Thursday, April 23, 2009

End of GeoCities shows once again that nothing is permanent on the Web

Yahoo’s announcement that it plans to shut down its GeoCities Web site hosting service later this year is more proof that Internet services are not reliable for archiving personal data.
Yahoo said Thursday that it was no longer accepting new customers for the service, which will close for existing users later this year. Yahoo will provide more details about how individuals can save their photos, writings and other data this summer.
I used GeoCities from December 1998 until December 2004 to post photos and document everything from vacations, my engagement, honeymoon and the birth of my son. I actually had three free GeoCities accounts. I kept running out of storage space because the photos I posted were quite large. When one site was full (15 MB maximum), I’d open a new account.
I became frustrated with the hourly data transfer limits (4 MB) that Yahoo set on free accounts and switched to a paid photo hosting account with Flickr, also owned by Yahoo, in March 2005.
Even though I wasn’t updating my GeoCities pages, I liked going back to view them every now and then. I also naively believed that they were always going to be there. Yahoo’s not going out of business, I figured.
Yahoo kept trying to get me to upgrade to a paid Web site hosting account. But the fees were exorbitant, because they were aimed at small businesses, not personal users.
GeoCities isn’t the first Web site hosting service to go under and leave users scrambling to save their data. A number of photo hosting services also have gone under over the years.
The Internet is littered with dead links related to defunct services. Anyone who has ever bookmarked a news story and gone back to it later to find nothing knows what I’m talking about.
So, people need to back up not only the data on their personal computers, but their personal data on the Internet as well.

Top: Home page from my original GeoCities account.
Bottom: Notice from Yahoo about GeoCities shutting down.

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