Internet

Geocities Dead, Geocities-like Government Sites Live On

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Today is the last day of existence for Geocities, and keening sounds can be heard in the depths of the Internet, where humans first ventured online to erect rudimentary html monuments to themselves.

GeoCities allowed anyone to build a custom Web page for free and reserved a small amount of virtual storage to keep pictures and documents. It was perhaps the first mainstream example of an open, participatory and personal Internet.

(The mourning is most extravagant over at the excellent webcomic xkcd.)

But never fear, Geocities-style sites remain alive and well in one corner of the Internet: .gov! Check out the site of the Senate Armed Services Committee for a classic example:

Random textured background, blue links inexplicably placed below the initial screen, useless stock photo dominating the top of the page—it's everything 1990s Internet users came to expect from each other. For a small mercy, the committee's self importance spared the American people the indignity of the "fun" and "silly" font favored by early DIY website builders, Comic Sans.

The site isn't just aesthetically terrifying, though, it's a reminder that we still have a long way to go in the fight to get government online, searchable, and transparent.

SASC tip via Brian Faughnan's Twitter feed.

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  1. Ma! They’re writin’ ’bout me!

    1. Ma! They’re writin’ ’bout me!

      1. Drat.

        You ri.’

        There was a problem posting your comment

        Your comment does not appear to be written in an English script. Please comment in English.

        1. This is fucking insane. The commenting system blocks diacritics, non-Latin scripts, and even fucking non-English phrases. Yet bots like Anonymity dude post away with impunity. How about something old-fashioned and actually proven, squirrels? Like, y’know, a captcha? Your hi-tech spam filtering software is seriously crimping our style here.

  2. Why is that whole page italicized?

    1. It’s not

  3. Blink tags, formatting by table, static everything. . .those were the days! [Wipes away a tear.]

  4. For a website called Reason…
    I’ve always found the layout a little chaotic.

  5. Well, it’s not called Order.

    1. Which makes me think there need to be a new rational-irrational axis added to the standard alignment scheme.

  6. Random textured background, blue links inexplicably placed below the initial screen, useless stock photo dominating the top of the page?it’s everything 1990s Internet users came to expect from each other.

    Yes, everyone knows that vertical banner ads, especially Flash ones, are the wave of the future.

    Also websites like Reason’s that have features look absolutely awful on Unix system because they assume you have a particular licensed font– for example, the Javscript-employing text boxes on the left column imploring us to sign up for email updates that spill over out of the left column into the middle of the page.

    The “blue links inexplicably placed below the initial screen” and other features were done because people wanted sites to look OK no matter what font someone wanted to show it in.

  7. Would you rather have the government wasting money on web design? I sure wouldn’t.

    1. Would you rather have the government wasting money on web design?

      I would rather do without one – a government, that is.

    2. We all know this is a false choice. Right now, the government is going to spend money. It might get something for it, but it probably won’t. May as well “stimulate” the market for web designers.

  8. What about frames? Gotta have frames!

  9. Maybe someday they’ll get threaded comments.

  10. From the Ban Comic Sans web site:

    Early type designing and setting was so laborious that it is a blasphemy to the history of the craft that any fool can sit down at their personal computer and design their own typeface. Technological advances have transformed typography into a tawdry triviality. The patriarchs of this profession were highly educated men. However, today the widespread heretical uses of this medium prove that even the uneducated have opportunities to desecrate this art form; therefore, destroying the historical integrity of typography.”

    This reminds me of how a lot of out of work craftsmen supported industry regulation and labor laws- their real motive was protecting their own market share by making mass production more expensive.

  11. Fuck dat html.

  12. Congress can shun Comic Sans, but it still won’t guarantee them gravitas.

  13. XKCD is going to rule the world

    1. I remember when I was sick to death of hearing about that pirate book at every single libertarian website. I fear soon this stick figure comic about computer geeks will fill that vacuum.

  14. Random textured background, blue links inexplicably placed below the initial screen, useless stock photo dominating the top of the page?it’s everything 1990s Internet users came to expect from each other. For a small mercy, the committee’s self importance spared the American people the indignity of the “fun” and “silly” font favored by early DIY website builders, Comic Sans.

    The site isn’t just aesthetically terrifying, though…

    The government should be wasting time and money on aesthetics for this kind of website? Seems to me that plain links on a plain background with minimal graphics is highly appropriate for a government website.

    Sure it could be better, but compared to the crap that bogs down most web pages today I find that page refreshingly clean and straightforward.

    1. It also make for optimal accessibility for screen-reading software.

    2. Forget design. Spend the $$ on creating a xml spec and a series of web services to retrieve data.

      Private companies could then create custom interfaces to access the gubbment data (formatted in xml) and display it according to people’s specific needs.

      The gubbment should focus on providing the raw data and let the people figure out how they are going to use it. XML is perfect for this.

  15. I think we need to bailout the web designers and start a program to put them to work getting government websites up to par. I forecast an initial need of 16 billion. so that should come out to an actual need of 40 billion and two crappy websites.

  16. Pooh Goes Apeshit will die! Who will host him now?

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  18. Reocities is keeping Geocities alive by mirroring nearly all of their pages: http://www.reocities.com/

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