The Doom of GeoCities and the Failure of a Search Engine Giant

Most of the companies journaled here at Dead on the Web features companies that grew at lightning speeds and failed just as quickly as lightning disappears. We have mentioned a lot of the reasons why this happened, mainly caused by hype with unrealistic expectations of what the internet could do for the general populace but also fueled by market adopters that were simply just too early for their time.


Of course, investors investing in these companies while throwing all semblance of due diligence out of the way is a big reason why these companies became so valuable and gained so much cash despite having a troubling, flailing or completely nonsensical business model.


While most of these companies did burn out as quickly as they rose, for other dot com bubble companies it was a slow burn that killed them. One such company is GeoCities.


GeoCities and the Mistakes of a Search Engine Giant


GeoCities in many ways was the first provider that helped people start their own websites. They were early on the hosting game and really a predecessor of Web 2.0s because it helped people create their own properties cheaply and in a user friendly kind of way. The company became so popular that it was the 3rd most visited website in the entire world in 1998 and by 1999 the company actually got bought out by Yahoo for $3.6 billion dollars.


So in a way, GeoCities is actually the most successful dot com business story because while it did eventually crash and burn in 2009 when Yahoo finally shut down GeoCities, the founders of GeoCities got out of it with a nice payday before the crash happened. Essentially selling their property at its highest possible value and exiting the game before the bottom fell out, rocketing these online companies to a deep, dark poverty filled basement.


Many people believe that Yahoo mismanaged GeoCities to its failure. For example, when sites like Myspace and Facebook began to come into prominence, Yahoo could have used its giant GeoCities database to create a social network of its own.


However, for whatever reasons, Yahoo decided not to pursue this option and shut down GeoCities for good in 2009. Out of all the dot com failures that we cover here at Dead on the Web, GeoCities is probably the least of the failures in that the founders actually made money before the company went downhill.


In this case Yahoo, which is a search engine barely struggling to hold on against the dominance of Google, made the major mistake of not properly managing the growth of GeoCities into a type of social network itself.


While many of these dot com failures came about as a product of hype and too early market adoption, Yahoo failed to ever adopt the idea of a social network when it came to the GeoCities property.


It is a great shame. I often wonder what it would look like in the social media sphere if Yahoo had revamped the service into a social network and what kind of platform it could have offered people.

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