my site was in SoHo/Lofts

From this article about the end of GeoCities (via):

“My strongest memory of GeoCities was that it was a sort of web ghetto for people who didn’t know how to or didn’t want to bother to get their own URL and ISP,” says web design guru Lance Arthur ( “It did not, as I recall, offer any tools or help, or if it did they were the sort of tools and help that were unhelpful. Its main advantage was cost, being that it was free.”

That’s not how I remember it.  Well, GeoCities’ main advantage for me was indeed cost, as I was a sophomore in college when I set mine up in 1997.  As such, I didn’t fall into the “didn’t know how” or “didn’t want to bother” camp, but in the “couldn’t afford to” camp.  I didn’t know how/didn’t want to bother to investigate free student web space at my school, though, so I signed up for GeoCities.

As I recall, GeoCities didn’t offer any tools or help, UNTIL!! Until it came out with this sort of WYSIWYG-precursor where you could choose backgrounds*, fonts, colors, images, etc, make different sections on the page for different topics/paragraphs, and then look at a preview of your work before confirming it.  That was all I knew how to do on the web, so that was what I did for awhile, and I really enjoyed it.  And then I noticed a little link at the top that said, “View HTML.”  Curious as to what that would look like, I clicked on it.

Of course I was hooked. It wasn’t too hard to figure out which pieces of code did what.  All the images started with img src, all the links started with a href, and the fonts started with font face.  Everything had quotes and brackets, and it wasn’t long before open bracket a href equals quote quote close bracket made sense to me.

So I had images and fonts and links and text down, but I had one problem I couldn’t solve. I asked a friend on IRC for help:

Me: How do I make things go next to each other? Like if I want one image on the left side and another on the right and some text in between?
IRC Friend I Don’t Remember Anything About Except He Loved Jewel And His Name Was Tom: Ah! For that, you’re going to need tables.**

And I was off.  I learned more tips from some HTML tutorial sites, and from there I graduated to a few other free web-hosting sites before getting a job as a web designer in early 1999. In 2000, I bought this domain and started this website.

My point, I suppose, is this: if people think GeoCities didn’t offer any tools, that’s all right. The way I used it, it was a tool, in and of itself.  It’s the whole reason I learned HTML and fell in love with web design, and as such it’s indirectly responsible for my career.

I’m not sure whether to thank it or blame it for that last part.

It’s both sad and not-sad when something like GeoCities goes away.  It’s pretty obsolete now, but it’s importance in web history won’t be forgotten, at least not by me.  Thankfully I have all my old websites stored away on a hard drive somewhere–all their bad poetry, their homages to Ani DiFranco, their dead links, and their seizure-inducing animated gifs.

Rest assured, I will never, ever show them to anyone.

*I chose a ridiculous lurid orange with some prism-like shapes in it. It did not tessellate properly, and it haunts my dreams.

**I was kind of sad when everyone stopped using tables for layout, only because I’d become really, really good at coding multiple levels of nested tables by hand.  But I’m definitely not sad now.

4 thoughts on “my site was in SoHo/Lofts

  1. Hah, that’s great.

    My first site was not on GeoCities, it was on my local ISP’s own servers. However, when I went looking for information on HTML so I could make my site, I found a GeoCities page called The 5014th Vault, which was in Area 51/Vault, that had a good basic tutorial on HTML, and that was how I learned how to code. I never did go farther than the basics (including a bit of tables), but to this day I still find myself hand-coding things or fixing code while working with WYSIWYG blog editors.

    Also I totally just found an email address for the woman who created the 5014th Vault and sent her a hello, explaining why. Hopefully she’ll get a little smile out of that.

  2. Mine was on Tripod, but basically the same story. Except after my first forays into html in college (I graduated in ’96), I decided to try doing a fancier layout with Microsoft Publisher, which converted your WYSIWYG design into html. I couldn’t figure out why it kept converting my black Arial text on white background into .gifs with image maps for the links (and still wonder — wtf Publisher?) so I peeked under the hood and started editing it all by hand, replacing the .gifs with text. There were tables in there, so I learned how to work them by messing with the variables and checking WebMonkey for tips.

  3. ha! oh yes, geocities was my host for quite a few years, though i cheated on it with angelfire and tripod and xoom (man i forgot about these) to test them all out. but before that, does anyone remember expages?! it also closed a few years ago, but i had like 10 sites on there. once i moved to geocities i always hand-coded, but usually by copying and pasting from THIS awesome website for kids (which i shamelessly still refer to).

    when i got the email from geocities that my old site would be closed down i felt 1) really, really relieved that that garbage would be gone, and 2) gah! really?! all those years of writing. i backed it up as quickly as possible (which involves literally “saving page as” because geocities never updated in its life) and yeah, i’ll never show anyone either.

    i’m sad about tables being gone still. i’m not a professional web designer, so i’m probably missing something, but i have been doing it personally and as an odd job for a while. can someone fill me in on why they’re not cool anymore? because sometimes i can’t get my divs to do the simplest things and i hate that i can’t just solve it the easy way. is it a purist thing?

  4. (i mean, i know tables aren’t GONE and we’re all perfectly allowed to use them, just that they’re frowned upon or something.)

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