Today marks the end of an era. Over 18 million websites are being deleted and Yahoo!’s free hosting service Geocities is being shut down for good. Long-forgotten personal sites lying dormant on their servers would occasionally pop up in a Google search and remind us all of the early days of HTML.

Geocities marked a point in time when the internet first began to gain popularity, more and more excited computer owners were getting connected in their homes with the power of 33k modems clogging up their phone lines. Geocities granted literally anybody the ability to create their own site…with varying degrees of success. Whether learning HTML from scratch or using their shockingly poor web-builder tool, for many this marked the beginning of a web design career and the start of a journey into SEO. How else would people find their amazing Rugrats fansite in Yahoo!? People finally had the freedom to create sites about their favourite subjects, or even themselves. Groups of fans could come together and join web rings to link their sites together.In many ways, Geocities provided a precursor to blogs, profile sites that we now label “Web 2.0”.

As Geocities closes its doors, if we learn anything let it be that if you give people design freedom, they will never steer clear of giant, glittering animated gifs and irritating music.

We’ll miss you, Geocities.