Sunday, October 25, 2009

So Long, Geocities. And Thank You.

Its time has passed. It was a great idea, conceptually back in the early days of the very limited world wide web. "A place where everyone can have his own website," all organized into communities with virtual street addresses.

I set "The Steve Schalchlin Survival Site" up in the Broadway community because we had just finished our first staged reading of The Last Session and now I was Sondheim. In fact, I was Jerry Herman, Neil Young AND Stephen Sondheim. (It's a dead link now.)

And, because I was dying of AIDS, no one dared tell me different. I would go out of this life as the suddenly discovered genius that never was, except for this one last work, a testament to his own life.

And then I ruined it all by living. Oh, well. Can't lose 'em all.

Nowadays, with social networking, "having a website," is kind of meaningless unless you're trying to sell something. Virtual neighborhoods aren't really neighborhoods if the people "living next to each other" have no interaction. A nation of monks, as Dean Pitchford described songwriters.

My relationship with Geocities gets even more complex. It was the creation of a gay man, John Rezner, and his partner, David Bohnett. David said it was really John's vision. Until then, those who weren't schooled in computers had only email and listserves and BBS's. Having your own website was huge!

Plus, the interface, which improved over time, made it possible for non-html coding of webpages. I had already taught myself HTML by clicking on websites, picking it up randomly. So, I was slightly ahead of the curve in the early days and my website got some attention, especially because of its unique subject matter: Man dying of AIDS puts diary online.

David took a personal interest because John Rezner had died of AIDS some time before. "The Last Session" was about to, or had just become, a little mini-phenomenon.

So, when Geocities went public, the first big New York Times Business Section story began with three paragraphs about my online diary. I was always very proud of that, to feel newsworthy. I wonder if that article is archived?

But, Geocities just never made any money, and when the web went "social," it became "a cultural relic" (according to this article). And now, Yahoo is shutting it down.

The truth is, though, many people were helped by Geocities. Their lives where changed. I am a living testament to this. Thank you, David. And here's to the memory of John Rezner.

UPDATE:
Gabi sent this:

I did a search and on Sunday, March 16, 1997
http://www.bonusround.com/mar97.html
you wrote:

"MONDAY MORNING NEW YORK TIMES Business Day section. In an article about Geocities, they include my little Survival Site in the story. Of course, they spelled my name wrong, but, HEY! When ya got a name like Schalchlin, you learn to cope. Can't wait until people start typing "Schachlin" into Yahoo and coming up empty. Another brush with fame goes slipping through my fingers. *sigh*"
So I put "Schachlin" into search at the NYT archives and found it. :-)
New Neighborhood, No Money Down
By SREENATH SREENIVASAN
Published: Monday, March 17, 1997
http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/17/business/new-neighborhood-no-money-down.html
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