Thursday, May 23, 2019

Remembering GeoCities Pt 1: The 1990s and Web 1.0

Grab your keyboards and strap on your velcro sneakers, kiddies, its time to surf the Internet Super-Highway on the World Wide Web! Lets return to a time before social networking. Long before there was such a thing as Facebook or Twitter... or even Google, there was this little place called GeoCities. In order to understand how it became so popular, we must understand Web 1.0 in the 1990s...

The Internet was once actually a frontier, a brave new world ready to be explored. Every single day something fresh and new was waiting to be discovered. Everything could change depending on which browser was chosen! Speeds were confined to dial-up modems so it was imperative that pages load in a reasonable amount of time or a significant portion of the intended audience would be lost. It was the beginnings of what would become known as the World Wide Web!

First a bit of history... In 1990 Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, developed HyperText Markup Language (HTML). Later in 1991 CERN introduced the World Wide Web to the public. At the same time, Marc Andreesen and Eric Bina at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) begin working on a graphical web browser that they named Mosaic. Mosaic was released in 1992 and by 1993 Mosaic's growth was so great that it made the front page of the New York Times business section! Andreesen left NCSA in 1994 and teamed up with Jim Clark, the founder of Silicon Graphics, to incorporate a company they called Mosaic Communications Corp. and developed the famous Netscape Navigator browser!

This brings us to 1994 when David Bohnett and John Rezner started a little company called Beverley Hills Internet, a fairly straightforward web hosting service for small and local businesses.

But it was when they changed the name of the company and started offering up 15MB of space for free, as a way to have some fun and attract new customers, that things begin to get interesting. While not an unheard of idea, what was remarkable though, was how they decided to set things up...

Instead of simply giving people some web space in an anonymous corner of a server rack, they decided to divide up their free service into different virtual neighborhoods, each "neighborhood" hosting a different theme. When users signed up, they could choose which one they wanted to belong to. So the Hollywood neighborhood was the place for fan and celeb sites, Area51 for science fiction, and their own namesake, Beverly Hills, was reserved for fashion and shopping. And so was born GeoCities!

Join us next time for Remembering GeoCities Pt2: The Internet Suburbanized.

Do you remember your first experiences with the Internet? Were you around in the beginning or are you a late-comer? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.


  1. When I was little, I would visit the front page of every day to see the images, because to my little eyes, they changed every single day. My earliest memory on the Internet was typing random words on MSN's search bar to see what pops up, such as various animals. The good old simple days! I think it was back somewhere between 2001 and 2005 when it happened.

    I don't remember going on GeoCities though lol XD

    1. By that time GeoCities had been absorbed by Yahoo and the magic had faded.

      I do remember the beginnings of the Microsoft Network (MSN) all that it promised... I remember the website was one my first experiences with midi music on the internet.

    2. I remember first hearing MIDI music when I visited some Neopets petpages! XD


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