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Monday, October 18, 2010

A Brief History of the Web- Part four...

  So, as I mentioned in part three, Yahoo!, WebCrawler, Lycos, and other search engines became huge in the mid-1990s.  More and more ordinary people began to surf the web for the very first time, and those services made the web friendly and accessible.  I can imagine how I would have felt those days if I had to continue web surfing by finding random URLs from Prodigy Online.  Back in 1994, the WWW was so new and exciting, and I would visit random webpages just to see how everything worked.

  If you've missed previous posts in my 'A Brief History of the Web' series, here they are:

  With more and more non-academics on the web, it was obvious that many of those people wanted a web presence of their own.   HTML, JavaScript, paying for a web host, and FTP uploading were all daunting tasks for people who aren't technically inclined.  I started learning how to do that stuff when I was ten years old (1994), but I'm more 'nerdy' than most.

   Well, if necessity is the mother of invention, capitalists will go on inventing with dollar signs in their eyes.

    Does anyone here remember GeoCities?  Geocities launched in 1995 as Beverly Hills Internet.   Users could host their webpages in 'cities' that were vaguely related to the users' content, all with Los Angeles/Hollywood related names, such as 'Baja', 'WestHollywood', 'SunsetStrip', etc.  As BHI quickly grew in popularity throughout 1995, they changed their name to Geocities.  Here's what's homepage looked like, way back when:

  A typical GeoCities URL would look ugly and unprofessional.  I made this one up, but I'm following the old GeoCities URL formula to a T.


  How would you like your business to have an address like that?  Even in the 1990s, it looked unprofessional.  But, it gave users a web 'home' in a 'neighborhood', I suppose.

  And GeoCities had handy web design tools for users who were afraid of HTML.  It did kind of herald an age of ugly web design, though.  Imagine garish backgrounds and crazy animated .GIFs everywhere.

  Do you want a trip back into time?  Check out the Geocities-izer at  Just go there and enter a URL for a website you'd like to see 'Geocities-ized'.  

  Here's what my freelance web design website, looks like, Geocities-ized:

  And here's this blog, Bright Ideas, Geocities-ized:

  Amazing.  It's better than dropping acid.

  Well, in the mid to late 1990s, so much web traffic went through GeoCities, it was incredible.  Yahoo! wanted a piece of the action, so they bought GeoCities out in January 1999 (the month I turned 15!) for $3.57 BILLION dollars.  

   It was a poor move on Yahoo!'s end.  Throughout the 2000s, GeoCities couldn't change with the times.  As of 2009, Yahoo! was forced to close GeoCities for good.  GeoCities now only exists for Japanese users.

  If you want to walk through a time warp, check out, an archive of old GeoCities sites.

  I hate to admit it, but in 1996, some of my early web design work was hosted by Angelfire.   I would never want my readers or web design clients to see what work I did when I was 12.  Perish the thought!  Unlike GeoCities, is still around, as of this writing.  

  1996 was when Angelfire launched.  It was bought by WhoWhere in the 1990s, and then WhoWhere was bought by Lycos.  

   Compared to GeoCities, I suppose Angelfire gave users more attractive URLs.

   Here's a typical old Angelfire URL I made up:

  So, old Angelfire URLs had two letters, then a /, then your Angelfire username.  Angelfire's old editor was also designed for newbies.  I remember how I used to be very frustrated by it.

   Here's Angelfire's old homepage from 1996:

  And here's Angelfire's old login screen, the one I remember using when I was twelve.  Memories!

  Special thanks go to

  The third major 'easy for newbies' web host of the 1990s was Tripod.  Tripod is actually older than both GeoCities and Angelfire.  Tripod existed before  It was started by two Williams College classmates, Bo Peabody and Brett Hershey, and Professor Dick Sabot in 1992.  It started as a service for students that had nothing directly to do with the Internet.  

  The domain name was registered in September 1994, and the website launched in 1995.  Web hosting services were initially an afterthought, but it became their one service that quickly grew in popularity, and was soon available to anyone, not just students.

  Here's what the homepage looked like back in 1996, when web hosting was still only a part of what they offered.

    This drop-down menu from Tripod in 1997 highlights how web hosting was just one of many services offered.  Tripod used to offer a lot of informative content of their own, as well.

  Once again, this archival content is courtesy of the Wayback Machine at

   Like Angelfire, Tripod was eventually bought by Lycos, and still offers services.  They now have new web hosting, web design, and blogging services.

   In a couple of days, you may look forward to part five, where I get into the mighty 'dot com' bust!

   In the meanwhile, go ahead and enjoy my new articles at Blogcritics.  There's a lot to look forward to soon, dear readers!


  1. Yikes. I think it best to hire a pro rather than try to learn this myself - right?

  2. Well, of course. Web design is frustrating for newbies. It's better to hire a professional-

  3. Haha... this entry is amazing. Complete time warp! And I remember all of this stuff and how laughable it became to me after college when I went to work at an interactive advertising division and really learned the scoop on web design. Nice work!

  4. BokChod- Thanks for your feedback. You remember GeoCities, too! How many years have you been online?