[I started professionally developing Web applications back in 1996, where MIDI music, dancing babies, unicorns, insane colors and animated gifs kicked off what has now become a very different (and sometimes very dark) place to "surf" with your morning coffee.]
Geocities was one of the first places your average person could make a website for free. The Geocities Gallery aims to archive these sites and return them to functionality, MIDIs and all.
Geocities was a web hosting service launched in 1994. Along with Angelfire and Tripod, Geocities offered your average human being the ability to build their own website. What made the service unique was its neighborhoods. During sign up, users would select which neighborhood would host their site according to what their site would be about. Websites about theater would be hosted on Broadway, and sites about sports would make their home in the Colosseum. According to a Wired retrospective on the service during its closure in 2009, Geocities hosted over 38 million websites before it closed.
While there have been a few attempts to archive Geocities sites in the past, Kyle Drake, a software engineer who also founded the Geocities-esque web hosting service Neocities, told Motherboard that those archives are currently in a state of disrepair, and were hard to navigate.
"We actually have a good amount of the history of the web backed up, thanks to a tiny band of nonprofits, rogues, artists, and hackers like the Internet Archive and Archive Team that do most of the real work to archive the web," Drake said in an email. "But they're faced with an impossible burden, because of how fast data disappears and how time critical that work is, they're extremely busy."
The Geocities Gallery aims to restore the sites from Geocities to functionality, and also to create an easily searchable way to explore the kinds of sites people made on the service. It provides a look into a version of the internet that felt open and friendly (if a little anarchic), rather than siloed and hostile. Drake said he thinks that Geocities' neighborhoods system, which allowed like-minded people to self select where they would make their home on the web, is better for users than algorithm-driven sites like Twitter or YouTube.