Good alerts us to The Deleted City, “a digital archaeology of the world wide web as it exploded into the 21st century.” It turns out that when Yahoo shut down U.S. GeoCities two years ago (10 years after acquiring it for $3.57 billion), the Internet Archive saved the record of its 35 million members. Now, Dutch information designer Richard Vijgen has plotted that data along a scrollable world map of all those lost GeoCities.
From Wikipedia: In its original form, site users selected a “city” in which to place their web pages. The “cities” were named after real cities or regions according to their content — for example, computer-related sites were placed in “SiliconValley” and those dealing with entertainment were assigned to “Hollywood” — hence the name of the site.
This is a reminder that in the first decade of the Web, we followed the traditional library model in which everything is organized by “subjects.” But this was a top-down approach (someone had to develop and manage a subject list) that did not scale. It also went against Tim Berners-Lee’s expressed wish to escape from “the straightjacket of hierarchical documentation systems…. By being able to reference everything with equal ease, the web could also represent associations between things that might seem unrelated but for some reason did actually share a relationship.”
Google solved the problem, escaping from the hierarchy imposed by a few people designing a subject list, by classifying, grouping, and organizing information according to the observed behavior of millions of people searching for and selecting information. And then came Facebook and organized information by people’s identities and their social connections. What’s next?