Some time back, Jason Scott — the computing documentarian who hughstimson.org readers may remember from King of Kong controversy — “got angry like a fire gets burning” because AOL hometown was shutting down and leaving its users without many options to save off their home pages. This is part of Jason’s abhorrence of “the cloud”, a general point of view I share. My way of doing something about that distrust is to soldier on operating a personally administered website and email account while even my own aging generation is consumed by Facebook. Jason’s way of doing something about it has been to get ever angrier and found the Archive Team, a loose affiliation of data wonks who are pledged to archiving all the nominally doomed data of the world. They take as their motto “We Are Going to Rescue Your Sh*t”.
So when the call went up that Geocities, perhaps the oldest and creakiest of the early-era personal website providers was being shut down by now-owner Yahoo, the eyes of the world swiveled suddenly to Jason. Could he and the Archive Team rescue two decades worth of websites on Yahoo Geocities? Literally millions of websites? Despite that Yahoo presumably had no interest in him doing so?
“And the answer, which I hope you would expect, is OF COURSE WE ARE.”
Good man. Go team. And yes I did. If you’ve spent much time around Geocities, you might now be asking, is it really worth saving? To which he offers this answer:
“Not because we love it. We hate it. But if you only save the things you love, your archive is a very poor reflection indeed.”
I suppose so. All of two days later, the Archive Team is now deep into the process, and offer an update, which I warn you is even more profane than some other Jason Scott discourses on computing and computing history. He reports that large swaths of the Cities appear to have simply been purged over the decades, and those may be forever gone, but many more chunks are there and are being consumed into posterity as we speak. In fact, he estimates that they now have on their harddrives every pre-1999 site that hadn’t already been deleted.
Which made me wonder, was the first website I ever made still there? After all, I stopped updating it back in 1997, which was well before archive.org was doing really comprehensive internet mining. And indeed, it looks like it must have disappeared in the subsequent purges.
But don’t worry world, and don’t worry Archive Team, I performed a search of my own system and discovered I do indeed have a full backup of Where Even Richard Nixon Still Has Soul, manifestos, poems, and correspondence with Richard Nixon buffs intact. He’s still got it. Soul.