GeoCities web hosting network. Although long-since defunct, GeoCities was outrageously popular in the late 90s and was synonymous with amateur websites, playing a significant part in the democratisation of the internet. Established in 1995, GeoCities allowed users to set up free websites within its online communities or "neighborhoods". This freedom for anyone to create their own web pages and engage with the wider world spawned some famously bad web design (it was the early days of the 'net after all - web standards and usability were still just a twinkle in the W3C's eye). Today's xkcd web comic uses an affectionate GeoCities tribute styling, replete with 'under construction' banners, scrolling marquee text and enough animated GIFs to give you a seizure. Yahoo purchase GeoCities was purchased by Yahoo in 1999 (just before the dot-com bubble burst) for a cool $3.57 billion, but the search giant never managed to turn a profit on the acquisition. A change in the GeoCities terms of service also proved deeply unpopular; Yahoo tried to assert ownership over its members' content, causing large numbers of users to migrate away from the platform. The policy was quickly abandoned but the damage was already done. Attempts to move GeoCities' service away from its traditional free hosting model to paid-for subscriptions also failed to revive its fortunes and in April 2009 Yahoo announced the planned closure of the platform. Reliance on third-party services Any remaining GeoCities users who have not already moved their content will now lose it forever, which is perhaps the moral of investing your time and effort into a free service which isn't under your control. If what you are doing is worthwhile, whether you run a small business or blog, unless you control your domain and its hosting you run the very real risk of someone pulling the plug. The same is true of accounts held on any third-party website, be it Facebook, Twitter, Google, whatever. Recently, many people were annoyed when Twitter 'nofollowed' outbound links, arguing that they had spent lots of time and effort building their profiles up and were seeing the benefit of that effort go up in smoke. Sadly, you can never rely on the conditions of a third-party service to stay the same or even for that service to remain in existence - particularly the free ones. The blessing for GeoCities users is that Yahoo gave them 6 months to pack up and move on; with free services there is a very real risk that they'll be 'here today, gone tomorrow'.