GeoCities is Founded as Beverly Hills Internet (BHI)
Beverly Hills Internet opened today four additional virtual communities based on real-world locations, raising to 10 the number of interactive "GeoCities"(R) BHI has established in the past five weeks.
The new cyber cities -- named after SiliconValley(R), CapitolHill(R), Paris(R) and Tokyo(R) -- join BHI's GeoCities of Hollywood(R), RodeoDrive(R), SunsetStrip(R), WestHollywood(R), WallStreet(R) and the Colosseum(R) in offering cyber citizens the first homesteading program of its kind on the web, according to BHI president David Bohnett.
GeoCities began in mid-1995 as BHI, which stood for "Beverly Hills Internet," a small Web hosting and development company in Southern California.
The company also created its own Web directory, organized thematically in six "neighborhoods." The neighborhood included "Colosseum," "Hollywood," "RodeoDrive," "SunsetStrip," "WallStreet," and "WestHollywood." In mid-1995, the company decided to offer users (thereafter known as "Homesteaders") the ability to develop free home pages within those neighborhoods. Chat, bulletin boards, and other elements of "community" were added soon after, helping foster rapid growth. On July 5, 1995 Geocities added additional cities, including "CapitolHill," "Paris," "SiliconValley," and "Tokyo." By December 1995, the company, which now had a total of 14 neighborhoods, was signing up thousands of Homesteaders a day and getting over six million monthly page views. The company decided to focus on building membership and community, and on December 15, 1995, BHI became known as GeoCities after having also been called Geopages. At that point GeoCities was headquartered at 9401 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. By December 1996 it was headquartered on the third floor of 1918 Main Street in Santa Monica, with an office on the 8th floor of 125 Park Avenue in Manhattan, New York City.
Over time, many companies, including Yahoo!, invested extensively in GeoCities and, with the introduction of paid premium services, the site continued to grow. In May 1997, GeoCities introduced advertisements on its pages. Despite negative reaction from users, GeoCities continued to grow. By June 1997, GeoCities was the fifth most popular site on the Web, and by October of that year the company had signed up its millionth Homesteader.
The company went public in August 1998, listing on the NASDAQ exchange with the code GCTY. The IPO price was $17, rising rapidly after launch to a peak of over $100. By 1999 Geocities was the third-most visited website on the World Wide Web, behind AOL and Yahoo!. The headquarters had moved to 4499 Glencoe Avenue in Los Angeles, west of the Marina del Rey area of Los Angeles County.
In January 1999, near the peak of the dot-com bubble, Geocities was purchased by Yahoo! for $3.57 billion in stock, with Yahoo! taking control on May 28. The acquisition proved extremely unpopular; users began to leave en masse in protest at the new terms of service put out by Yahoo! for GeoCities. The terms stated that the company owned all rights and content, including media such as pictures. Yahoo! quickly reversed its decision. In July 1999, Yahoo! eliminated neighborhoods and street addresses from homesteader URLs. GeoCities never enforced neighborhood specific content, for example a "Hollywood" homesteader could be nothing but a college student's home page which would be more appropriate for another neighborhood. The neighborhoods were replaced by "vanity" URLs consisting of www.geocities.com/membername. Soon after a lawsuit was filed against Yahoo! by its volunteer group of community managers, GeoCities' volunteer program (Community Leaders) was terminated.
In 2001, amidst speculation by analysts that GeoCities was not yet profitable (it having declared an $8 million loss for the final quarter of 1998), Yahoo! introduced a for-fee premium hosting service at GeoCities and crippled the accessibility of free and low-price hosting accounts by limiting their monthly data transfer for webpage visitors; since then the monthly data transfer limit for free accounts was limited to 4 GB. Later, the paid accounts were unified in the Yahoo! Web Hosting service, with no data transfer limits. During 2001, a false rumor began that GeoCities was to close; the chain e-mail making that claim cited a The New York Times article that stated the opposite.
The limiting of data transfer for free accounts made less popular the GeoCities hosting service as well as the hosted pages.
While GeoCities proved a popular site for newcomers to Web design in the late 1990s due to its free service, the site has gradually become obsolete with the ever-decreasing cost of hosting a personal website. Most GeoCities sites that were popular in the late 1990s are no longer active and have long since been abandoned for other options.