Two artists’ plight to restore the atrociousness of GeoCities

Once upon a time the Internet was a simpler place. Websites had large “Enter” buttons on their front page. Crudely animated gifs of fireworks abound. And people made websites to simply say, “Hey, I made a website!” Then, the Internet grew out of its awkward teens, GeoCities closed down, and that part of our online collective memory faded into the ether, er, net. 

But all is not lost. As Rhizome explains, two artists, Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied, have created a program that mines the wastage, taking screenshots of outdated homepages and uploading them to their Tumblr. They can do this because an online archival group had hastily taken a terabyte of data from GeoCities before it was shuttered by Yahoo in 2009. The early days of the world wide web are safely preserved, for now anyway.

This is emblematic of a larger problem of how to preserve the culture that has sprung up on the web. This assuredly affects games, as more and more games become available via digital download only. And the preservation of online games presents another huge dilemma. As we’ve seen with so many dead MMOs like Matrix Online, these games evaporate, leaving behind only recordings on YouTube. Let’s hope someone figures out a better way to remedy this post-modern problem.