment of silence for GeoCities tomorrow. In GeoCities closing, I’ve seen a lot of people around my age with the same story. They owe a lot to GeoCities providing an easy avenue for people to produce their own pages, and have gone on to pursue web design, new media, or other creative arts because of this experience.