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GeoCities lives -- sort of

Ken Gagne | Nov. 1, 2010
Several groups have archived sites from the now-defunct Web hosting service

People who want to browse the data online without downloading the entire torrent may do so at Geociti.es, or by exploring the results of other archivists who also set out to save GeoCities. Among them is Jacques Mattheij, who managed to capture even more than Scott's team -- around 1 million accounts and 5TB of data, all of which is available at Reocities.com.

"The Reocities.com project is one of the most worthwhile and satisfying things I've ever done online," said Mattheij. "There isn't a day that passes that someone does not give me more confirmation that this was the right thing to do and that lots of value would have been lost."

One such affirmation came from a cancer survivor who had published her story online to help others but failed to save a copy before GeoCities closed. "My Web site was like my diary of my experiences, complete with pictures," she wrote to Mattheij. "It's more than sentimental to me -- it would be a huge support to have this now as I'm getting retested and biopsied for a possible cancer recurrence."

"Whenever I read e-mail like that, I get a lump in my throat -- but without Yahoo doing the right thing there is no way to help these people," Mattheij said.

Both Mattheij and Scott have also gotten requests to take down sites, although Yahoo itself is unlikely to do so. In 1999, Yahoo amended its terms of service to declare a copyright on users' data. The resulting uproar prompted it to withdraw the change and now Yahoo cannot claim copyright infringement over GeoCities content, said Scott.

Unlike Scott, Mattheij has no plans to release his entire collection as a torrent because of concerns it would be used as fodder to create spam sites. He also stressed that he doesn't think its fate will mirror the original site. "[I am] pretty committed and [am] actually thinking about setting up a foundation to preserve GeoCities for an indefinite period," asserts Mattheij.

Other GeoCities archival efforts include GeoCities.ws, OoCities and The Internet Archive.

"There are at least three [other] organized groups who saw the value in this and threw crazy amounts of resources at it," said Scott. "That tells me it was a valid thing to do, outside of my own belief that it was."

 

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